2023 New Year Update!

At last, 2022, the second worst year after 2020, is drawing to a close. So it must be time for a blog post to describe some of the ostensibly positive things that have happened, or will happen, around our nursery. The original version of this post also included a lot of negative-sounding information, but I thought I would save all that stuff for a future post(s). It’s a new year! Who wants to talk about that? Also, the post was rambling and covered too many subjects at once. This is going to be long enough as it is, and we’ll save all that pessimistic stuff for another day.

The first bit of positive news: We are still here! With the amount of communication coming out of here lately, or the lack thereof, some of you may have been wondering. I still respond to e-mails (wouldn’t want to be that unprofessional), but I tend to be faster if the plants someone wants are available than if they are not. As for the blog, I seem to have gotten into the habit of going from writing blog posts which I never actually manage to publish, to just neglecting the blog for long periods. I do think the blog is worth keeping, however, and there is no need to just abandon it.

Some of those unpublished posts I may still revisit. Others were abandoned for good reason. For example, the December 2021 post-Christmas freeze saw us drop to a low of 11°F, which ties for the all-time low I have recorded since moving here (the old record was from November 24, 2010). It did a lot of damage, and I wrote a blog post at the time describing what a disaster it was and how I wasn’t even sure when I could resume selling plants, because it was just hard to tell how much was going to survive having its roots frozen solid in an unheated greenhouse. Turns out, it is just as well that I didn’t publish that post, as it was far too pessimistic, and I only lost about 10% of my nursery stock. Considering the kind of stuff I grow and how unprepared I was, I’d call that a major win. For a while there I was worried it might be more like 40 or 50%. While some nurseries might call a 10% loss a major blow, I really don’t. Unlike a large nursery, I am not under pressure to retain/pay a bunch of employees; as it’s just me, and I can always propagate and produce more plants!

However, the 2022 season still got off to such a slow start that there just wasn’t a whole lot of news to share. And I spent a lot of time away from the nursery doing other work—something I need to be more careful about this year. I seem to have built quite the reputation among locals as a skilled pruner of fruit trees in the winter. That’s great, but I really have to watch it about devoting time to the nursery first, especially in good weather. This winter I am being more strict about my schedule for out-of-nursery work.

Finally, in April 2022 I produced a new plant list and put it online. However, the rest of the year has still been challenging for the business. I will for the time being refrain from grumbling about the reasons why, because we are being positive now and looking forward. We are recovering and will have come out wiser from the experience. Right? Right? All the same, I will eventually have to make another blog post about things like how to rebuild a greenhouse that was crushed by snow (as some of you will have seen on Facebook), or how slow certain not-quite-hardy bamboos are to recover from a hard freeze.

Speaking of a hard freeze, I should also mention the big freeze we had just this last December when, as most of you will clearly remember, we had snow (about 7 inches here) and a relatively short-lived arctic blast, albeit with a low of 13°F (17 would be about the average low for an entire winter). That was stressful, but it didn’t seem to damage a whole lot that wasn’t already hammered last winter, and there were no more greenhouse cave-ins. It helped that it was a quick drop with not many hours spent below the mid 20s. And we were fortunate to completely miss the freezing rain that some of you “enjoyed.” So I’m feeling positive about coming through that relatively unscathed.

The only unfortunate aspect of the big freeze had to do with a rather large hole in the back end of our “tender plants” greenhouse (Greenhouse 2), which exists since the plastic was compromised and needs replacement. (It’s worse now, since the wind ripped it off even further.) I have the new plastic but haven’t got as far as replacing it yet: there is stuff in the way that needs to be cleaned up, which includes certain plants that are rooted to the ground and/or growing through the “roof.” So there’s another big job. The end result of this was that even with the heater running, it dropped a few degrees below freezing in there for the second winter in a row. Some of the wimpier plants which were not close to the heater are looking rough. There may not be a lot left of our Cyathea dealbata stock (I know, shame on me), or certain Leucadendrons. However, many of the plants which were not hardy to at least the mid 20s have been gradually “self-eliminating” from our collection over many years. They get left in the unheated greenhouse by accident, the heater malfunctions for one night, etc. It’s not really a big deal, as I now realize these would need a dedicated, smaller, heated hobby greenhouse to be properly sustained. Most of the stuff we are known for selling—the hardier Grevilleas, manzanitas, Agaves, etc.—are now pretty much “tried and true” with the wimpy ones having been discontinued or eliminated from production. What’s remains really is tough enough to live through a few days of below freezing weather, even in little pots.

Also notably, it’s not a big deal because I still have way more danged plants than I can keep on top of. It has to be “survival of the fittest” around here until things are down to a sustainable level. It’s probably just as well that I didn’t get too carried away with propagation this year. I could stand to be a bit more focused on sales and marketing!

Greenhouse 3 is also currently missing plastic because the wind blew it off, but I am not the least bit concerned about it. Nothing in there is particularly vulnerable to freezing, and I have a sheet of plastic for it too, which I will put on in a couple months, once again following some clean-up wherein I have already made considerable progress. So I’m not totally unprepared. Come to think of it, some of the plants in there would probably be better off if I put the shade cloth back on but no plastic. We’ll have to think about that option.

In any case, none of the above should be regarded as terrible news, because I was aware of the issues and have already made a considerable amount of progress to correct them, and I expect to have this place looking a lot better this season. I already did a whole lot of cleaning up last fall so I have a good head start!

Looking ahead to the coming season, I expect there will be more of an emphasis this year on local sales of 1 gallon and larger stock, with the mail-order selection evolving somewhat but not really expanding. This is because there was not an opportunity to take a lot of fall cuttings this year, since it was too hot (October) or because so much time got used up repairing Greenhouse 4 (November). However, there may be some interesting seed-grown items (more Eucalyptus especially) available for mail-order later in the season. I was not able to get out on any seed collecting expeditions last fall, as I sometimes have in the past, but there are still plenty of seeds I could plant from previous excursions that I expect will still germinate just fine.

So as time permits, I hope to add more information to the web site highlighting some of the larger stock we will have available. I don’t know what is in store for regional plant sales this year, and these may end up conflicting with my scheduled open days here at the nursery anyhow. So the goal is to hopefully create a more retail-friendly experience here at the nursery. I’ll have to take some before-and-after photos because right now things are looking admittedly rather unimpressive out there. Tentatively, we are shooting for an opening sometime in April this year, which is much earlier than the usual late May or June. With any luck, we may even manage to make some improvements to the labeling and pricing of nursery stock. Stay tuned! There are still a ton of great plants in the nursery that are perfect for the dry garden, for windy exposed sites, for deer resistance, for urban heat resistance, and more. There will be lots of cool stuff to check out at our nursery later this spring and summer.

That will have to do for now. Watch this space for more news as time allows!

Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR! I can still say that over a week in, right?

Ian

It was bound to happen someday. Snow-crushed greenhouse, 11/8/22. Now all repaired, however.

Planted this Thamnocalamus crassinodus ‘Mendocino’ last September. Unfortunately it is looking a bit rough after the freeze.

Advertisement

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. George Guthrie
    Jan 10, 2023 @ 16:21:41

    thanks for the update. glad that despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and nature things are still surprisingly good with you and your plants. please don’t forget about your mail-order plants and customers—we still want some of your cool plants. best wishes and Happy New Year.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: