Really Miscallaneous News

I don’t usually like to randomly jump from topic to topic in just one blog post but so much is going on right now that I thought it would be fun to share some of it. You could say randomness reflects the state of our lives right now. Unlike most nurseries we always seem to be busiest in the fall. It might be 48 degrees outside but we like to pretend that summer is still going and we still have time to catch up on all the stuff that got neglected earlier in the season when we had to stay focused on potting up plants.

We are done with regional plant sales for the year, and we wish to thank everyone who came and visited, and supported us! Our second-to-last was the Northwest Perennial Alliance Sale, which was on a beautiful sunny, warm day in early September (remember those?) at Bellevue Botanic Garden. The highlight of this for me was meeting Rick Lupp of Mt. Tahoma Nursery, whose table was next to ours, and which we shall have to visit very soon. He is a great plantsman with some super plants. We were also present the Northwest Horticultural Society’s big fall plant sale. This year it was at a new location at North Seattle Community College. Despite the challenge this presented, and the tough economy, the sale still went reasonably well. Next year there will be some changes to our plant sale schedule. The next one where you will be able to find us will be the Sequim Garden Show which is the third weekend in March. We like this event a lot, and want to get the word out about it, so stay tuned for more information about that.

Our booth at the Northwest Perennial Alliance fall sale – look at those September shadows!

NHS Fall Sale after it had wound down a bit. (That red wall sure stands out, doesn’t it?)

We are fortunate to have had the chance to get out and visit other nurseries lately. One visit I particularly enjoyed was Colvos Creek Nursery, where I had the chance to chat with Mike Lee and Vor. Mike is a super-hort-hero, having founded Colvos Creek before I was born, and actually knows almost everything there is to know about growing plants in the Seattle area, and about wild plants; and is a widely acclaimed landscape architect and botanical illustrator to boot. He has been a major positive influence in getting me interested in water-wise plants and the nursery business in general. Vor I don’t know as well yet but he has been working with Mike for the last few years. It is great to see that the nursery is still kicking despite some challenges. They have had to move their production location and are now setting up all over again, but Mike emphasizes they are certainly not giving up, which is convincing since I know how much he loves plants and the nursery. They still ship mail-order as always, and remain open for retail at the Country Store on Vashon Island, too – most of the plants are actually there at the moment, where you can go and visit and you will find a lot of cool stuff you cannot get elsewhere! They are taking many more new cuttings this year in anticipation of expanding their selection next year.

A sneak peak at Mike and Vor’s cuttings including some great forms of Arctostaphylos patula and A. columbiana.

Back home, we wanted to be done building a third greenhouse by about the second week of October, but that isn’t going so well. Actually, we have barely started yet. A few years back, shortly after we moved here, I had dug some giant trenches in the ground with the backhoe to set posts, before figuring out that it was not impossible to do the job with an auger. It is going to take a while to fill these back up with posts set in them. Once that part is done the rest should go quickly enough. We hope that winter holds off until then, but if it doesn’t, there is (hopefully) just room for everything important to fit in the existing greenhouses – though it will be tight, and temporary.

If you’re considering placing an order, fall is a great time. This is because the plants we potted up in spring and summer are now well grown and rooted out. The availability list on the web site says “summer” at the moment but it is still quite up to date. We will do one final inventory for the end of the season before the end of the month, but it will be almost the same as what is on there now. Along with that I have remained ever so close to having that new catalog up to date and online. I know I have been promising to do it all year, but the thing is I have been so close all year and then more plants fill out and are ready to sell. In any case, we’re doing our best, and getting it updated remains a top priority. We have also had a few plants bloom here this fall for the first time, which is exciting, including some cacti and this spectacular Protea punctata. This ought to be one of the hardiest Protea species for outdoor trialling here, though we haven’t actually planted one out yet. It is exclusive to high altitudes in the wild and very easy to grow. We hope to have enough to offer by late summer next year.

Protea punctata in flower back in September.

In other exciting news, I have managed to get out and do some multi-day plant hunting for the first time in, oh, I can’t remember how many years. (I had done quite a few local one-day and half-day trips the last couple years but you can only get so far that way.) No, I still haven’t made it back to the Southwest – perhaps in a year or two – but there is actually plenty of exciting stuff to see much closer to home. First we went to Chelan County hunting for, among other things, Arctostaphylos patula and a stray Ceanothus prostratus far away from its home – well not really but it’s a widely disjuct occurrence, and we found it! And we managed to find some very intriguing Arctostaphylos (but no real A. patula) and other great plants. Then I took off by myself the following weekend, pretty much following the region’s best and most diverse Arctostaphylos; on a trip that led me to eastern Lewis County, Klickitat County, and Skamania County with a one-morning detour into Hood River County, Oregon. The trip was, dare I say, everything I dreamed it would be; and will result in some fabulous new introductions of awesome native manzanita species and hybrids in the pipeline for next year. I also encountered other genera such as Penstemon and Ceanothus in plenty. (And I don’t even feel bad for missing out on greenhouse-building time since on both trips the weather was far better where I went than it was back home.) I will have write-ups of both on the web site, with lots of exciting pictures, once I am sufficiently caught up with the nursery catalog – check back for that soon! – but here is a sneak peek.

This captures the exciting moment when we found Ceanothus prostratus in the Mad River basin, Chelan County. Actually Madelin saw it as I nearly drove past it!

Here’s one of many Arctostaphylos hybrids I saw with great ornamental potential, this one near Big Lava Bed, Skamania County.

On the return trip I stopped off at Cistus Nursery for a chat with Sean Hogan about (what else?) plants, and especially Arctostaphylos. Sean has amassed a fabulous collection of these with an emphasis on species and hybrids native to Oregon. Not only that, he has managed to figure out what most of them are, which isn’t easy! Sean states that this is a genus far more exciting than most people think, and deserving of wider attention and use in the Pacific Northwest, and we of course wholeheartedly agree! We also share a love for Opuntia cacti.

Sean and his Opuntias… well some of them anyways.

Finally, we wish to thank some good folks for promoting us. First, Kelly and Sue at Far Reaches Farm, who reciprocated our blog post about them with a huge promotion in their e-mail newsletter. Actually I think they must have a much larger e-mail newsletter readership than does my blog, so we sure do appreciate that! Loree at Danger Garden has also been promoting us repeatedly, for which we are very grateful. Check out a project she and a couple collaborators are working on called PlantLust, where they are working towards assimilating many sources for hard-to-find plants, including us.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Desert Dweller / David C.
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 14:39:16

    What enjoyable miscellany! And a nice Ceanothus as well…


  2. Ian
    Oct 16, 2011 @ 21:06:47

    Thanks! Not the easiest Ceanothus species to grow, supposedly, but that won’t stop us from trying.


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