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!

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. georgeinbandon,oregon
    Feb 11, 2015 @ 10:59:06

    thanks for the updates and links to the facebook groups. several other good plant places to look for is the mediterranean plant and international oak groups as well. good to hear that you may have arizona sycamore available at some time—its a beautiful tree that is almost impossible to find (by mail-order at least) almost anywhere and IMHO worth trying in our area.


  2. Ian
    Feb 11, 2015 @ 11:02:39

    Wow, you are quick! I hadn’t even finished uploading photos. Well let’s see if we can get some more publicity to those Facebook groups. I keep you posted on Platanus wrightii– I haven’t planted them yet. Mike says it requires a lot of summer water in our climate.


  3. georgeinbandon,oregon
    Feb 11, 2015 @ 12:19:03

    wouldn’t surprise me if p. wrightii (and most of the rest of the family as well) is a real water “wanter”–it’s native habitat is not the “desert” but riparian habitats with access to water all year so our normal summer dry spells would probably not be a happy place for them unless they are in a similar type situation or we give them a good amount of summer water thru irrigation for at least the initial establishment period (several years) or maybe thruout their lives. a xeric plant it probably is not!!


  4. Ian
    Feb 11, 2015 @ 13:44:14

    I may as well mention that I did attempt to find seeds on P. racemosa at the northernmost place it is recorded in the wild, but could not find any either on the ground or on the tree. That may have something to do with the drought. However I did stumble on a cool wild juniper of some species in the process, with very nice silvery foliage, so that is almost as cool.


  5. georgeinbandon,oregon
    Feb 11, 2015 @ 15:12:25

    for some plants at least i think last year was not an especially good forseed-setting (the drought?) or for seed collectors (the drought and/or the early on-set warmth caused seeds to mature and be shed well before some of us (me at least) expected them to be. . FWIW, and iMHO think wrightii is a nicer looking tree than racemosa—but both are nice. the wild juniper you found is a tree (occidentalis or perhaps californica) or a shrub (ala communis)? BTW, have seed of adenocarpus decorticans if you want any.


  6. Ian
    Feb 11, 2015 @ 21:49:04

    I’m expecting the Juniper to be upright and treelike. J. californica might be a good guess but I haven’t looked into it to try to key it out.


  7. Desert Dweller
    Feb 12, 2015 @ 08:28:41

    I wondered where you went, though this post is long enough to make up for your absence…mostly! Great plant trips and trials. No more Facebook for me, but those groups sound great…cold-hardy should be qualified by zone & place.

    That Manzanita from Scott Valley and Heteromeles seem promising, assuming for at least high SW desert locations that they can take heat.

    Platanus wrightii…toughest may be from Animas Canyon NM above Caballo Lake, but maybe those from near Payson, Glenwood, Chiracahua Monument, etc. also? P. racemosa…seen for 2+ decades in Abq, Las Cruces, and take winter, but brown in summer. All Platanus uber-riparian like Populus, but less salt-tolerant, total water-hogs…need more water w/ age, and lawn conditions in SW high desert…not as parking lot or streetscape replacements for struggling P. acerfolia.


  8. Ian
    Feb 13, 2015 @ 09:36:11

    Hey David. “this post is long enough to make up for your absence”… yeah, I guess that’s kind of how I tend to do this. But hopefully I’ll post more regularly as the season gets going. At least until I get too busy to keep my head on straight.

    Well it was about 90 degrees in mid-October when I collected the Heteromeles, so that’s something. As for Platanus wrightii, I do recall seeing quite a bit of it in the Gila National Forest years ago (man that was over 10 years ago! Doh!) I don’t expect it ever to be super popular here, although it could make a good lawn tree on heavier soils where permanent irrigation is planned. For myself I have a spot picked out for one along a seasonal irrigation ditch that comes from the Dungeness River– I think that ought to work,


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