NEWSLETTER: We’re OPEN Oct 29! And new plant list.

Dear Plant Friends,

I’ll be producing the e-mail newsletter version of this tomorrow, but for now let’s make sure this actually gets up on my blog.  As announced in the previous blog post, we’re having one final open day this year, which will be October 29th, a week from Saturday!  Come on out!  I’ll attempt to entice you with some nursery photos below.

But first, let’s talk about miracles.  If you never believed in miracles, now you should.  Because, after months and months – no, years – of pledging to update the plant list, and on multiple occasions making good progress on it but never managing to quite finish the job; I have actually, finally done it, for real!  And that is nothing short of miraculous.  Now you can go to http://www.desertnorthwest.com/catalog and actually see what we have, and not see what we don’t have.  Imagine that!  And that is a remarkable achievement.

Now, a few comments about the new catalog are necessary.  First, you’ll notice that some photos and descriptions are still absent from the list.  But I can fill those in over the winter.  Although people increasingly rely on smartphones and google to find the plant information they need, I still think it is of value to produce our own content.  So I’ll be working on that.  I’m also considering some other changes to the appearance of the page to make it easier to read and more colorful.  We’ll see what I decide to do.  And yes, I will update the “featured plants” on the home page someday!

Second, you’ll notice a major change to our pricing and shipping policies.  All shipping/handling costs are now included in the price for mail-order purchases, and a minimum order of $40 applies.  We could call it “free shipping!” and be gimmicky, but in reality we have simply opted to absorb those costs by raising prices accordingly on mail-order sales.  (I don’t know, maybe I should call it “free” anyway!  Hmmm…)  I’ll be writing another blog post soon elaborating on the reasons for these changes.

However, if you buy from us in person here at the nursery, our prices are unchanged from before (since the cost of shipping does not need to be covered in that case), and there is no minimum purchase.  In fact, unlike a lot of mail-order nurseries, very few of our prices have budged since we opened the nursery in 2005, and those not by much.

We must also note that the format of the catalog has changed from category-based to strictly alphabetical.  Honestly that was a major part of what was holding me back, as far as getting this update accomplished.  I actually wrote the script of the web site myself long ago, and while I’m sure there are now easier ways to do this stuff, I felt like I need to get on top of this “the old fashioned way” first.  Sort of a personal sanity issue, you might say.  And I have finally had to admit that to do so, it is much easier if I only have to maintain a single alphabetical list with all descriptions and photos.  Previously, as you may recall, I had an alphabetical list with the name only and cross-links to the plants with descriptions and photos listed under their respective categories, with separate pages for each category.  Then within the categories were more cross-links for plants that belonged under more than one category, and plants known by more than one botanical name.  What a mess.  Anyway, I finally “bit the bullet” and opted for the easier A – Z only format.  But even just to make that transition took a lot of time, and I had to write a new script for the new alphabetical page (now divided into eight pages) and copy all the plant names, descriptions and other information into it.

But, I still like the category-based format, so the categories are still noted in each plant description.  I think they have value, both in terms of planning one’s garden, and when considering plant relations and adaptations.  Hopefully someday we’ll get as far as an online shopping cart with multiple layers of categories possible.  This A – Z list with categories noted under the plant names is, in my view, a step in that direction.

Then once I got all that done, I had to rewrite the order form, and the “Info/Terms” page to reflect the changes to ordering and shipping policy/pricing.  And now it is time to write this newsletter and update the e-mail list before sending it.  I’m not complaining; it’s just nice when I feel like people understand all that goes into this!

The list for larger plants – stuff we don’t ship – still isn’t done and current.  I hope to attempt to do that early next week, so I’d say you should check the web site at http://www.desertnorthwest.com/local/retail.html about Wednesday or so and you’ll see our list of larger stock.  The fact that I have completed the retail list gives me hope that this too will get done!

Some of the nursery highlights include a great selection of smaller-growing cold-hardy Opuntia cacti, and quite a few Olearias, Callistemon, Leptospermum and other stuff that you need.  Araucaria angustifolia is back, along with Eucalyptus regnans, the world’s tallest non-coniferous tree!  The selection of hardy Hebes is much better than it has been in a while, and lots more.

Did you know that you need a Leptospermum namadgiensis?  I am convinced this plant is so tough it will grow about anywhere.  It comes from one of the coldest parts of Australia and can handle single digit temperatures.  It has bronzy new growth and always looks super year-round.  It takes drought, wet, poor soil and the deer don’t eat it.  But let’s get to some nursery photos already.

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Here are those Leptospermum namadgiensis, don’t they look nice?

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More stuff in the Australian section… heaps of Callistemons, Leptospermums, Drimys lanceolata, some very cute Ozothamnus coralloides, and more.

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Grevillea and Banksia section, freshly cleaned up.

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In the center of this photo we have a new Grevillea introduction we are calling ‘The Precious’.  (I thought the Lord of the Rings would be a fun theme for Grevillea introductions.)  It was a chance seedling, probably of ‘Poorinda Leane’, that popped up in my parents’ garden in Olympia.  You can be among the first to try it!  Then at left is Grevillea ‘Pink Pearl’ which we haven’t had in years (nine years maybe?), and a few Lomatia myricoides in the foreground.

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Manzanita (Arctostaphylos x ‘Sunset’) with silverleaf oak (Quercus hypoleucoides).

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Agave neomexicana and A. montana, both hardy west of the Cascades.

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Griselinia, Corokia, Carmichaelia australis (look that one up, it’s cool!), Hymenanthera and Olearia in the foreground, cactus table with hardy fuchsias underneath in the background.

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This is Banksia integrifolia subsp. monticola flowering in the back of one of our stock houses.  It is the largest Banksia in the wild, reaching a height of over 100′, and it is disjunct from the usual coastal form, occurring well inland at an altitude of 3,000 – 5,000′ in New South Wales.  Sounds like just what you need, right?  And we have them in 1 and 2 gallon pots only!  I need to get those back on the mail-order list sometime.

Anyway, we’ll call that good for now.  Thanks for reading!  Remember if you can’t make it on the 29th, you can still e-mail for an appointment at anytime.

Have a great fall!

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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.

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: Weekend Open House featuring New Zealand and Chilean Plants!!

Fellow Heroes of Horticulture,

It’s a spectacular summer and this weekend comes our summer open house! As usual the details and directions are posted on our web site.

Hey, we’re actually having a real summer this year, and by the end of it, you are certain to be tired of watering, if you aren’t already. It’s time to start planning NOW to make your garden more drought resistant with plants that are easy to grow and don’t need a lot of water! Yeah, I know, I am probably preaching to the choir.

It doesn’t look like I will get a chance to update the web list before this weekend (here and here), so allow me to highlight some of the more exciting plants we have that are available for purchase and look great now! However, the web list is very nearly still up to date – we haven’t sold out of much in the last two months. I probably need to add a few things to the list soon, which may explain why some of the plants I am about to tempt you with are not listed on the web site.

Our New Zealand and Chilean plant sections are looking particularly good this summer, in terms of both selection and quality! Plants from both regions are very well adapted here, since central Chile and New Zealand are at approximately the same latitude as we are, and with a strongly maritime climate similar to ours. Central Chile even has a summer dry period like ours, while New Zealand plants are frequently adapted to gritty soils and tough enough to take our summer drought without any help once established, or nearly so, depending on the soil/site. In any case, New Zealand plants are perfect for Northwest gardens that are close to salt water.

Among the best New Zealand plants for Northwest gardens are the Olearias. These daisy shrubs are fun and easy to grow and many of them reward the gardener with showy white flowers, which are fragrant on some species (notably O. x haastii) and may appear in late summer when little else in blooming (O. x haastii and O. avicennifolia). We have many of these to choose from now, in a variety of sizes from 4” on up to 5 gallon for O. macrodonta and O. avicennifolia. Other Olearias in our selection occur the huge-growing O. traversiorum, fine-textured O. lineata and O. solandri, and well-behaved grey-leafed shrubs O. x mollis and O. moschata – lots of options!

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The fragrant Olearia x haastii putting on a show in late July.

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Olearia macrodonta, a spring bloomer, with Phormiums.

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Olearia x mollis putting on a show in a planting bed with Phormium and others.

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Olearia avicennifolia blooming in August!

Check out this cool picture. That’s Hymenanthera crassifolia, which we don’t have our own image of yet. Evergreen and drought tolerant, with LOADS of shiny purple fruit, it’s pretty great! This is one of those plants that no one ever buys because they don’t know what it does. But now you have no excuse. We also have H. alpina, which has narrower leaves.

Some New Zealand plants have strongly divaricate juvenile foliage, thought to be an adaptation to prevent grazing by moas, which is pretty fun. Corokia cotoneaster is the well-known example, but we also have the much larger-growing Aristotelia fruticosa available now, and a hardy form of Leptospermum scoparium, the New Zealand Tea Tree (which isn’t strictly divaricate, but has similarly tiny, tough leaves).

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Divaricate growth habit of Corokia cotoneaster.

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Leptospermum scoparium, the source of tea tree oil.

Everyone seems to have forgotten about Hebes (technically Veronicas) for some reason – perhaps because too many of the tender varieties were marketed and then wiped out in recent cold winters, and now people are afraid to try all of them. Yet, as the discriminating gardener will note, the numerous hardy species that remain are still excellent garden plants, requiring little care and always looking great. Try Hebe ‘Blue Mist’, with conspicuous blue flowers; ‘Quicksilver’, which has tiny silvery leaves, or ‘Western Hills’, a nice mounding shrub with greyish foliage and white flowers.

And I’ll just mention a couple other New Zealand odds and ends. Astelias are very cool – like silvery Phormiums, and they are hardy in the Northwest (except frost pockets) once established if they are provided really good drainage: a scree garden is ideal. We now offer the spectacular A. chathamica and the red-tinted A. nervosa ‘Westland’. Podocarpus totara ‘Aurea’ is a small coniferous tree with foliage that is bright gold in full sun. Also we now have, for the first time in years, Carmichaelia australis, one of the elusive New Zealand ‘tree brooms’; though this one is more of a shrub, at least it is hardy!

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Astelia chathamica looking fine, and this picture was taken after a hard freeze.

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Podocarpus totara ‘Aurea’

Let’s take a look at a few exciting Chilean plants. We seem to have a whole lot of Azaras right now. These plants are wonderful evergreen shrubs or small trees with flowers that are either showy, fragrant, or both. They are moderately drought-resistant and don’t mind being in either sun or partial shade. Our current selection includes, in a variety of sizes, A. microphylla, A. microphylla ‘Variegata’, A. dentata, A. aff. uruguayensis, A. lanceolata, A. petiolaris, and A. serrata – more than you will find anywhere, probably! (I’m not sure how that happened.)

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Azara lanceolata blooming in April in Seattle. I bet you never knew Azara could be this showy – it looks like an Acacia!

Luma and Eucryphia continue to look great with a good selection to choose from. These are evergreen large shrubs or small trees with showy white flowers, which again are very easy to grow, unfussy, and moderately tolerant of dry conditions once established. We have L. apiculata and E. nymanensis ‘Nymansay’ in about any size you could want, but also a good stock of L. chequen, and a selected hardy form of L. apiculata, as well as Eucryphia x intermedia and the rather rare, small-leafed E. x hybrida.

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Eucryphia x nymansensis blooming prolifically in August in Bremerton. Bees love the flowers!

In the ‘odds and ends’ department, Aristotelia chilensis is looking great. This very vigorous and easy shrub produces tasty edible fruit that is attractive to birds. Gunnera magellanica is a cute little groundcover with glossy green leaves suitable for a moderately moist spot in the garden. And if cute things aren’t your cup of tea, Dasyphyllum diacanthoides is a giant tree-sized daisy relative that gets 60′ tall and has spiny leaves.

Finally, Chile has a number of exciting conifers, like the rare Fitzroya cupressoides (Patagonian cypress), which we have in plenty in 1 gallon pots. Prumnopitys andina and Podocarpus salignus are two beautiful Chilean conifers in the Podocarpaceae family with a soft texture and very graceful habit of growth; also available now in a variety of sizes.

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Beautiful new weeping foliage on Podocarpus salignus. I think I just posted this a couple months ago on my blog, but hey, it’s such a great plant that one more time won’t hurt!

And as long as we’re talking conifers, I’ll mention a few hard-to-find Northwest natives we have in stock now. Cupressus bakeri (Modoc Cypress) is a very special native tree from the Siskyous that does great here in a dry spot. Juniperus maritima is a very special native of the ‘Salish Sea’ area that is rarely available. We also have Cupressus pygmaea from Northern California, and a local collection of Taxus brevifolia (Pacific Yew). Hurry and buy them all so I don’t have to put them on the web site – ha ha.

Well if you have read this far, your level of plant-geekiness is certainly sufficient to make a visit to the Desert Northwest this weekend, or any time really, a rewarding trip. Learning from last year, we have tried to schedule the summer open house for a weekend when not much else is going on in Sequim. The weather promises to cool off just enough not to be blasting hot in our greenhouses – so it ought to be perfect. 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

NEWSLETTER: Desert Northwest Open this weekend, new plant list, and more!

Dear Gardening Friends,

That was some summer we had earlier this month, wasn’t it? Who knows, perhaps we’ll get another one later on. Here in Sequim we finally managed to accumulate 5 inches of precipitation for the year to date, just last week. We have a few patches of brown grass from the hot spell but seem to have narrowly escaped the impending summer severe-dry-out for the time being.

We write to remind you of our Open House event this coming weekend, May 31st and June 1st ONLY! Sorry to capitalize ONLY, but we just really want to make sure no one shows up on the 2nd and has to leave disappointed. As was the case last year, the front 3/4 of greenhouses 2 and 3 will be open for shopping, as well as the west side of the shade house, and a selection of plants sitting outside on tables and pallets. We remind you that it is very helpful to come with a list of what you are looking for, as many plants are unlabeled (but we make sure you leave with labels); and that payment is by cash or check only. We continue to add more signage but there is still a lot of cool stuff tucked away out there that doesn’t have a sign. Check out our open house page for details, and directions to the nursery.

Speaking of lists, just in time for the open house, our retail plant list is now up to date! These are the relatively larger (1 gallon and up) sizes that are not usually available mail-order, though we do bring them to regional sales. Check it out: if you want it, we have it; but quantities may be limited so it’s first come, first served!

You can also shop from the mail-order list while you are here. This is quite up to date as well. I have a few more things to add but it is pretty darn close right now. So, yay. Let me just emphasize again that making a list of what you want before you come out really helps! Especially those little mail-order sizes, which can be hard to find (though we are here to help).

Of course it follows that if you just want to order something in the mail, you can be reasonably confident that the web site closely reflects actual availability at this point. Not only have I been busy adding plants; I have also added 60 pictures to the plant catalog in the last month. You can imagine we are very proud of ourselves for being quite on top of our game at the moment, as far as the web site is concerned.

If I may highlight a couple of exciting plants new to the list, we now have three groundcover banksia species! These are next to impossible to find; and, coming from Western Australia, they are not difficult to grow and are content in pots where not hardy. We have also selected some good new forms of Arctostaphylos x media we think are promising as garden plants, and a really nice-looking A. patula x nevadensis hybrid from the Columbia Gorge area, which may be its first introduction to cultivation. Gardeners in cold climates will be interested in our continuing good selection of species Penstemons, rare conifers like Modoc cypress (Hesperocyparis bakeri), and an interior collection of Garry oak (Quercus garryana).

If you’re not able to attend the open house, you can also find us at Sorticulture in Everett, where we will be from June 7 – 9. Check their web site for more details on that.

One more note: if you are not too far from Olympia, and don’t feel like a drive to Sequim is in the cards for the weekend, why not stop by Steamboat Island Nursery for their CHANGE OF DIRECTION plant sale (8424 Steamboat Island Road, Olympia, WA 98502). The nursery has not been open for retail for a long time, and Laine would certainly be grateful for your support. Or better yet, you could visit us and them both: what better way to spend a weekend than running around chasing after plants? (Don’t answer that.)

And one really final note: You Portland folks have the amazing good fortune that Xera Plants will be opening a retail location at 1114 SE Clay, Portland, OR 97214. The first day of business will be June 6th followed by a grand opening party on the 8th! You can read more about that here and here. If I were down there I wouldn’t want to miss it!

OK, I’m done 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

Several Fun Conifers, Facebook in General, Web Update

So Tony Avent at Plant Delights thinks that promoting their plants on Facebook has been an effective marketing tool that actually leads to more purchases. I have decided to give that a try and see if it works for us, since we do, after all, have to sell plants one way or another to make this work. If I have been less than super-excited about posting plants on Facebook in the past, it is because Facebook made some changes about a year and a half ago now (I discussed it here… at the last paragraph of this very long post) which caused our posts to be hidden from the news feeds of most of our “followers.”

So, while we welcome you to follow us on Facebook if you’re not already doing so – we would ask that you modify your settings for our page, and any other you wish to follow in any serious way, by hovering over the “Like” button at upper right of The Desert Northwest Facebook page and selecting “Show in News Feed.” Otherwise there isn’t much point, since you will miss most of our posts.

Now as long as I’m doing this, I may as well repost the Facebook posts onto my blog to reach the broadest possible audience. Anyway, I should be talking more about our plants on this blog in general, since they are all so cool. I’ll do several at a time so things don’t get too hard to keep up with.

My current theme is confiers. All of the following are currently in stock with plenty of plants available, and you can find them described here.

Last week the glossy purple-ish color of Podocarpus lawrencei ‘Purple King’ caught my eye – I say “purple-ish” because the purple undertones of this plant are always very pronounced but it would be misleading to say it is really purple. This is a great plant and is easy to grow in sun or part shade, and is hardy to at least the single digits. It is more vigorous than a lot of the other small-needled Podocarpus and can compete with established tree roots. With dark purplish winter color and soft, pale purplish new growth, it’s pretty different, and pretty cool!

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Sticking with the Podocarpus theme here, Podocarpus salignus is a real gem of a plant. The beautiful weeping foliage is appealing at all seasons, but especially in late spring when the new growth emerges a soft light green. It looks every bit as exotic as the (relatively) tender Afrocarpus (Podocarpus) gracilior, but it is native to central Chile which has a similar climate to the Pacific Northwest. (We also have a report of it performing well in the Southeast, unlike many Chilean plants.) And, it doesn’t get too big – though it can reach tree size in many years in the wild, it will remain shrub-sized for many years in gardens. Hardy to about 10 degrees, it is probably not suited to really cold frost pockets in the Northwest, but well worth the effort elsewhere.

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What’s one of the best-known distinctive trees in the Northwest yet still quite hard to find in nurseries? (not to mention expensive) Monkey puzzle tree, of course. I’m not sure what this tree has to do with monkeys, since it is native to Chile and Argentina. Monkey dinosaurs perhaps. But I digress. It’s also quite a bit hardier than people think (-15F?), as evidenced by a 20+’ tall specimen in Kennewick, and this old tree in Weed, CA. We have plenty of these available now at a reasonable price – get ’em before we bump them up to larger pots!!

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The Tasmanian Huon Pine, Lagarostrobos franklinii, is one of the most elegant of the temperate Southern Hemisphere conifers. It takes centuries to reach tree size in the wild, and perhaps almost never does in gardens, where it is usually seen as an irregular shrub to perhaps 5 – 7′ tall and wide, with plumes of soft, hanging, deep green, scaly foliage. A distinctive and slightly odd beauty, it is certainly hardy in sheltered Northwest gardens, though it appreciates some summer water.

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Was that exciting or what? Really though… when the plants offered by normal nurseries continue to become increasingly homogenous, it is fun to grow something different.

OK, final note on the web update that was supposed to happen by mid-February. I think I have figured out that I need to try something different this year; namely, to update the web site little by little instead of shooting for all at once (I can hear some of you saying “DUH”… OK, I’m slow!). So that is the new plan. And perhaps it will actually work. After all, that is pretty much how I do everything else, or else I could never do it. I’ll start making some little changes in the next few days and post back here soon! At the very least, I need to make the web site look less outdated, even if it is not, in fact, outdated – there is not much on our list from last year that we are not still able to supply. Which is a long way of saying we still have almost all this stuff in stock. But if you’re wondering about any specific items before you place your order, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Fronderosa! Manzanita update. Naming plants.

That’s right, it’s three blog posts crammed into one. Perhaps even four, since we ought to start by confirming our next open house, which will be September 1 – 3. I am giving an exciting presentation on Sept 1 that you will not want to miss! Details here.

And, while I have your attention (because the remainder of this post gets pretty plant-geeky): if you missed our open house, don’t worry – just come and see us this weekend at the Fronderosa Frolic: Details here. It is one of the funnest and geekiest plant sales in the Northwest, and is in Gold Bar Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 3:00. Many of the best specialty nurseries in western Washington, and a few from Oregon, get together and bring their coolest stuff; and this year it looks like we might actually have normal, pleasantly warm weather (ever since we have participated it has either been unusually cool and wet, or blazing hot)!

And, just in time for Fronderosa, we have newly updated our list of available specimen plants! It was almost a year out of date for some reason, which I did not realize, but that has all been fixed now. This means if anything on the list interests you, we would be happy to bring it to Fronderosa for you! (Of course, anything on our mail-order list is fair game as well.) Or if you can’t make it, we will probably still have nearly all those plants available at the September Open House.

Here, of course, we must add a few pictures of Fronderosas past to show how exciting it is certain to be.

Not our booth, but this year we will be bringing a fancy canopy like this, so that we can be as cool as all the other nurseries.

This was “the hot year,” 2010. Of course our plants didn’t mind at all!

OK, so about those manzanitas. I finally managed to finish potting up last fall’s Arctostaphylos cuttings a couple weeks back: much later than ideal, but as you may have read about in our previous blog entry, we were just too dang busy with other nursery work. So our new Arctostaphylos introductions are generally coming along well, but especially the ones that got potted up early in the season. Certain forms of A. patula x A. uva-ursi, A. x media, and A. columbiana x nevadensis are developing into vigorous plants that are certain to make excellent plants for the dry garden. Most of the “pure” A. patula forms did not root well, providing us only one or two plants of each. These we will have to coddle along until we can propagate them again and introduce them years down the road. The A. columbiana, A. nevadensis, A. columbiana x patula, and A. patula x nevadensis forms have produced varying results, with a couple not rooting well at all, some that rooted well still looking good but not putting on much new growth, and a few vigorous forms doing very well and looking splendid.

Why do we note these things? Well first of all we want to be able to sell some of these plants and get them into circulation as soon as we can, because they are just pretty dang cool. We want to get our new introductions out there so that more people can have a chance to try them. We have already released one Ceanothus (C. prostratus ‘Goldendale Grey’) and a good selection of Penstemons, which grow to salable size much more quickly than our native Arctostaphylos. We’re also interested in assigning names to some of these forms as we release them, so that gardeners will have something to remember them by besides just a collection number, and because good cultivar names (registered or not) are an excellent promotional tool for nurseries that might want to produce and sell them in the future.

This form of Arctostaphylos columbiana x A. nevadensis from Skamania County is certain to be name-worthy.

Who says Arctostaphylos x coloradensis (A. patula x A. nevadensis) has to be from Colorado? This hybrid also occurs in Chelan County, Washington. These plants are doing great and showing excellent potential.

How do we know what plants to name? Sometimes it is possible to take a good educated guess that a plant will be good in the garden just from looking at it in the wild, and comparing it with those around it. Not all wild plants are equal (particularly when you’re looking at a hybrid swarm of Arctostaphylos!) and some will exhibit better ornamental qualities, disease resistance, and vigor; even in habitat.

Observing wild plants only gets you so far, though; because most of the time nurseries (except certain native plant specialists) are not selling plants to people who are going to grow them “in the wild.” It is also important to observe whether a plant is easy to grow at the nursery. For example, we would never have guessed that our Ceanothus prostratus ‘Goldendale Grey’ would vastly outperform all our other accessions of this species in the nursery, since all the plants around it in the wild looked pretty much the same.

Here’s how Ceanothus prostratus ‘Goldendale Grey’ is looking; I hope it’s not just a fluke!

In conventional horticulture, plants are not released with names until they undergo a series of rigorous trials in various locations around the country to prove their ornamental value and durability in the garden in a wide variety of situations and climates. (At least, that is the theory: I think a lot of breeders bend these rules.) Some would say that all nurseries should do this before releasing and naming every plant, but to do so would present some problems for us. We have only one place to test plants, and that’s here. If we send plants all over the place and then try to find out how they did later, it may be too late to try to apply a name retroactively to a successful plant. Some may propagate it without the collection number leaving no way to trace it back to the name. In some cases nurseries interested in protecting their product have gotten around this problem by putting a trademark name on a plant that was originally collected in the wild (Delosperma FireSpinnerTM being a recent example). Great marketing move, but we’re not going to apply trademark names to plants that originate from the wild. I’m not sure why, we’re just not. Perhaps it’s because we feel that no one should have to pay a royalty to market something that wasn’t developed by a breeder.

This is a good selection of Arctostaphylos patula x nevadensis from Klickitat County.

And this is another really good one from the same area, which will certainly get a name. These cuttings rooted 100%, and very quickly, which I thought was amazing. I know, I’m saying great things about all of them, but that is because I am not showing pictures of the ones that don’t look as good.

So we believe, for the most part, in naming things preemptively, which has certain advantages, the main one being it’s a lot easier to keep track of what name belongs to what plant. Nor are we alone: a lot of specialty nurseries have done this, and continue to do so. For one, we have less at stake since we are not looking to protect patent rights or invest money in trademarks to market our selections (after all, we didn’t breed these things). But perhaps more importantly, since it’s specialty horticulture, not conventional horticulture, nothing we grow is required to perform well in a wide range of climates. Although we like to emphasize plants that are easy to grow, to a point; we are also increasingly devoted to plants that may be rare in cultivation partly because they have a narrow range of tolerances. Does that sound self-contradictory? Well, what can I say: at least we write our descriptions to indicate which plants are which and give you the best chance of success!

The only thing that can potentially go wrong is the possibility that a plant might get named after someone, then prove to be generally difficult or a poor grower in cultivation, resulting in the association of that person with a poor garden plant. This concern will not stop us entirely, though: we’ll just proceed with caution. Anything remotely questionable will be named for something other than a person, and then if it doesn’t turn out to be a good plant, it can go extinct from cultivation and no one ever has to propagate it again – nothing wrong with that.

So on that note, you’ll be seeing more named selections of western and Northwest native plants coming out of our nursery in the coming months, and years. We even have a vague system in place for doing this. Collections from Washington will mostly be named for locations in Washington. This is because some people (Richard Hartlage being one, as per a presentation I heard from him in February) think we have almost no native plants with ornamental value — to which we say, “Faugh” — and we want people to start associating some of our better native plants (Arctostaphylos, Ceanothus, and Penstemon being notable examples, but not the only ones) with the great state of Washington. We shall also name certain really outstanding collections for notable plantspeople of Washington who have had an interest in them.

For Oregon and California (and someday, I hope, Arizona: I am still “Arizona dreaming” big time) we will get a little more frivolous. Sean Hogan has a system for naming his Oregon accessions for Oregon locations. We admit that we are stealing this idea from him, and applying it to Washington. But we will not intrude into his territory. We’ll be giving our Oregon and California collections fun names, mostly after songs.

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