NEWSLETTER: Summer 2014 Update!

Greetings Plant Friends,

Well it’s just about time for our summer OPEN HOUSE, which will once again be the fourth weekend of July! We welcome you to come on out and browse our selection of rare, unique and water-wise plants this Friday and Saturday – check this page (http://www.desertnorthwest.com/openhouse.html) for directions and a map. Now let’s see if I can make the rest of this newsletter short and sweet.

First I ought to mention that I have finally updated the availability on the web site of ‘Specimen Plants’ – those plants we sell in 1 gallon or larger sizes – just in time for this event! So now you can look online at what we actually have, and come on out and find it (unless someone else beats you to it/them – quantities are limited). When will I update the mail-order list again? Well, I’m getting close… baby steps, you know.

So what’s looking good? Well, we have a really nice crop of Arctostaphylos x ‘Sunset’ right now. This is one manzanita that’s beautiful, drought resistant and very easy to grow. Although it won’t grow in a swamp, it isn’t as fussy about drainage as some others. We also have a really nice crop of Olearia avicennifolia. This New Zealand daisy shrub is the perfect late summer show-stopper with its large masses of white daisies. It is super easy to grow and tolerates drought, wind and coastal exposure.

Hardy ice plants are blooming! These showy succulents are perfect, easy care plants for rockeries or if you just have a yard full of gravel which seem relatively common in Sequim. Some remain in a tight clump while others are spreading groundcovers. If you want to see Bergeranthus jamesii in bloom, come late in the afternoon when they open up.

We still have quite a few 1 gallon Agave montana, Yucca schottii, and Aloe striatula. Aloe striatula is a reliably hardy Aloe for our region but it grows better with good soil and summer water. The flowers are very showy! It will freeze to the ground in a colder winter but always comes back. We will probably “dig” some more hardy Opuntia cacti out of greenhouse 1 to sell, including our native ones. They have made a lot of new growth and are looking great!

Oh, and we’ve still got a few Araucaria angustifolia left! We have to mention that. See my blog a couple posts back for how special this tree is. And I suppose you’ve been searching all your life for a tree sized Eucryphia, right? Well, look no further. This late summer bloomer will be putting on a show soon. It gets covered in showy white flowers with yellow stamens that the bees love.

And now for a really special announcement. Do you love our plants but don’t want to pay for them? Do you like to work outdoors? Do you have tons of spare time? (I know, I lost you with that one.) If so, we could arrange a work trade to the tune of $20/hour in plant value – perhaps more if you’re really good? Maybe you are a horticulture student who wants to learn more about plants: we could call this an internship. Duties would mainly be (but not limited to) weeding, potting up, and helping construct/maintain our display beds (which are just starting off and don’t look like anything yet). There will be some different work in the fall with building a greenhouse and some tables, etc. I always think I am going to do it all myself but who am I kidding; history has shown I am not likely to get near as much done as I would like. It’s kind of low-key out here but at least I am very nice to work with – I think. If this sounds at all interesting to you, just let me know!

If you can’t visit this weekend, Fronderosa is August 9th! Come out to Gold Bar and see us. We’ll bring whatever plants you want us to. See this page for more information: http://www.fancyfrondsnursery.com/events

All right, I’d better quit before I get myself into trouble. We hope to see you soon.

Ian & Co.
The Desert Northwest
PO Box 3475
Sequim, WA 98382
mail@desertnorthwest.com

http://www.desertnorthwest.com

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Here’s Bergeranthus jamesii, a rare hardy ice plant with yellow flowers that open in the evening.

Colvos Creek Nursery Closeout Sale

Who’s ready for some sad news? Well we have some really downer news. (Where’s that “Brace Yourselves” internet meme when I need it?) After approximately 39(?) years of business, Colvos Creek Nursery is closing its doors. That’s right, they’ve been selling interesting, rare, and very cool plants since before I was born.

Unlike many nursery closures, this seems like less of a casualty of the economy than a casualty of circumstance. (Just in January owner Mike Lee told me that business was going well with interest in their plants on the rise.) You can read about the reasons for their closure here.

Thankfully there is a positive aspect about this: this Saturday is the final day of their closeout sale, with all plants being 50% off! So this is your chance to get on over to Vashon Island and get some cool stuff. (I’m making the link to their web site really big so no one misses it!) If you can’t make it this Saturday, you should contact Mike and see what could be worked out.

I need to say a little bit more about Colvos Creek, which currently consists of Mike Lee (founder and long-time owner) and Vor Hostleter (expert plantsman and possibly co-owner, I’m not sure).

I am supremely disappointed about this closure, personally. Colvos has been a great inspiration for what we do here at The Desert Northwest. I believe Mike is among the very best plantspeople in the Northwest, if not THE best, even if he is not as well known as some. His knowledge about plants, and the cold-hardiness of all kinds of plants (including many so rare virtually no one has tried them), is nothing less than encyclopedic. And he’s a really nice guy to boot. Now that Mike is freed up from the nursery I expect him to write a book. Or perhaps several.

Also of significance, Colvos Creek has been a long-time pioneer for water-wise gardening in the Northwest. For decades they have been quietly promoting the use of many of our favorite drought tolerant plants like Arctostaphylos, Grevillea, and Callistemon for Northwest gardens.

Not only that, their availability was saturated with the rare and edgy, rivaling Heronswood in the 90’s or Cistus Nursery for hard-to-find cool stuff. (I say “was,” but the stuff they have now is still cool, as you will find if you visit.) For example, way back in January 1998 I bought an Araucaria angustifolia from Colvos Creek, which is now the tree you see pictured in the previous blog post! If you see hardy Agaves or tree-sized Embothriums in gardens around the Seattle area, there is a good chance they came from Colvos.

Colvos Creek Nursery had a great run, and certainly outlasted most mail-order nurseries. We are grateful for their inspiration. We want to do all we can to ensure that all they have contributed to horticulture in the Northwest and beyond does not go unrecognized.

We also secretly hope this closure is only temporary, and Mike and Vor start producing more plants again. But don’t tell anyone.

Long Anticipated Exciting Spring Newsletter! (LATE PUBLICATION)

Editorial note: Well, I kinda goofed here. I sent out an email newsletter a few weeks back, but with so much preparation to do for the open house I didn’t manage to put it on my blog. Here I am adding it just for the sake of consistency because all the other ones are on here. So the open house is over and done, but that’s really not a big deal since you can always shop by appointment or come to the next open house July 26th. And anyway, the nursery looks better now than it did a few weeks ago.

Dear Gardening Friends,

So oh yeah, it’s spring! And it hasn’t been a bad one at that, we think. Not too cold but enough rain that we’re not watering all the time yet. For some of you, I know, it was TOO MUCH rain, but here in Sequim it didn’t feel that way.

Without further ado let’s announce that this weekend is our first open house of the year, and we would be thrilled to have your visit on Friday, Saturday or Sunday! Or even all three. Not only that, I have gotten myself together and put the open dates for the season – with directions and a map – back up on the web site right here. And not a moment too soon! Heh heh.

We like to start these things relatively late in the season after the regional plant sale mayhem is mostly behind us. It is also hard to get all the plants we crammed into the greenhouse for winter set outside and spread out in early spring, or else the deer will eat it. But by this time of year they not usually hungry enough to be a nuisance. (Yeah, someday we ought to do something about a fence.)

What? Did I hear that you still don’t have Grevillea victoriae subsp. nivalis ‘Murray Valley Queen’? You know, the one that is covered in showy red-orange flowers from October through May and keeps hummingbirds in your garden all winter. Well, we now have at least 100 little plants in 4” pots that want to go home with you. At $14 each they might sound pricey, but these are basically big enough to be a “1 gallon” plant and they look GREAT. Actually, we might have a few 1 gallons ($16) about ready to sell by now too. In any case, this plant is a great investment at any size! More details on our web site here.

So what else is new? Grevillea ‘Poorinda Leane’ is an excellent all-around hardy and tough shrub with nice foliage and apricot flowers. In the Australian plants department, our purple leaf form of Leptospermum lanigerum is back (little pots and a few 2 gallons), and we also have (not yet listed on the web site) a limited selection of hardy Eucalyptus including the world’s tallest non-coniferous tree, Eucalyptus regnans. Our Callistemon (bottlebrush) selection remains excellent, and includes the red-flowered ‘Woodlander’s Hardy’ and our own Callistemon sp. aff. sieberi that gets loaded with cream flowers in early summer. And we have a really cute, HARDY selection of C. viridiflorus blooming NOW in little pots.

Our succulent selection continues to improve. We now offer some nice 1 gallons of Agave montana, Yucca schottii, and as usual the native cacti Opuntia fragilis and O. columbiana. We also have a number of interesting 4” succulents that haven’t yet all made it onto the web site, such as Sedum palmeri (hardy form), S. praealtum, S. kimnachii, Graptopetalum paraguayense and the exquisite Crassula setulosa. Finally, an extensive selection of hardy ice plants is coming along; some of them are a little on the small side but we promise they are too cute to resist.

The selection of Chilean plants, New Zealand plants, and conifers remains excellent; and anyone wanting about 50 1 gallon Azara microphylla can take them all for just $300. Now there’s a steal of a deal. 2 gallon Arizona cypresses – and under-appreciated drought tolerant tree for the Northwest – are looking good. And this is your chance to get a little Araucaria angustifolia for the bargain price of $24. (Hey, YuccaDo was charging $30 not long ago.) This super-rare relative of the iconic monkey puzzle tree has comparatively bright green, lax needles and grows FAST. Some of you will have seen photos of the one I planted in Olympia in 1998 that is now approaching 30′ tall. You know you have room for another 100′ tree in your yard, and they won’t last long, so get one while you can!

If you can’t make it to the open house, our next regional plant sale appearance that we know of will be in Kingston at Heronswood on July 12th. In fact that remains true even if you do make it. How about that!

We want to thank all our customers who have done business with us at these plant sales, and via mail-order, and here on-site. Fun Fact: Did you know that we charge the same prices for our plants wherever we sell them? Hey, we are all about fairness around here.

Hoping to see you around,
Ian & Co.
The Desert Northwest
PO Box 3475
Sequim, WA 98382
mail@desertnorthwest.com

http://www.desertnorthwest.com

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A very happy Araucaria angustifolia in Olympia, August 2003. OK, so this isn’t the best picture, but there’s a Eucalyptus neglecta right behind it that I don’t want to cut down just yet (and anyway, the Araucaria grows taller, just not as fast).

2014 Schedule of Sales and Events!

It’s that time of the year again – the time when I have to predict the future and announce what plant sales and events we plan to be at. So here goes. Dates first for easy reading.

And don’t forget you can always specially request plants to be picked up at these events!!

March 15 – 16 – that’s this weekend! As always we kick things off with the Sequim Garden Show, a great local show that is worth the drive from outside the area, and timely if you have an early spring gardening bug to appease. This year I am hoping a large banner I ordered that says “WATER WISE PLANTS” will arrive in time and will draw more attention to our booth! We’ll see if it makes a difference.

After that I have four more weeks to get the nursery in gear for spring, which is a luxury I have not had the last few years. The Bloedel Reserve sale, which has been huge for us in the past, is not happening this year. I hate to say it but I am not really feeling too bad about that, since three major plant sales three consecutive weekends is VERY difficult & I always felt completely burned out by the end of it with the spring season still in full swing and demanding my attention.

April 12 – 13. So next it’s Hortlandia (Hardy Plant Society of Oregon) in Portland. This seems to be the Northwest’s biggest and best these days, worth the trip from Seattle! Some people even come from exotic far off places like California and Spokane.

April 18 – 19. Rhododendron Species Foundation sale in Federal Way, Washington.

May 3 – 4. Clackamas County Master Gardener Spring Fair, Canby, Oregon. This is a new one for us. Hey, we’ll try anything once!

May 17. Heronswood garden open and sale, Kingston.

May 30 – June 1. Spring OPEN HOUSE here at the nursery in Sequim!

July 12. Heronswood garden open and sale, Kingston.

July 25 – 26. Summer OPEN HOUSE here at the nursery in Sequim! We’re making this one a two-day event this time; you can still come Sunday but please schedule an appointment.

August 9. Fronderosa Frolic in Gold Bar. Haven’t heard from Judith yet, but assuming it’s on we’ll do it.

September 6. Heronswood garden open and sale, Kingston.

September 12 – 13. Northwest Horticultural Society Fall Sale in Seattle, not confirmed but probably doing it.

September 13. Salem Hardy Plant Society sale.

September 20. If we can, we’d like to try the HPSO Fall Plantfest (Portland). This is not confirmed.

September 26 – 27. Fall OPEN HOUSE here at the nursery in Sequim! We have pushed this one way back this year due to all the other weekends in September being full. We hope that by that time people will still have money left over for plants, and we may get a little rain by then putting people in the mood for planting. As with the summer open house this will be Friday and Saturday only.

If we can think up anything to do in October we’d like to do it. I wouldn’t mind adding an event in July or August also, if it were only one day. Ideas are welcome.

Also note that we will not be at Sorticulture this year. It was a great, fun event and we did not lose money, but it was not worth the logistical challenges. It was really tough to keep the nursery watered simultaneously with all the back and forth to Everett.

Despite the challenges, regional sales are a lot of fun because it is a chance for us to catch up with other nursery folks as well as customers who live too far away to visit us at the nursery. We hope you will come out to one (or several) of them and see us this year!

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Sequim Garden Show. Hey this looks like fun, right?

The Amazing Resilience of Trees

Happy New Year! It has been a while, but since I did a general business update last time, I think I will talk about something else today. There is not much exciting to report about December’s big freeze, as we weathered it without much damage; unless you call the major expense of heating three large greenhouses for a week “damage” which I just may. (Did I mention that this is a great time to order more plants?)

Of all the blog posts I have written here, the one that continues to get the most hits is this post about how to prune your leyland cypress. At the risk of stating the obvious, this tells me that a lot of folks are searching the internet for useful information about how to prune them. And they may be disappointed to find that I basically say not to bother planting them to start with if they are going to need pruning constantly. But I’ll stick by that statement because it still makes plenty of sense if you stop to think about it. Perhaps it also tells me that way too many people are planting leyland cypress.

But if you’re determined to keep your leyland, and really want to know how to prune it; well, I’ll tell you. You’re best off shearing them annually at minimum, preferably right before new growth starts in spring; and it’s best if you don’t cut into old wood. You don’t have to shear; individual pruning cuts will also work, but doing it that way may take longer, depending on your methods, equipment and the height of your plant(s). That is about all there is to it, I think.

I wanted to revisit those trees at Independent Bible Church because of a dire prediction I made; which was basically that, since someone cut way too much green material off of them, they would mostly be dead or in otherwise sorry shape by now. Well fortunately I am not always right about everything, and in this case the trees have proven exceptionally resilient. Mind you they have a lot going for them: they are in the perfect climate and they are on an irrigation system. I have to admit some of these trees actually look great and are now making a shapely screen just like they are supposed to. I took these pictures in September.

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Now some of the ones that were really chopped up still look ratty and probably always will. Because for most conifers, including these, you still can’t cut into old huge limbs and expect new growth to come out. The remarkable thing though is that none of these trees has actually died (except, of course, for the ones they removed entirely). Some of them probably lost 90% of their foliage but are still hanging on and trying to grow out of it. I have to admit I didn’t expect that.

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So there you go. No matter how much abuse trees are subjected to, they still do everything they can hang on. Aren’t trees amazing?

While we’re on the subject, I thought I’d revisit the trees at Carrie Blake Park, which I rather ungraciously dubbed as “hell for plants” in this blog post a couple years ago. I think I had good reason to be irked at the time, but things are looking much better there now.

If this is of interest to you, you may wish to go back and read the post I am referencing before going on. If I were really ambitious it would be nice to produce a side-by-side before and after comparison, but I did not always take the same pictures of the same trees, and certainly not from the same angle. Let’s go through some pictures I took last August.

Remember those sad garry oaks that had way too many of their lower branches pruned off of them? They actually look pretty nice now, for the most part.

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You can see where some of them did some serious resprouting along the trunk where branches had been removed.

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In some cases this was pruned off yet again, but at least they didn’t limb the trees up any farther. Also the maintenance folk seem to have missed a few of them. (Captions are below the photos from here on out.)

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Remember the oak that was pruned to just two branches? Here it is now, hanging on and looking better.

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The amur maples generally look pretty good; it seems they ought to be fine.

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The European birch, mysteriously enough, continues to hang on; and doesn’t look half bad.

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Here’s what became of that arborvitae hedge. It’s hard not to feel bad for whoever paid for all those arborvitaes. At least the ones that survived look decent now.

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I guess this thing is our native Ribes sanguineum. Eek. Perhaps not a total failure, but this doesn’t exactly get one excited about the beauty of native plants. There are better choices.

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Arctostaphylos x media, actually well adapted to the site, continues to flourish.

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Vaccinium ovatum continues to look about as dead as it always has. Sorry, I think it’s a bit too late for fresh mulch (and anyway bark isn’t the best).

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Likewise, kinnikkinnik continues to have problems at this site (though there is a decent patch or two, such as around the Vaccinium pictured above). OK, someone can remove this now.

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This site really has a lot of potential. Maybe I’ll have the chance to be involved here sometime.

This may (or may not – ha) lead me to a future blog post about the challenges municipalities face maintaining such landscapes or gardens, and a possible solution.

I’ll also provide an update on the low-impact garden at Carrie Blake Park this summer. I really doubt Agave ‘Blue Glow’ endured the drop to the upper teens that we had last December, but I haven’t gotten out there to check on it yet.

To Toot Our Own Horn

In what may be my briefest blog post in a while, if we’re lucky (and because I don’t have a lot of time), we will embark on a bit of shameless self-promotion.

First, I must call your attention to our mail-order catalog, where 46 new species have just been added to our list. Notable features include an assortment of new Arctostaphylos generally unavailable elsewhere (e-mail for availability first; we just sold out of a couple things), and an expanded selection of conifers. Astelias are back for the first time in years, and we have a few of the spectacular Protea punctata which seems to actually have a shot at being fairly hardy in sheltered Northwest gardens.

And, of course, there are lots more. Not everything we have just added to the list says “New Fall 2013″ as this designation applies only to plants that are truly new to our mail-order list, not those that have returned after being unavailable for a time.

Basically I am playing catch-up from all the plants I should have added over the summer. Oh well – better late than never. It is still a great time to plant, fall (despite a dramatic start) being far from over; and we would be thrilled to have your business to keep us going into what is usually the slow season for nurseries. I don’t know about you but our soil is nice and moist and ready for planting, even here in the rainshadow.

The big news however is that we are famous. During our September open house a group of very enthusiastic garden bloggers dropped by for a visit and quick tour. We were happy to welcome this group as they were serious plant nuts who had never seen our nursery before. In order to fully savor our new-found fame we must share the posts by these bloggers that included mention and generally favorable reviews of our nursery. We thank them for the visit and they are welcome back at any time.

The relevant links follow.
When You Come to the End of a Perfect Day; The Desert Northwest (The Outlaw Gardener)
Veni, vidi, WeHoP – a glorious garden geek adventure – part 2 (The Creative Flux)
And finally, The Desert Northwest… (Danger Garden)

Not directly related, but as long as I’m at it, Loree at Danger Garden (among the group of intrepid nursery hoppers) has also mentioned us in this post.

Finally, we wish to offer our sincere thanks to all of you who attended our open house, purchased from us at the Salem Hardy Plant Society Sale, or the NHS Fall Sale. I’m no economist but I have a hunch it would be a lot more difficult to run this nursery if no one ever bought anything. Drop me a line sometime and let us know how your plants are doing.

NEWSLETTER – September Open House and Sales! Featuring Conifers.

Greetings Friends Against Boring Plants,

September is here, and despite it still being summer, our fall rains have arrived early! And it looks like more is on the way this weekend. Of course we all know fall is a great time to plant, and that is especially true of early fall, and it is even more true in weather like this. We have been doing a little planting ourselves.

So here is what we have in the pipeline. This weekend is our final open house of the year! (Details/directions on our web site as always.) Then after that we have two regional sales coming up: The Salem Hardy Plant Society sale, Sept 14th in Salem, and the Northwest Horticultural Society sale, Sept 20-21st in Seattle. We welcome your special plant requests for either of these sales. After that, well, there is still mail-order, and you can always visit the nursery by appointment!

You hear often that “fall is a great time to plant,” but is it really true? Well, yes, in fact, it is. Studies have shown that many plants make more root growth in the fall than at other seasons. And we have certainly noticed that plants set in the ground or potted on in the fall have a great advantage in the next growing over those whose planting was delayed until early the following spring. Not only do they start growing faster and better, but they look greener and healthier too, with fewer physiological problems.

As we are highlighting different groups of plants with each open house event, I thought this time we would go with conifers. (Even if I have already mentioned some of these earlier.) They might not be listed on the web site yet, but we still have a few Juniperus maritima left. This is one of western Washington’s most special native plants, being found only in the ‘Salish Sea’ area and a few isolated pockets of the northeast Olympic Peninsula. A true relict from the Holocene warm period, this is a great drought tolerant, conical, small tree for the garden producing berries that attract the birds. It is uncommon in the wild and very hard to find in nurseries.

In the Juniper department, we also have an ever-increasing selection of Juniperus communis var. saxatilis forms from various places around the Northwest. This is a nice groundcover that grows slowly enough to be considered well-behaved. For something shrubbier, we also have an upright form of J. communis. And just in case you need something extremely drought tolerant that will keep the neighbors out, we have a few Juniperus oxycedrus. This Mediterranean species makes a big prickly tree! Just don’t plant it too close to anything else.

Getting back to rare and special Northwest native conifers, Taxus brevifolia, the Pacific yew, is a nice small tree that thrives in shade. It is easy to grow but slow, and with its glossy, dark needles I think it can look a bit exotic in the right spot. We also still have plenty of Modoc Cypress (Cupressus bakeri) in stock (small size only). This beautiful tree occurs farther north in the wild than any other Western Hemisphere cypress, and has fine, soft, grey foliage. Although easily hardy in Northwest gardens, it remains very rare. We have a few other rare Cypresses in stock too, like C. austro-tibetica and green Arizona cypress (C. arizonica subsp. arizonica).

Looking at a few more West Coast conifers, you can also find at our nursery Pinus jefferyi, which does great here and looks much like a Ponderosa. We also have a new crop of the deep green and vigorous Cupressus pygmaea and the beautiful C. macrocarpa ‘Donard Gold’. And we have just a few of the very rare Torreya californica, a yew-like tree with long sharp needles that can eventually reach quite a large size!

Port Orford Cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) remains a great choice for well-drained Pacific Northwest gardens. We carry an excellent large-growing blue form of it as well as the fabulous upright cultivar ‘Blue Surprise’. If you want to try something different we also have some little starts of ‘Chilworth Silver’.

The beautiful Chilean conifers Podocarpus salignus and Prumnopitys andina remain available in ample quantities, as does Fitzroya cupressoides, the “Patagonian redwood” which can live longer than 1,000 years! Some other fun Southern Hemisphere conifers in stock would include the golden totara, Podocarpus totara ‘Aurea’ from New Zealand, and the weeping Tasmanian Huon pine, Lagarostrobos franklinii. We also have an exciting form of Afrocarpus falcatus that has proven hardy at the J. C. Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina. This is usually regarded as a houseplant in our climate but why not try it outside?

In the smaller Podocarpus department, we continue to have plenty of Podocarpus lawrencei ‘Purple King’ with its beautiful purple winter color, as well as P. alpinus ‘Red Tip’, and the plain green form of P. alpinus, and P. nivalis which makes a nice little groundcover.

Finally I shall mention a couple of Asian conifers: Podocarpus macrophyllus, which is often sold as a houseplant though it is actually completely hardy outdoors in the Northwest. With its huge strappy leaf-ish “needles” it hardly even looks like a conifer. And Cephalotaxus harringtonia is a fun plant with a tiered branching habit and dark green needles. It does great in the shade, and both of these will appreciate summer water.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you soon!
Ian & Co.
The Desert Northwest
PO Box 3475
Sequim, WA 98382
mail@desertnorthwest.com

http://www.desertnorthwest.com

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