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Spokane Snow vs. Seattle Rain

Posted Jun 05 2009 5:07pm

Recently another blogger friend confused my hometown of Spokane (the second largest city in Washington state) with Seattle (the largest city in Washington). I had to laugh because it happens a lot. When people think of Washington, they think of Seattle. I don't mind, because at least they know the name of one of our cities. Quick - name the largest city in Wyoming. What about South Dakota or Montana? Did I stump you? I don't know, either.
For the purposes of gardening, Spokane (pronounced spo-cann, not spo-cane) is very different from Seattle. For starters, the two cities are nearly 300 miles apart. So for this post I've compiled a list of mostly garden-related differences between the two.
1. Spokane's signature precipitation is snow, while Seattle's is rain. Spokane's inland climate falls into USDA zone 5b and is influenced by the mountains that surround us, while Seattle's coastal climate is an 8. Winters are a lot colder here in Spokane!
2. Spokane gets 17 inches of precipitation in an average year, while Seattle gets 37. Seattle's air is more humid as well, since it's closer to the ocean. That means Seattle gardeners have fewer sprinkler systems but more problems with fungal diseases (blackspot on roses, etc.).
3. Spokane is rather conservative politically, while Seattle is very liberal. This leads to occasional mutterings about how eastern Washington should secede from the West, though it doesn't influence gardening much. Seattle kids probably attend computer-programming workshops on weekends, while my kids beg to spend Saturday morning at the shooting gallery in Cabela's (what kind of hicks are we raising around here?).
4. Spokane gardeners stick with cold-hardy shrubs like lilacs - we're known as the Lilac City, after all, and have a Lilac Festival in May. Seattle gardeners have many more choices in their mild climate, including camellias.
5. And speaking of shrubs, acid-loving shrubs like rhododendrons generally look pale and half-dead in Spokane, while they threaten to engulf entire houses over in Seattle. Our soil isn't acidic enough to keep rhodies (or pieris or azaleas or camellias) happy. But the nurseries here all sell them anyway.
6. The largest industry in Spokane is healthcare (we're a regional medical center for Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon, Northern Idaho and Montana), while Seattle is known for computers (Microsoft) and aerospace (Boeing). And while Seattle's most famous entrepreneur is Bill Gates, a friend of ours here in Spokane has a great side business selling authentic camouflage-print neckties. Sorry, he holds the patent, so you can't get in on the goldmine.
7. The mountains around Spokane - and many of the neighborhoods within the city - are covered with Ponderosa pine trees, while Seattle's nearby mountains are forested with Hemlock and Douglas-fir, among others. Thankfully, huckleberry bushes can be found in both areas.
8. Many Spokanites drive 4-wheel drive SUV's, which they actually need to get up steep streets in the snow. Many Seattlites drive Volvos or hybrid vehicles. Their city shuts down when they get a few inches of snow. Our city can handle several feet of snow at a time, though we did slow down, and many trees lost branches, after receiving a record-breaking 6 feet of snow within 3 weeks last winter.
9. Spring in Spokane is sooo slow to arrive. Seattle doesn't have to wait as long for hellebore blooms, spring bulbs, roses, daylilies and everything else. I'm now attempting to suppress, with only partial success, climate envy.
10. By now readers from Spokane are thinking, "Do we really have to endure MORE comparisons to Seattle?" Readers in Seattle are thinking, "People in Spokane compare themselves to us? Where is Spokane again?"
. . . three hundred miles east, 20 degrees colder, 20 inches drier, and you're there!
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