Exciting Facebook groups YOU should join—and General Update

When you start getting emails of “are you still in business?” that must mean it’s been too long since a web update or at least a blog update. Of course this has been on my mind for a while now, but we’ll start with the blog since that is easier. Yes, we are still in business and we have in fact been quite busy.

Before getting to that though, let’s take a moment to talk about Facebook. You’re on Facebook, right? I mean, come on man, everyone is doing it. Actually, if you are one of those who has still opted out, I can’t blame you. I’m half expecting everything we put up on Facebook goes into some vast database that Big Brother will eventually use against us. But then the same goes for most everything we put on the internet, including my blog and web site, so I guess it’s a chance I’ve decided to take for now, unless someone can convince me to go back to snail-mail only for the nursery business. At least I haven’t bought one of those TVs that listens to your every word and transmits your information to some unknown data cloud.

In any case, there continues to be a steadily increasing amount of action on plant-based Facebook groups (as an aside, the group called Plant Idents is particularly fun). So now that you think I’m nuts, let me tell you about three exciting Facebook groups you should join:

The first is called Arctostaphylos Aficionados. I started this back in late summer or so for people with a serious interest in manzanita—growing it, photographing it, documenting it in the wild, whatever. We even got someone in the group who is doing molecular research on them, so that is exciting; as well as most of the living scientific authorities on the genus that I know of. Do you like manzanita? What are you waiting for? https://www.facebook.com/groups/1536485596588451/

The next is called Cold Hardy Australian Plants, which I started around New Years Eve or so. I am astounded at the positive response to this group which already has more people in it than the Arctostaphylos group; and lots of great discussion, information and photos have been shared. You can be part of the fun at https://www.facebook.com/groups/384205358407272/

Then we have Hardy Cacti for Temperate Gardens. Unlike my other groups this one has NOT really taken off. In fact I started it way back last March and we are still not quite at 100 members. But there is a back story here.

A certain Dan Carter, well over a year ago, started a Facebook group called Cold Hardy Cacti—nothing wrong with that. He then went on to define the subject of his group as being primarily cacti that will grow in USDA zones 6 or colder, where temperatures below 0°F are expected most winters. To the annoyance of some, contributors from zones 7 and 8 would be repeatedly informed their posts were of relatively less interest to the group. For example I even posted photos from an eastern Washington garden and was told my post was only marginally on topic. The problem is, with a title like “Cold Hardy Cacti,” it’s pretty much inevitable that you’re going to attract people who are interested in cold hardy cacti on up to zones 7 and 8; where, outside of desert areas, you very seldom see cacti cultivated due to the challenges of cold and wet. So, while I recognize someone is free to manage a Facebook group any way that he chooses to, in my mind it gets a little silly when you start a group with the title “Cold Hardy Cacti” and then tell such persons their contributions are not on topic. Now this is not meant as an attack on his group; in fact, I am still in his group. But this did motivate me to start Hardy Cacti for Temperate Gardens, which is meant as a “bigger tent” for people interested in discussing cold hardy cacti in any zone. (If Dan reads this and feels I am representing him unfairly, by all means please chime in—I have no personal beef here.) I won’t even say anything if you start talking about Agaves or Yuccas in my group; just don’t start talking about Encore Azaleas or something.

So I still wish to revive this group. It could be a valuable resource for those of us who are growing cacti in climates cold enough to be challenging but not frigid. With that remark I am pledging to become somewhat more involved there myself, and would love to have your contributions as well. Here’s the group again: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1468681576681957/

So what else is new? Well, some people have called this a “really boring” mild winter in the Northwest generally, but in our neck of the woods we had 3” of snow on November 29th followed by a drop to 18°F on the 30th. So we hit our “zonal low” if you will for the winter. A hard freeze before that and another just after Christmas were also annoying. (And what’s with all these early hard freezes lately? 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, now 2014. Perhaps I ought to just start expecting them.) So greenhouse 4 didn’t get built, but that isn’t really a surprise. But that is all right, since I’m knocking off a whole lot of other little projects that have been bugging me for years. For example an annoying pile of rocks and dirt (inherited from previous owners) on the east side of the nursery growing area that has been covered with groundcover cloth for years has finally been leveled flat. This week I am working on getting Dungeness River irrigation water over to the east side of the property, which is exciting. And I am finally getting more plants into the ground, but more on that in a future post.

I have been doing some cleaning and organizing in the greenhouses as well; in short, we are doing the usual stuff to get ready for spring. And fortunately I am more on top of annoying paperwork this year than before, which means I can be OUTSIDE doing the work! Of course there’s still the web site to update; but for now I’ll just say, if you’re wondering if something is available, just ask, and I’ll let you know.

The other exciting news is that last October I managed to get out and do a quick bit of plant hunting in southwest Oregon and California. Highlights were a couple nice forms of Heteromeles arbutifolia that have already rooted really well, one of which had huge clusters of berries (why didn’t I get seed? But hey, at least they rooted). I also revisited some very nice forms of Arctostpahylos x mewukka that I had collected in 2006 but later lost. These forms from the Mt. Shasta area are beautifully silver—not as screaming blue as some, but still pretty good—and ought to be super hardy to cold (-20°F?). Speaking of cold, I encountered Arctostaphylos viscida in the upper Scott Valley where temperatures in the neighborhood of -20°F are not unknown—temperatures that these manzanitas take in stride. Look for these and similar exciting items to make it to our web list later this year. Then we have the rare Ceanothus pinetorum which looks a lot like C. gloriosus, but it grows high in the mountains and it’s MUCH hardier. Sean Hogan (Cistus Nursery) tells me it’s a major challenge to grow but I’m hoping I’ll have better luck if I get them in the ground from a small size. I guess we’ll find out.

Although it has taken me a while, I still intend to post photos to the web site both from this trip, and from the 2012 trip to Oregon and Northern California that I did with Mike Lee (formerly of Colvos Creek Nursery) and Vor Hostelter. There was also a minor trip to the Mt. Hood area in 2012 that I never did post photos of, but hey, it’s not too late!

We got to see some splendid gardens last fall, including Hummingbird Hill Villa on Whidbey Island, which houses an impressive collection of water-wise plants including a lot of things like Arctostaphylos, Grevillea, Leptospermum and the other usual suspects. The late Bob Barca, who was also one of our customers, started this garden which continues to be well maintained by the surviving family. We also visited Mike Lee, who continues to maintain a collection of fun, unusual, garden worthy plants at Arbor Heights Botanic Garden, a private garden in West Seattle. Both of these were kind enough to allow us some cuttings for propagation of exciting plant material, some of which we have not offered in the past. We also visited Derek Clausen and his amazing conifer collection back in October, but the cuttings from him mostly don’t look all that great now due to the downright hot weather we had back then. Anyway, stay tuned and we’ll see how much of it grows!

Not only that, Mike Lee was in Arizona and generously supplied us with a collection of cuttings and seeds, including four forms of Arctostaphylos, two of Platanus wrightii, the Arizona form of Frangula (Rhamnus) californica and more. (I opened the box and thought, what is this, Cotoneaster? But it’s all good; that just what this form looks like.) The Arizona Arctostaphylos are exciting because these get quite a bit of summer water in their native habitat, which could potentially mean they are both more “garden tolerant” in areas receiving summer irrigation, and possibly even that they would grow in parts of the mid-Atlantic region or Southeast—but has anyone tried? I have no idea, but I know Sean (the same as above) has already propagated a few A. pungens forms from southern Utah, and it’s certainly a fun possibility.

So, that is where we are at for the time being. I think we are going to have a good year with all the new stuff in the pipeline. Also, the word on the street is that the nursery business in general is picking up from previous years. Our local non-specialty garden center says business is way up from last year already, and with the mild weather people certainly have planting on the brain. Thanks for reading and for your continued interest in our business!

This is called 3" of snow, which fell on 11/29/14.  I left one Leptospermum juniperinum outside in a pot through the freeze just to see how wimpy it was.  It died.

This is called 3″ of snow, which fell on 11/29/14. I left one Leptospermum juniperinum outside in a pot through the freeze just to see how wimpy it was. It died.

Plant hunting in California.  This is Heteromeles arbutifolia with impressively large fruit clusters.

Plant hunting in California. This is Heteromeles arbutifolia with impressively large fruit clusters.

Arctostaphylos viscida in the Scott Valley, where temperatures to -20°F may occur.

Arctostaphylos viscida in the Scott Valley, where temperatures to -20°F may occur.

The gardens at Hummingbird Hill, Whidbey Island.

The gardens at Hummingbird Hill, Whidbey Island.

At Arbor Heights Botanic Gardens, this Acacia pravissima was loaded with buds.

At Arbor Heights Botanic Gardens, this Acacia pravissima was loaded with buds.

Cuttings from Arizona in the nursery!

Cuttings from Arizona in the nursery!

NEWSLETTER: FALL 2014 Update and OPEN HOUSE!

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Greetings Plant Friends,

Hey, what’s that wet stuff falling out of the sky? It may actually be rain. That means it’s time to plant! And I guess we timed our later-than-usual FALL OPEN HOUSE just right, because it’s this weekend! That’s right, come on out this Friday or Saturday and we’ll be ready for you! Check this page for directions and a map.

So was summer dry enough for you this year, or what? It was supposed to be a hot one, and indeed it was hotter than average across the Northwest. Here in Sequim we got just one good soaking rain in the middle of August – which was most unexpected, and not everyone got it. So we all got a good reminder this year of the good sense in using water-wise garden plants. We may have a long rainy season, but a 4 – 6 month dry season is still a long time to be irrigating!

So last year we had a little problem here at the Desert Northwest. And you can help to fix it. It was called, too many plants and not enough greenhouse space. This especially becomes an issue when I have to cram the greenhouses so full that there are plants in the aisles, and I can’t reach or even see a lot of our stock. You can imagine the mess that can potentially result, but things are reasonably under control at the moment so we won’t go there.

So obviously, your purchases – whether at the open house, or by mail – will help us clear out enough space to fit everything into the greenhouses. More importantly, they will help us to fund the construction of our next greenhouse, which shall be called (very creatively) Greenhouse 4. Greenhouse 4 is exciting because it will have a space dedicated to nursery stock grown specifically for regional sales, and will be available for retail shopping all the way to the back. The question is, can we get it done this winter? Well, we’re going to try, though (as usual) we have a lot of other projects to complete at the same time.

A few interesting plants are available that we haven’t had in a while. These may or may not be listed on the web site at present, since (once again) I need to update it. A nice crop of our native Arctostaphylos x media is a bit on the small side, but looking good. A couple of 1-gallon A. pajaroensis ‘Lester Rowntree’ are ready to go, and we still have some nice 2 gallon A. rudis ‘Vandenburg’.

We also still have plenty of the best and hardiest Grevilleas in stock, including lots of ‘Poorinda Leane’, ‘Marshall Olbrich’ and ‘Murray Valley Queen’ in 4” pots. Then there is a really nice crop of the grey-leafed Leptospermum cunninghamii also in 4” pots. This is a nice irregular evergreen shrub with delicate foliage, very showy flowers and totally hardy. Nearly our entire selection of ice plants remains in stock, as well as a good variety of our native hardy cacti. Yes, it’s OK to plant those now, as long as your soil drains.

Fall is especially good for planting conifers. People used to ask us for Fitzroya cupressoides all the time, and now that we have them, no one wants them. So we now have a beautiful crop of 1-gallons and they are feeling very lonely. Also looking good is Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Chilworth Silver’ – this has delicate foliage and an upright habit like ‘Blue Surprise’ but is a whole lot easier to grow and won’t randomly die overnight of root rots.

Trachycarpus wagnerianus, a HARDY windmill palm relative with compact leaves, has now been moved up to the 1-gallon size and looks good. There’s lots of other good stuff too but I suppose we have to stop somewhere.

We wish to gratefully acknowledge the recent help of our assistant, Bob. He has a real passion for cool plants and has been assisting significantly with all the work I haven’t had time to do lately. With all this help the nursery is looking pretty good right now!

If you can’t come and see us this weekend, remember you can make an appointment to come out any time we are available.

Happy growage,

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

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.

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