10 Year Blogiversary!

Can you believe it was 10 years ago that I started this blog?  I’m not sure I can.  Here’s a link to the very first blog post.  You will see that it is very exciting (not).  I think I just wanted to have something on there so people would not go to just a blank page, and I didn’t feel a lot of pressure to produce meaningful content right off the bat.

I have a total of 110 blog posts.  That amounts to just shy of one per month, but there have been periods of more activity interspersed with some long breaks.  This year I am going to attempt to be a little more frequent and consistent with the posts, but not unrealistically so.  I’ll be happy if I manage to post twice per month, but maybe give myself a break if it’s a little less frequent during the very busy season.

So on this exciting occasion, let’s do some reflecting.  A lot has happened in ten years.  When I started this blog not a lot of people were on Facebook (including me).  This blog was my outlet for information and connecting with plant people.  Now that has all changed.  But Facebook isn’t quite what it used to be either.  I almost think separate social media platforms are needed for discussing plants and political banter.  I’m glad I didn’t totally give up on my blog.

In ten years I feel like I have almost started learning how to run a nursery.  (The nursery itself goes back to 2005.)   From a financial standpoint the nursery continues to do slightly better every year.  If I can meet some goals this year perhaps it will do a lot better.  One likes to be optimistic!  One of those goals is to transition to a complete online shopping cart.  What’s holding me back, you might wonder?  Well, it’s simply that there are many steps between assessing inventory on the ground to the finished product of a functional shopping cart.  I need to count quantities, write descriptions, find photos, and more.  Oh well, I will get there somehow.  I believe in working hard but I am also quite meticulous.  I have opted to keep putting it off rather than do a sloppy job of it.  Other processes such as shipping, potting up, inventory management and so forth continue to be more streamlined, a word which makes this fact sound impressive.

Looking ahead in the nursery department, I did not get terribly far afield this year to collect cuttings.  I did not go on any plant hunting trips or botanical exploration in natural areas, not even locally.  But the propagation area is full, mostly of cuttings from friends’ local gardens, so there will still be a lot of great stuff for sale next year.  Notably, we visited Mike Lee’s Arbor Heights Botanic Garden in West Seattle, which is really coming along nicely.  If we’re lucky perhaps I’ll manage to post photos of that in the near future. Many cuttings from Mike are already rooting.  We also returned to Hummingbird Hill Villa, about which I posted a year ago.  We went the Saturday after Thanksgiving and Arctostaphylos ‘Austin Griffiths’ was already blooming!  We thank the owners of these gardens for their generosity.  (The funny thing is, nearly six weeks later I still haven’t quite finished processing the Hummingbird Hill cuttings.  But they have been carefully stored and, remarkably, they still look fine.  I continue to go through them as the chance allows and hope to finish tomorrow.)

Besides all these cuttings, I’m also hoping to increase our selection of seed-grown plants like Eucalyptus and Acacia this year–plants we haven’t offered a lot of in a while, but we should.  And I’m also looking through some of the stuff we used to sell way back when the nursery started and asking, what can I propagate that we haven’t offered in a long time, that people would want to buy?

Also in the works, I am hoping to re-introduce seeds for sale.  But it is going to be a rather humble beginning, as many of my sources back when we had more seeds are no longer available.  Various plants/trees froze, and I haven’t done any collecting in the Southwest, or around Seattle.  So this may not be a huge deal.  But as the chance arises I’ll just continue to collect what I can.  So far I have managed to collect about 15 species from plants like Eucalpytus, Callistemon and Leptospermum in quantity enough to sell.  I’ll see what else I can come up with.  Stay tuned for more news about this hopefully by February!

Finally, I’ll mention that I’m hoping I feel like I can afford to cut back on regional plant sales a bit this year.  It’s tempting to try to fill every weekend with one event after the other, but I have to consider how much valuable nursery time I am missing, and how far behind I get in the spring (especially on potting up cuttings and seedlings) by not staying home as much as possible.  I’ll be making some decisions about that soon, and I’m certainly not giving them all up. I have already reserved my usual booth at the Sequim Garden Show, which is coming up the third weekend of March.

How about this cold weather?  I admit we view it as a bit of a hassle when it lasts this long. We have now had three separate “arctic blast” type events, which is an awful lot of them for one winter, and we still have a good deal more winter to go.  Between everything being frozen and me being sick for that brief period after Christmas when we were above freezing, there have been periods where work has kind of come to a standstill.  (That’s why the Hummingbird Hill cuttings aren’t done!)  But when I can, besides sticking cuttings, I continue to clean up the first three greenhouses when we’re above freezing.  I have also organized my bamboos, which needed doing, and cleaned out the shade house, and I have a big project going now with organizing pots. Winter stuff, we might say.

We did not get a lot of snow, which is good.  No more than an inch fell at any one time, though with everything being frozen, there is still some out there now.  “Snow is a good insulator,” the saying goes, but what they don’t tell you is that it’s hardly worth it when snow cover on the ground substantially drops the air temperature at night from what it otherwise would be.  So we say no thanks to snow if we can avoid it.  Our coldest temperature has been 20°F, which is annoying but it could have been much worse.

And, importantly for my personal sanity, the freezing weather is great for catching up on various projects indoors that have been neglected for too long.  Spreadsheets about plant hardiness, organizing files, cleaning e-mail inboxes, cataloging photos, and the like.  I have been about five years behind on listing all the plants pictured in the photos I have taken.  But now I am catching up!  I have to know where to find the photos of various plants on my hard drive if I am going to use them.  The only unfortunate thing is it is just on a spreadsheet–If there were any fancy photo organizing programs when I started this 11 years ago, I did not know about them.  Now I think that’s too big of a leap to make.

I suppose that’s all the news that’s fit to print, and then some!  I’m sure most of my readers are looking forward to winter being over as much as I am, so we can all get on with planting!  Here are a few random photos:

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Nursery on December 6th.

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Little plants all snug and warm in the greenhouse.  Isn’t that cute?

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An ice plant covered in ice.  It seemed appropriate. Isn’t it an ice plant?

What’s blooming on December 19th? You’d be surprised!

Traditionally, many people in the Northwest don’t think of December as a time of year for gardening. The days are short, it rains all the time and everyone who still doesn’t hate Christmas (judging from Facebook, this seems to be a growing trend) is busy with Christmas plans. Late fall, it is assumed, is when the garden goes to sleep so we don’t have to think about it until spring. If your garden looks ugly and dead by December, by which time we have usually had a few hard frosts, no one will judge you for it.

But after they see this garden on Whidbey Island, perhaps they will. (Is that how I wanted to start this paragraph? Maybe not.) Let’s put it this way. Hummingbird Hill garden, which we visited over the weekend, shows us how one can achieve excellent success creating year-round interest in the garden right here in the Northwest. It was created by the late Bob Barca, with a great deal of assistance from his family who continue to maintain it. Sadly, Bob passed away unexpectedly a couple years ago.

Mostly the photos below highlight the plants that are in bloom now. Of course, creating year round interest also involves making good use of interesting evergreen foliage and structure. That could be another whole post. For now though we’ll take a look at what actually blooms at this time of year around here, that more people should be growing. I think you may be surprised!  You’ll notice that Grevilleas are kind of a big deal.

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View to the residence. I feel that a couple large Olearias and/or Leptospermums may have been removed from this area, but in a garden like this, who’s counting them?

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A fine specimen of Grevillea miqueliana subsp. moroka greets you as you pull up.

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Adjacent the front gate is Grevillea victoriae ‘Marshall Olbrich’.

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Grevillea victoriae subsp. nivalis ‘Murray Valley Queen’ is truly one of the best Grevilleas. It is a prolific bloomer from October through April and sometimes longer, and hummingbirds love the flowers.

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Grevillea lavandulacea ‘Penola’ isn’t quite blooming yet, though it’s budded up.

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This is a newer cultivar selected by Xera Plants, Grevillea x ‘Neil Bell’ with good hardiness and large flowers.

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It’s now been so long since I’ve worked in conventional nurseries that I can’t remember what this is. But hey, it’s blooming.

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Melianthus major, not blooming, but it looked so great I had to include it in this post. Melianthus generally grows in winter in nature, and looks best when the weather is cool.

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Arctostaphylos rudis, native to southern California, but it does fine in milder Northwest gardens.

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Grevillea ‘Poorinda Leane’. Bob bought several of these from us (along with quite a few other plants) and they have all flourished, surviving below 10°F when they were much smaller (in November 2010). It is one of the hardiest and easiest Grevilleas to grow.

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Grevillea victoriae subsp. victoriae, not as floriferous as ‘Murray Valley Queen’, but hardy and dependable.

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Ooh it’s winter blooming heather. OK, not that rare, but it fits the theme.

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Another manzanita, which is almost certainly the cultivar ‘Austin Griffiths’, a known December bloomer. If those flowers look an awful lot like that winter-blooming heather, well they are in the same family!

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Grevillea x ‘Audrey’. This blooms nearly year-round in the Northwest.

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Acacia boormannii, not blooming yet but in full bud. This isn’t actually hardy, however, and was certainly planted sometime after the aforementioned winter of 2010-11. Acacia pravissima, also not really hardy but tougher than this species, was in full bud as well. These should start opening up around mid-January or so.

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Abutilon megapotamicum.

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Grevillea x gaudichaudii, OK, it’s not blooming, but it looks so cool that we don’t mind.

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Thanks largely to the nectar-rich Grevillea flowers, hummingbirds seem to really like to hang out in this garden!

So that will have to wrap it up and I hope you enjoyed the tour. I suppose I had better mention that we have most of these plants for sale at any given time, or at least similar items. If you want a garden with cool stuff that blooms in winter, you know where to find them.

Also as this is my last post of the year, let me say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We wish all the best to you and your family.

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.

New Low Impact Garden in Sequim

Before I get to the subject at hand, allow me to interject a brief commercial announcement. This Saturday we will be at the Fronderosa Frolic in Gold Bar with lots of other exciting nurseries! As usual, your special requests are welcome. Please note the event is only ONE DAY this year. This might be the region’s geekiest plant sale. Maybe we will get some thunderstorms. That would be exciting. See you there! Woohoo! And such. OK, moving along now. . .

I recently learned of this new “low impact” garden that has been installed at Sequim’s Carrie Blake Park (here and here). So I thought I had better go check it out and see what I think, since “low impact” and “water wise” are pretty much what we are about (along with excellent plantsmanship) here at the Desert Northwest.

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I ought to preface this post by noting that I had no idea any of this was going on until I read about it in the Sequim Gazette online. Some of our local nurseries donated plants to this project, but we were not contacted. I suppose that means there are a lot of people here in the area who still don’t know about our nursery. Well, we are not in a prominently visible location, which you will know if you have been here.

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The garden area is divided into several different sections, which I didn’t figure out until the end since I started at the “wrong” end of the garden and missed the interpretive sign. The larger part of the area consists of “open prairie” and “woodland” plantings. There are also demonstration rain gardens, seashore gardens and a rock garden.

I am glad they have the rock garden. Rock gardening is kind of a big deal when it comes to combining low-maintenance with plantsmanship. It is tempting to think of rock gardening as a dying fad for eccentric old geezers, as I (dare I admit) once did. I have been slow to get into it because of the amount of time and skill it takes to place the rocks. But there is certainly a such thing as a garden that combines the best of rock gardening and low maintenance.

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This rock garden was small but had a decent selection of plants. It will be interesting to see how the Agaves (A. montana and A. ‘Blue Glow’) do. It is great that someone thought to try them, but I would have started with A. parryi, and I would have started with at least a 2-gallon plant or nothing at all, since smaller sizes just don’t always make it through their first winter. But hey – maybe we’ll get lucky with these; you never know. The manzanita at the corner of the garden (left side of pic above) was not labeled as to species, but looks like probably a form of A. densiflora which means it will get way too big for the space, and grow into the parking lot and halfway over the rock garden if it is not cut back or eventually removed. Oh well.

I thought the rain garden was well done given the limitations of the space. I only wonder if enough water will run into there to sustain the plants that are supposed to benefit from the runoff. Time will tell, I guess.

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It is hard to say how the rest of the garden will look until it fills out, so I guess I won’t say much yet. Most of these plants are very small, and one gets the feeling that availability of source material was a major limitation when doing this project. That doesn’t surprise me. Conventional nurseries in our region continue to be pretty out of touch when it comes to offering plants that really like to live in our climate without getting irrigated all summer.

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A Madrona. Well that’s good.

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One can hardly go wrong with beach strawberry. As long as you keep it out of the rock garden!

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Calocedrus is another good choice. This one looks a bit stressed out, but ought to make it.

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Lots of kinnikkinnik here. One has to be cautious with it in our climate, I think, because of the prevailing availability of inferior clones like ‘Massachusetts’ that can burn in hotter gardens and aren’t as tough as people expect. ‘Point Reyes’ is probably the best selection for Northwest dry gardens.

Conceptually, I like this garden: it is something I can get behind. The different areas are well thought out. The careful planning, consideration and work that went into it is very much evident. The billboards are loaded with good information and even talk about how dry it is in the Olympic rainshadow.

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Here, we have a hose bib. Leading to. . .

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. . .a sprinkler. Oh well. It would be better to hand-water the plants to get them to grow deep root systems, but it is probably too many plants for that to be realistic. You can do it with a sprinkler too as long as it only comes on once every week or two.

To me the weakest link is simply plant material. I can’t imagine the full spectrum of plants that was desired was incorporated here (if it was, I have a lot more educating to do about drought tolerant plants for our climate. HINT: very few of them are available at most nurseries). I don’t know what their plant budget was, and it sounds like many items were donated; but my approach would have been to specify what plants were needed beforehand and have someone contract-grow most of them (as my first budget priority), excepting a few things that are readily available. I imagine a low impact garden in the Northwest being full of Callistemons, Grevilleas, Leptospermums, Olearias, a vast array of species Penstemons, Artemisias, Garrya, Baccharis, Yuccas, ice plants, other hardy cacti and succulents, and many more kinds of Cistus, Ceanothus and manzanita; to start with.

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A Cistus. It’s doing splendidly – so why just two of them in the whole project?

I (cautiously) mention budget priorities in relation to plant selection because I think it is important to “wow” people before they are interested enough in a project like this to want to be informed about it through brochures, signage, etc. A lot of people aren’t going to be motivated to try something different if they aren’t immediately impressed. I guess I just don’t want anyone to get the idea that low impact gardens are boring or visually underwhelming. I don’t want anyone to feel like a compromise is involved when aiming to conserve water in your garden. There are thousands of drought tolerant plants out there that are suited to our climate, and a water-wise garden can look like a lot of different things.

If, on the other hand, the goal of this project was to get people to use plants that are already easy to find in the nursery trade, then we have a bigger problem: nurseries, largely, aren’t growing the right plants for our region. This sounds like a fine topic for another blog post. And I am now sounding like a broken record.

I hope this review has come off as well balanced and not too scathing. I get it that these plants are not easy to find: it can be a major challenge, but not impossible. I also get it that funding was limited.

So with all that in mind, I wish to let anyone who reads this know that I am happy to contribute plants to this project, or similar projects in the future, especially if they are close to home here in Sequim. That includes both donations (subject to current availability and within reasonable limits) and competitively priced contract growing for specialty items. I’m here. But you still have to find my web site and blog: I just don’t want to seem like a pushy sort of person, I guess.

Heronswood Open and Sale this weekend!

Well the big Heronswood open – its first major open since its purchase by the Port Gamble/Skallam tribe last year – is tomorrow! Yikes – how did that happen? It really sneaked up on us. While everyone has been promoting it in a big way, we have been slack in this department, because, oh, I don’t know, it just seems we have a million other things going on at once like usual.

In conjunction with the garden open, some of the Northwest’s best specialty nurseries will be present selling their coolest and most exciting plants in typical multi-nursery-sale fashion. As usual we are glad to accommodate special requests but you’ll have to get yours in by about 7:30 tomorrow morning!

There will also be the opportunity to hear Mr Hinkley talk about the past and future of Heronswood, and Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken of Far Reaches will be giving a presentation as well.

This event is getting a lot of press, including the following:
Seattle Times – Ciscoe Morris
Kitsap Sun

After your Hersonwood visit, don’t forget to leave time to stop off at Dragonfly Farms Nursery where you can shop not only from their inventory of unusual stuff, but also from Phocas Farms who will be selling all kinds of exciting hardy succulents this weekend!

If that isn’t enough incentive to visit, this weekend is also Viking fest in Poulsbo. How much more excitement can you possibly ask for? But come to Heronswood first.

Looks like it’s going to be big, so hopefully we will see you there!

A Great Month for Relatively Young Horticulturists

I am always excited to connect with other people in my approximate age group, who have similar passions about horticulture that I have. And when these friends are recognized for their accomplishments, it somehow encourages me even though I had nothing to do with it myself. Here I will share two such examples.

Organic Gardening magazine has just produced a splendid article featuring six “young horticulturists” who are each pursuing their passions in their own special ways. This article was fun and I really enjoyed reading it – I hope you will too. I think out of the six I most identify with Brienne, especially when she said “I have found nothing else to be as satisfying as seeing newly formed roots on a cutting.” Yeah I am kind of weird that way myself, no doubt about it! I suppose, however, I am older than all these people, so I hope I can still get away with considering them my peers and calling myself “young.”

Then we have Riz Reyes (featured in the above article, BTW), for whom congratulations are in order for pretty much stealing the show at the 2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show. His ‘The Lost Gardener’ garden (is that redundant? sorry) was so well executed that it won numerous awards including the founders award. We are honored to have been able to contribute a few plants to this garden. It appears Riz really went out of his way to get the coolest and best plants, lending credence to my personal theory that 2/3 of the secret to a great garden is to avoid boring plants. Sounds like a no-brainer but some people who design gardens (including some of the ones at the show) still don’t get it. Anyway, enough about that – we wish to publicly congratulate Riz on his success! Way to go Riz!

(Update 3/7: Check out more pics of ‘The Lost Gardener’ and a great write-up at Danger Garden!)

To follow up on my last post, I ought to say a little bit about what’s going on at the nursery. I still have not done anything with the web site, but I have actually been working extra hard outside getting geared up for spring. Most years it seems like spring always gets away from me before I can get on top of things, so this year I am determined not to let that happen. Last year at this time I injured my shoulder snowboarding and couldn’t do much lifting for a month. Two years ago it snowed about this time, plus I was committed to the Flower and Garden Show which sucked away a bunch of my time. (This year I did not even attend – oops.) So this year I am going to get done what I need to get done here at the nursery to make it look awesome for summer open houses and sales, with tons of cool plants available and looking sharp earlier than last year. Hopefully I’ll do the web site soon enough as well. Wish me luck!

I should also mention that almost all the plants on the mail-order list are still available. And please don’t hesitate to ask if you want to check availability of something in particular.

Finally, on a sad note, we wish to lament the passing (about a week and a half ago) of retired King County extension agent George Pinyuh. He was a pioneer of cold hardy cactus and succulent gardening west of the Cascades, having attempted at least a couple hundred species; and was also an avid enthusiast of broadleaf evergreens. To others I don’t doubt he was much more, but I will remember him for his enthusiasm about under-appreciated plants and generosity in sharing them. We hope to honor his memory by getting a lot of the plants we have from his collection into general production (mostly from small cuttings… so it will be a while) with the promotion and recognition they deserve.

I think that will be all for now!

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Here’s a pic that I don’t think has seen the light of day (I can’t imagine why not) – George Pinyuh talking to some weird long-haired dude, his cactus garden in the foreground, October 2006.

General Update

Hi readers. As it has been a few months since my last blog post, some of you may be wondering, what happened to me? Did I drop off the edge of the earth? Was I abducted by aliens? Or even worse, did I lose all interest in plants?

But no, it’s nothing that interesting. For as crazy as I was for starting a nursery, there are still times when I must confess to having the limitations of being a real person. So from about October through early December or so I went through a period of mild, shall we say, “burn out.” Like I felt like I just needed to give myself a little break for once.

It was, as I said, quite mild, and not too serious. And I think it is over now (maybe… LOL) or else I would probably not be admitting to it. Rather than leaving everything in a state of complete abandonment, I have still been working on the nursery, and it is still looking pretty good, other than the wind throwing empty pots all over the place on Christmas Day (I’m actually glad I wasn’t here when that happened—that must have been some serious wind!). I have frequently been busy in the greenhouses sticking cuttings, weeding, and moving plants. I am nearly on schedule with all my “fall” propagation projects (it’s still fall right?), though I will admit there are a few other projects I have been putting off. We continued to fill orders for fall shipping until Hurricane Sandy and the elections brought an abrupt, early end to the shipping season. However I have suddenly gotten swamped with orders this week, which is inspiring. (If it takes us a week or two to send your order, that is because it is supposed to get cold this weekend.)

What I have not been doing is diligently is following the blogs, forums, and facecrack, I mean spacebook groups that I had been checking regularly up till a few months ago. So, without worrying about it too much, I apologize for that.

So in theory, I hope to be back to my regular schedule of 2 – 4 blog posts per month. But for the moment we are just shooting for one occurrence!

What’s next, you ask? Well, I hope to provide an updated list to the web site in the future, but I had better not promise just when, since it always takes longer than I expect. Let’s shoot for mid-February. That is a nice goal. I also have a couple of plant expeditions to report on. Briefly, we went back to the Columbia Gorge area again (I think I said that earlier) the last weekend of September. I also got to go on a trip with Mike Lee and Vor Hostetler of Colvos Creek Nursery the weekend after that, in which we explored the Siskyou/Klamath region of southwest Oregon and Northern California. I had not been there in six years so that was exciting.

So I will, of course, provide full reports on both these trips soon, but I got a bit hung up on it because I did not know the manzanitas of that region well enough to positively identify most of the plants I saw. Fortunately for me, Sean Hogan of Cistus Nursery came to the rescue and took some time to look through a bunch of my Arctostaphylos pictures from our trip. He may be one of the few people in the world besides me for whom that would not be boring. We definitely found some interesting things on that trip and I learned much about Arctostaphylos taxonomy.

We also re-visited Far Reaches Farm, Colvos Creek Nursery (full-post feature to come soon), and a place that I had not been to in years, Xera Plants. Xera sells wholesale only but you can find their plants at retail outlets throughout the Northwest who know what is cool. It was inspiring to see how clean their nursery looked. Kelly and Sue at Far Reaches returned from a plant hunting trip to China recently, which you can read about here.

Sometimes exciting things crop up right in your own backyard. We finally got around to visiting a nursery called Phocas Farms. They specialize in Sedums and Sempervivums and are only 20 minutes away from us. Of course these plants are not hard to find in general (particularly if you want common types), but it is hard to find a nursery that grows a large variety of them including many rare species and varieties, and actually knows the names for all their plants! As there are about 12,000 kinds of Sedum (I exaggerate only slightly) this is no small feat, but owners Jim and Kathy Robinson have managed to do it. Phocas Farms sells at a handful of regional plant sales, and at certain farmers markets in season, including the Port Townsend and Port Angeles farmers markets. They can be contacted at luddite@olypen.com.

But wait, there’s more! We also had the privilege of visiting Derek Clausen, a first class plant geek with an amazing collection of rare conifers, southern Hemisphere plants, and other super obscure, rare things in his garden in Snohomish. We are grateful to him for his generosity in sharing plant material and for being one of the favorite customers of not only our nursery but other specialty nurseries both locally and throughout the country as well. His garden is living proof that doing business with specialty nurseries can result in an amazing yard!

I will also be providing a list of this year’s regional plant sale and open house dates before the end of the month. A few things aren’t quite finalized yet. But we have decided we are moving the open house events all to “regular” weekends and away from holiday weekends. We now think that trying to do one on Lavender Festival weekend was probably (on balance) a bad idea, despite the potential to catch more traffic.

In more miscellaneous news, Sean also tells us that the Arctostaphylos patula discussed in my previous post (of course I’m back to talking about manzanita… it had to happen) was originally sourced from Underwood Mountain, just on the Washington side of the gorge. This is significant as it means that a large, reasonably-pure-appearing version of A. patula can be said to be native to Washington State. This area is now quite heavily developed (the part I visited in 2011, at least) but it might pay to look higher up the mountain in the future. He was able to learn this from one of his employees who knows the person who planted it – wow, small world.

Finally, I have it that the two impressive specimens of Nolina nelsoni at the Center for Urban Horticulture are to be moved, and one (perhaps both?) already has. This is a special plant that is super-rare in Seattle, yet appears to be perfectly hardy; growing into a blue-colored, Dr.-Seuss-esque tree with a round head of stiff pointy leaves atop a very slow growing, but eventually tall, trunk. It can certainly survive transplanting at a large size: I have seen growers do it in the Southwest. My concern is that early winter is the worst possible time to do it. I hope they survive!! They are not going far, I hear – just to another part of the CUH campus.

That may be all the news that’s fit to print. Thanks for reading and for your continued interest.

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A very mysterious manzanita we found near Orleans, California. It looks an awful lot like A. densiflora (which is not supposed to occur that far north), but is it? You’ll have to stay tuned to find out!

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Xera Plants looking sharp.

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Flats of Sedums and Sempervivums at Phocas Farms.

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Derek’s Garden – just one little part of it, of course.

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Nolina nelsoni, Center for Urban Horticulture, from a photo I took way back on February 9, 2005. The cool plant at left with big fuzzy leaves is Pachystegia insignis, which froze out in (I think) 2008, sadly.

Exotic Plants in Vancouver, eh

So I’m just back from Vancouver – well, actually, a couple weeks ago – and I thought I’d share a little bit about my trip. I’ll start by thanking my very gracious hosts, the Pacific Northwest Palm and Exotic Plant Society (henceforth in this post abbreviated as PNWPEPS). Special thanks go out to John Brimacombe and Jay Akerley, for their hospitality; and Rudi Pinkowski, Larry Wick, and Michael Bostok for the garden tours. More on that below. Anyway, I had a great time. The society invited me to give a talk for their November meeting, and I chose “Hardy Proteaceae” as a topic. As far as I could tell, my talk was well received. The only drawback is that I was not able to bring any plants across the border to sell, but we may be able to work with that in the future. Perhaps it’s not as difficult as I thought, and I’m worrying too much about shipping-to-Canada “horror stories” that come up from time to time among other specialty nursery folk in the USA.

I also learned a few interesting things about Vancouver. Despite having a huge population of friendly neighbors to the north, the Seattle news media seem to completely ignore anything that happens in the Vancouver area in favor of airing stories about how scary it is to walk out your front door, and how cute puppies are. So imagine this. You buy a house in Vancouver in the mid 1980s for $280,000 (that’s in Canadian money, so (without looking it up) probably equivalent to somewhat under $200,000 in US dollars). Then in 2011 your house is worth… wait for it… $4.5 million dollars. And we think our real estate market is out of control. So what’s happening? From what Vancouverites tell me, foreign investors, and particularly Chinese businesspeople, are pretty much buying Vancouver, driving real estate values through the roof. An interesting quirk that has resulted is that an empty lot in Vancouver is typically worth a little bit more than one with a house on it. (Yeah, I’m going to spend $5 million on an 0.2 acre lot?) That is because the existing house is just in the way of a bigger house. I was told of one example in which a fancy 6,200 square foot house built in 1992 with all the trimmings was torn down and replaced because it wasn’t big enough. So if anyone is wondering where all the money has gone in here in the United States (via China), now you know. Fascinating stuff, ya? (Also had the brief businessman-ish thought, “I have to figure out how to market plants to these people!” First things first, though…)

So anyways… this was actually my first trip to Vancouver since high school. It was fun to meet a lot of PNWPEPS members who I had previously only known over the internet, for many years in some cases. Some of these folks are gardening legends, having maintained gardens with huge treeferns, palms, bananas, etc. for decades. Others were new to the game. It was interesting to watch the club dynamics and recognize that this is a rather diverse group in some respects, yet still hangs together as a club. Meanwhile the Washington and Oregon chapters of the PNWPEPS have not retained enough interest to meet in a long time, and are considered as “inactive.” (There were, however, a few Oregon meetings around the year 2000, and I attended two of them.)

This leads to the question, what’s so special about Vancouver that the society hangs together there yet nowhere else? After visiting the area and contemplating the question for a while, the answer seems obvious. It is about Canadian identity. If you’re Canadian, the southwest corner of British Columbia has by far the most gardening possibilities of anywhere in the country, including exotic and subtropical garden style. Since Vancouver has the mildest climate available (well, unless you count some of the islands, etc.), it’s easy to assume an attitude that says, why not make the best possible use of it? Seattle, on the other hand, isn’t excited about this gardening style because we in the USA have southern California, and no one wants Seattle to remind them of Los Angeles. We often feel this sense of a “uniquely Northwest” identity, meaning that relative to the Southwest we often subconsciously think we should grow plants of more northerly affinity. “Palm trees in Canada” sounds a lot more exciting and unexpected than “Palm trees in the USA.”

One could also say that, due to political heritage from times past, British Columbia draws more from the gardening culture of Victorian-era Britain, with it’s “I can collect more plants from the farthest corners of the world than you can” passion for obtaining exotic plants from everywhere possible and bringing them back home. Meanwhile the Pacific Northwest (though we certainly draw a bit from Britain as well) has, as I see it, been comparatively more influenced by a gardening culture from the eastern United States, emphasizing hardier and deciduous plants, with a significant dose of temperate Asian influence thrown in. Of course, I am speaking very generally here: all kinds of exceptions could be noted. There is certainly no shortage of deciduous trees in Vancouver, and many Seattle gardens full of lush and exotic evergreen foliage can also be found.

I also noticed that the PNWPEPS in Vancouver has enough of a presence to be well known in the community, with (as far as I could gather) positive working relationships with appropriate persons among the prominent botanic gardens of the area and several of Vancouver’s best nurseries. One nursery owner, Gary at Phoenix Perennials, even turned out for my talk. Meanwhile in Seattle, I doubt most of the staff at the UW Arboretum or Miller Garden, or owners of most prominent area nurseries, have even heard of the PNWPEPS or would care. Perhaps, though, I should not assume that: the Miller Library at the UW Center for Urban Horticulture, at least, has a subscription to Hardy Palm International (last time I checked). I wonder if having an active Seattle area chapter would change this, but the PNWPEPS has been constant and active in Vancouver for 25+ years.

There was much talk at the meeting about the PNWPEPS needing something “new” to rally around, since their original mission to saturate Vancouver with once-uncommon Trachycarpus fortunei (the most popular and easily grown hardy palm in the Northwest) has largely been realized. And so what is the next big thing going to be? I’m not exactly sure. It seems helpful to me to move on from the simplistic “palms and bananas” approach to exotic gardening style and pursue more of a Victorian England “collect everything you can” ideal tempered with a good sense of garden design for the best possible effect. I think the PNWPEPS kind of gets this and is moving at least somewhat in that direction, with some members having apparently felt that way for a long time.

Related to this, some in the PNWPEPS expressed a concern that most of the society is aging with almost no younger folk coming along. This, however, appears to be a common occurrence across all garden clubs today. When I had a brief encounter with the Dungeness Bonsai Society last year (most people my age are disconnected enough from old-school gardening culture as to be surprised such an entity could even exist! Including me, when first introduced to it), the problem was the same: no young people want to pick up this hobby or join a club. Most conventional and generic garden clubs tend to lack young people as well. It would seem “younger” people just aren’t into clubs and societies. I may have to consider this topic further in a future blog post. For now I’ll just leave it there since this is getting way too long and I have pictures to show!

So, enough of me getting all philosophical. You want to see plants and gardens! And here some are.

First I visited Michael Bostock’s garden, but it was dark. Still, one has to photograph a real Cyathea australis when he sees it. All the more impressive is that he and John Brimacombe raised these from spore themselves!

Here’s a shot of John’s back garden. Unfortunately I had to come up during the one cloudy day in a mostly sunny week. Oh well.

This simple structure keeps the rain off of John’s Agaves without, I think, looking too weird.

John has an impressive tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica) which he protects most years.

Even more surprising is this Dicksonia squarrosa, which is a difficult species to maintain in the Northwest. It has frozen to the ground several times.

I then got to see Larry Wick’s garden in North Vancouver. Larry is a great guy who has done a lot of traveling and brought back innumerable artifacts (and purchased some locally as opportunity presents itself) which decorate both the interior and exterior of his home. He is also an avid plant collector with a great diversity of exotic plants, subtropicals, succulents, and pretty much you-name-it. I actually have wanted to meet him for years and finally I did it. Imagine having a back porch like this to hang out in all winter.

Here’s a corner of the back garden. Larry also has a huge bonsai collection!

Here is one of two greenhouses. In summer these beds are bursting with exotic foliage, but with it being late fall for this visit I guess you have to use your imagination.

Here’s an outdoor sitting area in back of the house and you can spot a few more interesting garden-art pieces. Larry says he planted the monkey puzzle tree back in the 1950’s!

Along the west side of his house, he diverted part of a stream (back when this was legal) to run along the property and right up against his house at one point. The rock work here is great.

And here’s Larry himself with a cool dolphin sculpture.

My final stop for the day (since I had to try to get out of Vancouver before traffic got too bad) was Cory Pinkowski’s garden (where Rudi Pinkowski seems to be mostly responsible for the plantings) right on the waterfront in West Vancouver. This is an interesting neighborhood as it is south-facing and very steep going straight up to a 5,000′ mountain peak with the Cypress Bowl ski area only a couple miles to the north. Living here, one could not complain about air drainage. We really have no setting like that in the Seattle area. With the proximity to such large mountains, it is quite a bit wetter than the main part of Vancouver. Here’s what you see when you come to the front of the house.

The treeferns love this climate, though. These are protected through colder weather but look flawless.

Here’s a shot of the well-planted side garden with Yucca gloriosa ‘Superba’ at centre. (Someone tell my spell-checker this is in Canada!)

Here’s the back garden, which drops off steeply to the beach.

And here’s a shot of the water with, of course, more palms and treeferns. There is probably quite a bit more to show, and to comment on, but those are the main highlights.

So, to my Vancouver readers, thanks again for the great experience. And I’ll have to come back as there is much more to see. I have still not seen Van Dusen (except at night, where the meeting was held, which doesn’t count) or UBC Botanic Gardens. They might be better in summer anyways. For everyone else, I hope you enjoyed this tour!

Far Reaches Farm: A Plant Geek’s Fantasy!

Sometimes we put off doing things that are easy because we think we can do them anytime. For me one of those things was visiting the enigmatic Far Reaches Farm in Port Townsend, which was only 45 minutes drive away when we had the nursery in Poulsbo, and is still about 45 minutes away now that the nursery is in Sequim. So I have no excuse for not having visited a long time ago. So finally last Saturday I took advantage of the beautiful summer weather and brought the family out for my first visit to this exciting horticultural destination.

Far Reaches portrays itself as “a plant geek’s fantasy” and it’s easy to see why the moment you drive up. Anyone who thinks there’s nothing exciting going on in Northwest horticulture, and the frontier of rare and exotic new plant introductions, has obviously not been to Far Reaches, and owes himself a visit. In the past few years Far Reaches has rapidly become western Washington’s premier source for rare and interesting botanical treasures (although we like to think we have some pretty cool stuff at the Desert Northwest too!). While proprietors Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken frequently travel abroad on botanical expeditions bringing back various treasures, they are also actively engaged in an often overlooked practice that is just as important; that is, the preservation and propagation of a wide variety of plant introductions old and new that have excellent value in Northwest gardens yet have still never caught on in general nursery commerce, remaining very scarce. There is such a broad variety of unique plants that deserve a chance in our gardens, and here you can find many of them in one place.

In addition to the extensive outdoor sales area and two or three sales greenhouses, Far Reaches also has well-established display beds full of interesting plants, including some of their unique collections, and also featuring a pond with a newly planted bog garden, a green-roof gazebo, and more. A major highlight is the shade garden, which is spread out underneath a grand-scale classic lath house, and packed full of very special and unique shade perennials, ferns, and shrubs. It is a great place to stroll or sit and relax, although I didn’t bother since I was too busy looking at all the plants. Unsurprisingly, in less than two hours I had assembled an incomparably diverse collection of goodies to bring back with me, including a handful of hardy Agaves and cacti, two Leptospermums, and a wonderfully horrendous-looking climbing Ephedra from South America. (And no more than one of each, of course!) Among Far Reaches’ collections is a large number of Kniphofia and Crocosmia varieties, and you are certain to always find an excellent selection of these for sale.

The nursery is easy to find, but hours vary so you will want to check their web site before heading out; or better yet you can subscribe to their newsletter. Although I haven’t seen the official word yet, I suspect they will be open most weekend days through September and October.

Switching gears here, I must include a quick Desert Northwest business side note: If you want to find us in the Seattle area, we will be selling plants in Seattle twice in September. On the 10th, we will be at Bellevue Botanic Garden for the Northwest Perennial Alliance fall sale, which runs from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. We will also be at the Northwest Horticultural Society’s big fall sale, which is the 16th and 17th. It has traditionally been in the hangars at Magnusson Park but this year the sale has moved to North Seattle Community College (check the NHS web site for details!). I hope to see you there; if you’ve been following our blog stop by and introduce yourself!

Finally, here are a few more shots from my September 4th visit to Far Reaches.

Shade garden.


Lobelia tupa still doing it’s thing in September – magnificent!

Great containers.

Kelly talking to shoppers – it was pretty busy the whole time we were there.

Carrie Blake Park, Sequim: Hell for plants?

I think I may have discovered the place of eternal torment and damnation for ill-fated plants, and it’s right here in Sequim, at the popular Carrie Blake Park. I go there with my family quite a bit to walk around and enjoy the wildlife, and so my son can play on the toys. One part of the walk is planted with native plants, and looks like this:

Looks like it has potential, right? The native plants section is planted with perhaps 15 species, some of which will be pictured below.

One of our most special native plants is Garry oak (Quercus garryana) – although common in Oregon, it is quite rare this far north. Here in Sequim we have the remnants of an outlying oak prairie, which we would think is rather special except that most of it has been destroyed as a result of urbanization or agricultural practices. Here’s one that’s managed to survive being urbanizated; in fact they cared about it enough to route Hendrickson Road around it:

As you can see they are stately large trees, looking as much like a western oak as any of the California species, yet specially adapted to the Northwest in drier areas. And because they are quite slow growing and lack bright fall colors, they have not really caught on as a popular shade tree for gardens.

So, getting back to the park, there are a number of these planted along the trail pictured above, and near the north entrance to the park. In my visits I had been enjoying watching them develop and slowly assuming their typical rugged shape. So imagine my shock one day when I was walking along the path and saw this:

That’s right, you’re looking at a Garry oak that was once full and beautiful, with almost all of its branches pruned off. But wait! It doesn’t end there:

I’m sure this one (above) was pruned slightly less severely only because some of the higher branches were out of reach.

A row of three Garry oak sticks (above). If this is a bit difficult to make out it’s because, well, there’s not much left to look at.

Here we’ve managed to prune off every last one of the side branches while retaining the forked leader – brilliant.

Sometimes Garry oaks grow with multiple trunks, so it’s great that the natural form of this specimen has been, shall we say, emphasized.

Welcome to stumpytown, ye sad little trees.

The mad pruner strikes again!

Even Oregon ash is not immune to this treatment.

The funny thing is this pruning tactic is not achieving its desired end, which I can only suppose is to direct growth to the top of the tree. These trees are fighting to live by sprouting branches all along the trunk. These goofy looking sticks are about to look even goofier, like columnar little oak pom-poms, or something like that.

Let’s take a look at the other side of this path. Overall this seems like someone’s well-intentioned concept was poorly executed. This site appears to have heavily compacted, poor soil. I’m guessing this was planted with the usual “native plants require no care” mentality which really isn’t as true as most people think.

Here (above) is one of several flame maples (Acer ginnala) that is obviously under stress – note the numerous shoots arising from the base, and dead branches. I may be wrong, but if I had to guess I’d say the soil was probably not amended when this was planted. This is a challenge for balled and burlapped trees, even native species. Think about it: if a tree has half its roots cut off when harvested from its site of production, wouldn’t it need to be babied along a little bit at planting time? Of course, there may be something else going on here as well; I didn’t look closely at it.

Kinnikkinnik (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) was heavily used here, but did not look good with extensive dead patches. I have to wonder if these plants were from a natively sourced kinnikkinnik, or a cultivar such as ‘Massachusetts’ which is poorly suited to our dry summers. Again I don’t claim to have the answer but my suspicions are aroused.

Evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) is a great plant but it hates compacted soils. This was one of the better ones – many were stone dead (could someone have thought to remove dead plants from the planting before taking the time to slice and dice oak trees? Anyway…). Actually, a lot of our native plants will handle dry soils, but not compacted, dry soils. Additionally, when many native plants seed themselves in nature, they have the advantage of being able to quickly put down a very long taproot from an early age to ensure a constant moisture supply from the subsoil, an option not available to containerized plants that are planted out with branching root systems. In the background you can see some rather stumpy looking Mahonias which are making it but not really thriving. This planting illustrates very well that even native plants are not 100% tough and care free, and sometimes need a little help.

And then we have this random European birch (Betula pendula) tree. Why? I don’t know. It’s neither native nor drought tolerant. Actually, I think birches are among the worst possible choices for dry-summer Northwest gardens, and vastly overused here in general. Yeah, I know we have a native one, but even it still isn’t appropriate for dry sites like this. (Looking closely you can also see two more dead evergreen huckleberry plants in this picture.)

One plant that has actually performed well in this setting is this excellent form of our native Arctostaphylos x media, which combines flower and leaf appearance, vigor, and adaptability as well as I have ever seen with this hybrid.

In other parts of the park, one wonders if caretakers have heard of the term mulch. If you’re a balled an burlapped tree with half your roots cut off, imagine trying to get established competing against this much grass, and with no summer water.

Here’s the top of the tree – not looking good.

Again, an investment has been made but is not being well cared for.

This tree on close examination was obviously planted at least a few inches too deeply. It’s really a waste of money and effort to just plunk things into the ground without proper planting knowledge for things to survive and grow.

You can see that the base of the trunk was covered right up. One little branch of this poor tree is still trying to live!

This tree is certainly alive, and doesn’t look half bad on top, but has obviously been a repeat victim of “weedwhacker blight.”

On the same tree we have this really splendid pruning cut.

To line the south entrance to the park, purple leaf plums have been chosen. Unfortunately, their visual impact suffers from the fact that you can about see right through them.

Purple leaf plums are among my least favorite trees (though, I acknowledge, some cultivars are worse than others). In general, they only do something interesting for about a week and a half in spring when they are in bloom, and then look ugly the whole rest of the year. They have poor form and many of them seem to be pest and disease magnets.

And three random cherry trees. I’m not sure why. At least they look better than the plums.

Many of the flowering cherry trees in the park are in poor health, though. For example, Mr. Mad Pruners might have expended a little effort on this one, like, right at the base.

Another example of great design, poor planting choice – this worthless Nandina ‘Plum Passion’. This is one of many plants that has obviously been developed for impulse appeal at the nursery rather than long term performance in the landscape (the subject of a future blog post!).

The lack of upkeep in this meditation garden would probably not make Sequim’s sister city in Japan proud. The only thing to meditate about is how long it would take to pull all those weeds out of it.

This extensive planting is almost well done if a bit too orderly and unnatural for my taste.

As you can see, Monsanto-manufactured RoundUp remains the weed control method of choice. Although I suppose things would be worse if they just let everything go.

In places this planting perhaps seems to have some potential. But perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to note that Euphorbia myrsinites, which reseeds itself freely in Sequim, is a Class B noxious weed in Washington State.

This is new. I’d call this really a colossal waste. Any of these that manage to survive the summer will be eaten by deer this winter. Even from a design standpoint, this would still bother me if better plants were chosen. No further comment.

Nearby is posted this sign showing plans for a large undeveloped area. Click to enlarge.

A close up of the garden plan (click to enlarge). Not to be rude or anything but to me this looks like the confused, uninspired bastard child of a bunch of people’s competing interests. (But then that is pretty much how the City of Sequim functions in general, as far as I can tell from reading the paper.) The space allocated for each concept/section is insufficient to effectively demonstrate any of them well. And why reduce “drought tolerant” to one small area? Why not have the whole thing be drought tolerant – or at least most of it? Perhaps more importantly, shouldn’t the whole thing be deer proof? Who’s going to stand guard to protect all the other plantings from voracious naughty Bambis?

Well I’ve probably gone on long enough about that. Now to some positive news. First, it should be noted that not all of the trees and plantings in the park are dead, ugly, or abused. A proportion of them, even including some newer trees, are healthy and look great.

Also, I really like this:

Under each of those little cages grows, we hope, a little Garry oak (the cages must be to protect them from loppers-wielding Sequim city maintenance workers). You can also see more of the remnant of the Sequim Prairie oaks on the hillside behind them. I’m curious to know whether the restoration area was in fact previously oak prairie, as the soil there appears to be more moist than they usually prefer. The grasses there look nothing like the dry bunchgrasses of a true oak prairie – it’s going to take a lot more work to restore this area fully if indeed that is the goal of those behind this project. One other thing that would be nice to know is whether these oaks were in fact sourced from Sequim Garry oak populations, or brought up from Oregon, which would be less ideal. (The Northwest oak prairie, by the way, is not an entirely natural construct: they have largely persisted from the Holocene warm period (c. 5,000 – 9,000 years ago) when our climate was warmer and drier, by the repeated controlled burning practiced by Native Americans who used the Camas that grew on these prairies. Left to itself this ecosystem would have been out-competed by native conifers long ago.)

My take: the city of Sequim needs to hire someone with true qualifications in horticulture including at least an associates degree in horticulture and CPH (certified professional horticulturist) status, and preferably some formal training in botany so that person will actually have a clue how plants grow. (I have no idea who is responsible for this – perhaps someone was just doing as they were instructed by someone higher up – but if they ever studied horticulture I can’t recommend their place of study!) With a major overhaul in the management of Carrie Blake Park including knowledgeable caretakers, and a lot of luck, perhaps what looks like a plant hell now will someday prove only to be plant purgatory.

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