Return to AZ

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Nolina parryi subsp. wolfii in the Kingston Mountains

Who remembers way back when I first started the nursery—which, a few of you may recall, began as a seed business—and I did quite a bit of traveling to California and the Southwest to collect seeds of virtually any interesting plants I could find, that I thought I could sell? I know, it was a while ago. Until this year, my last trip to such far-off destinations was in 2005. Finally, in 2018, I have managed another excursion down that way, plus another shorter trip that I will tell you about also.

But before we get on to the important part of this post, we should pause to note that I have reminded myself of the need to watch “Return to Oz,” one of those great movies which I think didn’t do that well upon release, but is certain to actually be quite interesting. I probably saw it long ago but I’m darned if I can remember anything about it. We will also note that this is the first blog post I have produced in who-knows-how-long which does not have the sole purpose of announcing an upcoming open house or plant sale. So that’s special. What can I say, it’s a major challenge to make time for blogging at this time in my life.

However, lest anyone get the impression this post is entirely recreational, I must announce that seeds will be trickling back into our selection of offerings here at the Desert Northwest. It only makes sense that we should sell some of what we collect; if we have an excess there is no point of just letting it sit around until it loses viability. And excesses are inevitable for things like Agaves, which can yield tens of thousands of seeds from a single infructescence (I’ll be using that word a couple more times, so I hope you like it). In any case, watch this space for more news about seeds, including a selection of Agaves and similar exciting items. Some of them will be mentioned later in this post. Ok, commercial announcement over, now on to the fun part.

So what exactly have I been up to? Well, I don’t know if I’ll have time to write up a whole trip report and put it on the web site, like I used to, so we’ll give it the brief (but not too brief!) blog summary. But before we get to AZ and Agaves, I must tell of the earlier trip, which was shorter and less ambitious, but still worthwhile. In the last week of September I took off for a five day trip to southern Oregon and northern California, during which I tracked down things like manzanita cuttings (not that these are hard to find), and acorns of evergreen oaks.

Collecting acorns presented a new challenge. Since I failed to calculate into my plans the amount of time it takes to track down acorns of certain oak species, and then to actually collect them; I found myself running behind schedule the entire trip. This was because in past years I always seemed to miss my chance with the acorns due to being too early, too late, or choosing a bad year for seed set. This year, remarkably enough, I hit it just right. And once acorns are actually found, the amount of time it takes to collect them really adds up: hence being constantly behind. But all’s well that ends well, as the saying goes; and I ended up with a lot of good collections, such as this Quercus durata growing along a remote mountain road.

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Q. durata. There were easier places to get to this, but hey. This is a wonderful evergreen shub with attractive leaves in all seasons, and conspicuous acorns! This deserves much wider use in gardens, and should be completely drought tolerant in the Northwest.

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And some fun manzanitas like this one (A. manzanita subsp. weislandieri, I suppose) north of Chico with enormous leaves. I noticed everything was particularly crispy dry in this area. I was hoping for Heteromeles seeds but they apparently failed to mature, perhaps due to dry conditions. When I came through there in 2014 they had loads of red berries!)

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For some reason I had never seen Woodwardia fimbriata in the wild before, until now. (I drove through here in 2014 and didn’t notice them, for some reason.)

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Ran across a really, really nice blue form of Quercus douglasii near Platina with thick, deep blue leaves. Not a lot of seeds on it though.

Of course the trip would not be without a misadventure of some sort. It was Saturday night when I was driving “my” rental car up that Berry Summit between Willow Creek and Arcata, on a winding road in the dark and pouring rain, and my tire pressure light came on. Oh crap, I thought, why does it have to be now? I checked out the tires and none of them appeared to be flat enough to explode just yet. Thankfully the tire survived long enough to reach a Tractor Supply Co. in Arcata just before they closed, where I bought a pump to temporarily keep the tire going. I also discovered the problem, which was a screw stuck in the tire. It wasn’t until the next day that Ev’s High Tech Service in Gold Beach repaired the tire properly. They were great, and I’m really glad they were there when I needed them!

So after a drizzly morning excursion in which I discovered I was too late to collect seed of Notholithocarpus densiflorus var. echinoides, I stopped off and visited Ben Gardener in Pistol River, who may be known to some of my readers. He is a pioneer of Australian plant growing on the West Coast who really doesn’t get the credit he deserves. My main reason for visitng was that I had borrowed some books from him twelve years ago and felt I ought to return them, which I did. He said he would put them on the Rare Book Shelf, since a rare book is the one that gets returned. I was glad to find him still on his feet and living in the same spot at the spry age of 93. I told him I’ll be happy if I’m in half as good of shape at that age, although he may have been slowing down just slightly. He was kind enough to take me to his niece’s garden and welcomed me to take cuttings of Australian plants, which I did in such a way so that almost nothing would be noticed to be missing. So Rebecca (I don’t seem to have your contact details, sorry), if you’re reading this, thank you for the cuttings!

Then it was off to Gib Cooper’s place to check out Tradewinds Bamboo Nursery. This was highly anticipated not just because of my continuing interest in bamboo, but also because the last time I had been there was 16 years ago. So a lot had changed from before; some plants had grown much larger (Oldeania alpina, which wasn’t called that 16 years ago), some looked the same (Chusquea foliosa, which occasionally freezes to the ground), and certain remarkable specimens weren’t even there the first time, like the massive Borinda macclureana pictured below. I also bought six more bamboos I didn’t have, that being about what I could fit into the rental car with all the seeds, cooler full of cuttings, campling gear, and other travel essentials I had brought.

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Borinda macclureana, at 10 years old, is a stunner of a plant! All the Borindas are great, but this one may take the cake for a tropical-looking, HARDY bamboo. It’s hard to get a feel for the scale in this photo but it’s easily 30′ tall and wide at the top; exponentially more impressive than any Fargesia.

I did not pass through Bandon or Yachats (places of botanical interest that you may read about elsewhere on the nursery web site), because at Gold Beach I cut east and headed towards Grants Pass via the “coastal route” where James Kim died a few weeks after I went through there in 2006. Sad to say this whole area was a major mess. As I progressed east, the going got slow because numerous large paved sections had been taken out of the road and replaced with gravel (new culverts, I guess, and who knows what other maintenance): this road used to be nice and smooth the whole way; I wonder if it will be repaved. I had been hoping for seeds of Quercus vaccinifolia and Chrysolepis chrysophylla, but with earlier delays (tire repair, road condition) it really got too dark by the time I made it east of the crest where they are found. I was also hoping for Q. sadleriana seeds; I was too late to get more than a small handful. (They had plenty of seeds the second week of October in 2012 when I came through there with Mike Lee and Vor Hostelter! I guess summers were cooler then.)

On the east side of the coastal route, the road was better, but fire camps were set up here and there as fire crews finished off the Klondike and Taylor Creek fires. They also “finished off” about every living thing within 20 yards of the road by cutting fire lines. It is incredible how much destruction can be caused by a motivated fire crew in a short amount of time. A lot of my favorite Arctostaphylos canescens plants that I had taken cuttings from before were razed completely to the ground. So the whole area looks ugly, but don’t read me wrong: I acknowledge the necessity of controlling wildfires, and appreciate firefighters very much. I’m glad this large fire was in a nearly unpopulated area. Anyway, perhaps out of the ashes will come a lot of interesting new manzanitas: I’ll have to go back in three years and check. Then after a quick stop off at Cistus Nursery, I returned home.

So after a week and a half to spend at home and sort through all that stuff, and process cuttings, I left once again in another rental car for a longer and more ambitious trip. This was a trip that really should have been done in at least 16 or better yet 20 days, but given the constraints of family life I figured I’d better limit it to 12. On this trip as well as the last, I spent probably far too much time hunting down Opuntia fragilis in the Shasta Valley. Remind me not to bother with that again. Then there was the hunt for modoc cypress (Cupressus bakeri) which I believe I saw but there were way too many darn junipers in there so as to confuse matter substantially, and none of the cypresses had any seeds. (But at least they were labeled—a rare treat for wild plants!) So the end result of that was that once again I started the trip off behind schedule. I did some real late night driving down to almost Bishop, CA to try to catch up.

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I love it when wild plants are labeled! Why can’t they all be that easy?

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Quercus chrysolepis growing above Devil’s Half Acre, a lava flow just east of Lassen Park. Who knew this attractive broadleaf evergreen could be found in such a high, cold, and snowy area? We’re in at least USDA zone 5 here if not 4. I expect the city of Spokane to be all over this to promote as a street tree.

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I also visited some really interesting and rather ambiguous Opuntia basilaris and/or O. erinacea types along CA Hwy 168, which someone had posted to Facebook so I thought I’d better check them out. A long time ago someone didn’t want to tell me where to find hardy cacti in the Bishop area of California. But now I found them, so, ha.

The next day it took way longer than I thought to get all the way down to the Tecopa, California area to camp. I had really wanted to reach the Kingston Mountains that day, but it was too late in the afternoon. So I got up super early the following morning to do it, and had only been driving for 20 minutes when at 6:15 am it was of course time for the obligatory flat tire. This time it was so bad I had to put on the spare, but at least the weather was pleasant instead of raining. I ended up spending the rest of the morning in Pahrump (not really on my way) where I found the tire was beyond repair and I just had to get a new one. It was a Saturday and tire shops were busy, and I had to go around to a few places to come up with a matching tire, so I couldn’t get out of there until just after noon.

After that, since I had already been detoured to Pahrump, I figured I may as well attempt a different adventure than originally planned; in which I hiked two miles across the Mojave Desert in the sun to the Nopah Range, an environment that reminded me of the Mountains of Shadow bordering Mordor. The trek was harder than it looked from the road. I was hoping some of the Agave utahensis subsp. eborispina plants reported from this area might be found at the base of the mountains, but when I got up there I couldn’t see anything. So, not wanting to give up just yet, I started climbing into a canyon. I was just about to turn back, when I finally spotted one still pretty far ahead and high up. It took quite a bit more climbing to get even close to one with a spent infructescence. Finally after a 40’+ rock scramble I arrived at a nice one, only to find I was too late and all the seeds had blown away. So that won’t be on the seed list; sorry. It was only a two hour foray but I was sure glad I brought a lot of water!

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Agave utahensis subsp. eborispina with no seeds, Nopah Range.

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I made a new friend! This was the first time I had seen Echinocactus polycephalus in the wild before.

Finally it was back to the Kingston Mountains. The west approach was even more interesting than I remembered it (again, from 13 years ago) with tons of great cacti including a good variety of Opuntias, Echinocereus and Ferocactus. But the road was horrible. I kept asking myself, how did I actually drive the Volvo through here in 2005 and not get a flat? At the crest of the highway I found Agave utahensis subsp. nevadensis which I missed that year (seed set wasn’t impressive though). Of course, a major reason to go this way was to collect Nolina parryi subsp. wolfii at the northernmost place that it is found in nature. This magnificent plant with its huge rosette of stiff leaves and larger-than-life flower spike is basically the Puya raimondii of North America. And fortunately it is much easier to grow, albeit quite slow growing! So that will be available again—hooray. Note to self: next time approach and leave the Kingston Mountains from the south. The road isn’t great but it’s a lot better!

It was dark when I got out of there, making me basically a day behind. I drove three hours (including right through downtown Vegas) to northwest Arizona to camp in the Beaver Dam Mountains. I had contentedly settled down to what I thought would be a nice relaxing night, when the wind came up in a major way at about 2:30 am and about ripped my tent to shreds. I took it down hastily and managed to save it. I had to try to sleep in the car after that and was awfully tired the next day.

For the next several days I had generally terrible weather, including snow and ice at higher elevations and lots of wind almost anywhere I went. Although I was not unprepared, this made the trip a lot less fun. I had better weather when I went in December 2004! On one night (and I’m no longer relating the trip in chronological order) I wimped out and got a hotel. It snowed in Flagstaff the day after I passed through it stopping there for lunch, but snow in Flagstaff is none too uncommon. On another night I looked and looked for a campsite, but for various reasons all the ones on my route were closed and I ended up sleeping in the car yet again, which turned out to be just as well since it poured rain all night. In the morning I got up and there was a fresh coat of heavy snow in the New River Mountains and the Mogollon Rim. (Why didn’t I get a picture of that? Oh well.) On the same morning, I attempted to drive to the trailhead of the Barnhardt Trail to look for Arizona Fremontodendrons, but the mud on the road was so bad that I did not feel safe continuing and had to turn around, even with four wheel drive (which I was very glad to have!). I couldn’t believe how wet and almost swampy it could be in a place so heavily populated with cacti and Agave chrysantha.

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Echinocereus swamp? South of Payson Arizona.

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Arctostaphylos pungens northeast of Globe. There’s potential in central AZ for manzanitas that will tolerate summer water and heat, to a point, anyway. I made quite a few collections in various places (cuttings, not plants), and it will be interesting to try them all out, provided I can get them to root.

Unlike California, this was not a good year for seeds in Arizona. I could probably research this, and I know they had a wet summer, but I suspect winter and spring there were on the dry side. A lot of the plants I wanted to collect seeds from (especially Yuccas, but even some Agaves) appeared not to have bloomed that year at all, or very little. So hunting around for seeds was an involved process that took longer than I had hoped. Of course, I made the best of it. It took a long time but I eventually found a Nolina microcarpa with good seed set near Show Low, after passing thousands of them with no seeds nor evidence of having flowered this year. The furthest point of my trip was when I drove clear out to Cloudcroft, New Mexico to try to collect Agave neomexicana at 7,600′ where I collected it in 2005 with my friend Steve Smullen, formerly of Las Cruces. But despite an extensive search I found that none of them had any seeds. That was a heck of a lot of extra driving for no seeds, but oh well. The search for A. neomexicana caused me to run out of time to find A. gracilipes near Alamogordo. And I did not quite make it to Texas, so there will be no A. havardiana or A. lechuguilla collections this year.

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Agave neomexicanas which annoyingly had no evidence of flowering and no seeds this year.

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Not a great picture but this is ice on Quercus hypoleucoides at Emory Pass. Yes the weather was lovely.

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This is the giant form of Agave parryi I have collected before near Mimbres, New Mexico. This year I took a moment to measure some rosettes, and made a point of getting seeds from the largest one possible. This rosette measured 54” across!

Although I had already been around Arizona quite a bit, it was only on the return pass when I finally found seeds on any Arizona oaks, in the Chiricahua Mountains. Agave palmeri in that area was easy to find seed of also, which was nice. What I was disappointed not to find any seeds on, despite looking at thousands of them, was Yucca schottii. That plant does great in the Northwest and is in high demand, but better luck next year, I guess. It didn’t help that it was so foggy up there I could hardly see 20′ off the road. A quick hunt for Agave parryi var huachucensis was also unsuccessful due to any of them that were easy to find with seeds being on (apparently) private property. And I did finally find a Yucca schottii near Canelo with two seed capsules on it, but they were heavily guarded by huge, ferocious looking wasps, so I opted to give them a pass. I was happy that day though that the weather finally changed for the better with sun and temperatures above 70; and that I made it to an actual, respectable campsite before dark, in the Catalina Mountains.

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Here’s an oak in the Chiricahua Mountains that looks suspiciously like Q. greggii, which is not supposed to be found outside of Mexico.

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Yucca schottii in the fog. It can be found as high as 8,000′ altitude in the Chiricahua Mountains.

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Quercus oblongifolia near Canelo.

After a bit of poking around the Catalina Mountains, I drove north once again, making my way towards a good high altitude collection of Agave parryi from Mingus Mountain at 7,200′ that could only be reached by climbing up a short cliff. OK, the cliff had footholds, but it has been a while since I attempted anything like that, a bit out of my comfort zone! Well, how else was I supposed to get the seeds? Fortunately I survived and got a large batch of seeds that looks great.

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Arbutus arizonica—had I been a few weeks later, the fruit would have been ripe. Oh well.

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Arctostaphylos pringlei in the Catalina Mountains, growing out of rocks!

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Agave parryi at Mingus Mountain, Arizona.

In the interest of not making this a book I’m skipping over some stuff, but I’ll note that the trip wouldn’t have felt complete without a pass through southern California and the San Jacinto Mountains. This is an area with a winter rainfall maximum and roughly the same amount of winter rain and cold as we get in Sequim. The east slopes of the San Jacinto Mts around 4,000′ is an Opuntia enthusiast’s paradise, with a confusing array of far more species and hyrids than one normally finds in proximity—not to mention Cylindropuntia, Echinocereus, Agave deserti at the highest elevation where it grows, Nolina parryi, Yucca schidigera, and a giant form of Hesperoyucca whipplei, which I again took a moment to measure. Seed hunting here went reasonably well though I once again underestimated how long it would take. I had to be pretty quick about getting up to Wrightwood before dark in the same day to hunt for Hesperoyucca whipplei subsp. caespitosa, where I located some good plants at a higher altitude than my previous collection. These ought to have respectable cold-hardiness, coming from higher than the base of the ski area.

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7′ wide Hesperoyucca whipplei in the San Jacinto Mountains—yes, they really can get that big!

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Agave deserti, a plant which I am convinced would be more popular if it didn’t have such a dumb name. It is an attractive species.

And from there of course it took two days to drive back, though I may have been a bit distracted along the way taking more manzanita cuttings (can one ever have enough?). It was fortunate that I passed through central California on a Sunday, though I still managed to get stuck in traffic for a bit; and that I did not have any more flat tires. As I said I skipped over a lot, but those are some of the important trip highlights. Then there was the adventure of spending most of the next day after I returned home getting the rental car cleaned out and wiping all the mud off places I have no idea how it even got into.

So, what’s next? Well, I am done processing all the cuttings, so that’s good; and I’m still in the middle of cleaning seeds. I need a bit more time to get through that, and then seed availability will be announced here soon. Even if it wasn’t everything I had hoped for, I’m happy to get a few good collections of Agave seed (and a couple Yuccas) so at least for certain species, I don’t have to worry about purchasing seed and wondering if they will come up. I don’t want to pick on any seed companies I mostly like, but I’ve had some issues with that in the last couple of years. It’s nice just to get my own seeds and know they are fresh, and that I can sow as many as I need.

I’m also rather excited for all the Arctostaphylos cuttings. Normally when hunting for Arctostaphylos, I don’t make it further south than the Redding area of California. Besides manzanita there are a few other interesting odds and ends in there as well. This year I will have a lot of new and different collections if I can just keep them all alive and growing. You’ll want to wish me luck with that!

So there you have it: my return to AZ and the Southwest. We’ll see if I decide to do this again sometime or what. After the weather I had, I might make it easier on myself and book some hotels in advance! And did I mention I missed 12 days of sunny, warm weather back home? At least we may all feel reassured that Agaves and cacti can handle nasty, cold and wet weather.

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Selfie with the giant form of Agave chrysantha.

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NEWSLETTER: Open House time again at the Desert Northwest!

Greetings Hortophiles,

This weekend once again we will have our mid-summer open house, which will be on Friday and Saturday only! Please come out and buy everything so I don’t have to pot it up again. I’m just kidding; that’s all part of the fun. As always, directions and a map are found here. We are glad that, just in time, the weather will be cooling off back into the 70’s, so it will be possible to walk into the greenhouses without melting.

What exciting goodies will we find at the open house? Well this time I am so organized that I have just completed a new inventory of ALL the nursery stock that is for sale. You will find appended to this e-mail (assuming I remember to do it right) not one, but two documents; one of which shows our current availability in the mail-order department (generally smaller stock in 4” pots) and the other one showing “specimen” plants which means those in the 1-gallon and larger sizes. [Note: this is not yet available to blog readers unless you e-mail me; sorry. Working on it!] Of course the next challenge is to get all this stuff on the web site, but hey, at least we know what is out there and available.

This is the time of year when we are reminded how much easier gardening is when water-wise plants are used. It is super dry out there and our soil (where not irrigated) is basically powdery dust with rocks in it. Still, there is nothing wrong with planting now if you dig a proper watering basin and keep new plants watered. (We would be glad to show you what one of those looks like.) Our established plantings of things like Arctostaphylos, certain Ceanothus and Luma are looking great with no water at all, as well as a few surprises like Cassinia vauvilliersii var albida which we can’t say enough good things about. Interestingly, plants such as some of the hardy Grevilleas and Leptospermums seem a bit “on the edge” of drought tolerance here in Sequim, at least on our soil; but for most of you about anywhere else in western Washington they are good performers with no irrigation. We will continue experimenting further with those.

Looking particularly good right now are a couple of Southern Hemisphere butterfly bushes, B. araucana from Chile and B. loricata from South Africa. Both are hardy here and look quite similar to each other, having attractive pale gray leaves and white flowers. We also have a really nice crop of Eucryphia x nymansensis in two gallon pots that are vigorous and look outstanding. This Eucryphia is one of the few trees that puts on a show of big white flowers in late summer! It is evergreen and bees love it.

We ought to mention that groundcover Banksias have returned after a long absence, which are in the 4” pot size for this year. These rather bizarre plants creep along the ground sending thick leaves straight up into the air. Once they reach a certain size, conspicuous inflorescences emerge straight up from ground level around the periphery of the plant! B. blechnifolia, gardneri, petiolaris and repens all fit into this category. Native to Western Australia, they can handle some frost but are not quite cold-hardy here (low 20s generally), but they are fun to try in a sheltered spot or in a pot. B. repens is probably the best for cold tolerance, but B. blechnifolia has the coolest leaves. Beyond that there is not a whole lot new in the Proteaceae department right now, although we do have a modest crop of Protea subvestita in production.

We might also call your attention to a short list of bamboos at the end of the specimen plant list, most of which are clump-formers that do not invade. We do not claim that bamboos are terribly drought tolerant, in general; except the Chusqueas which are pretty tough. But they are interesting and useful plants that are fun to grow, and we continue to propagate and offer a few of the best ones from our collection. Although we are not shipping bamboos, we think our prices compare favorably with places like the long-established Bamboo Garden in Portland, being at least 10 – 20% below their prices.

Finally I should mention something we haven’t grown in years, and which we will admit have nothing to do with the desert or being water-wise. That would be the REAL Gunnera manicata, which is now in stock, and I have to say “the real” because most plants sold as G. manicata are actually G. chilensis. G. chilensis is still cool but a little less exciting: G. manicata has 9′ wide leaves rather than just 5′ wide leaves! So you don’t want to miss your chance to get one—as long as you have a place for it that gets plenty of water! Half shade is about right.

That’s all for now. If you can make it, we look forward to seeing you this weekend!

Ian

The Desert Northwest

mail@desertnorthwest.com

http://www.desertnorthwest.com

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Gunnera manicata at Chetzemoka Park, Port Townsend
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NEWSLETTER: Desert Northwest Open House This Weekend!

Dear Plant People,

This weekend, the first official weekend of summer, we will hold our first open house of the year here at the Desert Northwest (Friday-Saturday, 9:30 to 5:30; click here for map and directions). More on that in a minute. But first, a silly story by Ian Barclay. Once upon a time I had the wild idea to sell some plants in British Columbia. I grew all these nice plants and they look great. I put them in the back of greenhouse 4 where they could grow and flourish until it was time to deliver them in early June. Then I scheduled the first open house of the season relatively late this year, so that those plants would be out of the way and people could shop without tripping on them.

The “funny” part is that getting those plants across an international border is quite an involved process; and, for some reason, the plants are still sitting there, looking more wonderful than ever. So when you go into greenhouse 4 you will see them in the back, all roped off. Oh well. I’m not giving up on getting them to BC, and they may still make it in a week or two; but if it doesn’t work, I’ll have a lot of really nice plants for the August open house and for fall sales!

Besides that we are in our usual recovery-from-spring mode. That means the nursery is not looking nearly as good as we would like it to, but it is not so bad that I feel like I need to cancel the open house. So I guess that means you’d better come on out and find some cool plants this weekend! Did you ever want a Eucalyptus regnans, the world’s tallest non-coniferous tree? This is your chance to get one—we only have a few left!

Did you know that when a plant goes on to the noxious weed list, only that particular species listed is a noxious weed, and not all of its relatives? That’s why we have in the past sold plants like Buddleja coriacea and Hedera colicha ‘Variegata’, and the reason you can buy things like ornamental hawthorns with pink flowers in nurseries. However not everyone seems to get this: some believe that if a plant is bad then all of its friends must be bad. We say no, that’s wrong. On that note this is your chance to get some fine Tamarix parviflora plants in 1 and 2 gallon pots. They have an amazing texture and the spring flowers are quite spectacular covering the whole plant. They were quite a hit at the Grays Harbor Garden Show in Elma but we still have some nice ones left.

What’s evergreen, aromatic, always looks great, grows almost anywhere, and the deer don’t eat it? I’m not telling you: you’ll have to come over this weekend and find out! Ha ha ha. OK, fine, I’ll tell you. Because you should know. Leptospermums, commonly called tea trees, fit the above criteria, and the hardier species are really excellent performers in our region. You just can’t beat the soft-textured foliage and white flowers. And yes they will grow most anywhere including heavy clay soils and coastal exposure. We still have quite a few left of various kinds, including the silvery and showy L. cunninghamii and large-growing L. ‘Eugene Hardy’. And don’t forget the groundcover L. humifusum which looks great now in the 4 inch size.

In the odd plants department, I bet you’ve always wanted a Furcraea parmentieri. It’s an enormous yuccoid plant that grows 8′ wide with a massive trunk. At maturity (which takes quite a few years) it sends up a 35′ tall flower spike and then dies. Unfortunately it’s only hardy to around 20 degrees so you’ll have to keep it in your 35′ tall private conservatory. Equally not-hardy is the southeast Australian Banksia serrata, with its saw-toothed leaves and big orange to yellow flowers. Although we grow these plants to tempt people with sheltered gardens, Cliff Mass thinks winters are gradually getting less extreme (check this out), so there’s that. On the other hand, a plant that DOES show good hardiness is Araucaria angustifolia: the one I planted in Olympia in 1998 must be close to 35′ tall. We just have a few of them left at $24 each in band pots.

And some of you will be wondering about the Arctostaphylos (manzanita) and Grevillea supply. There are some 1 gallons out there but the little pots are more numerous and look better. Looking particularly good right now would be the silvery groundcover Arctostaphylos ‘Pacific Mist’, as well as the taller A. pajaroensis and the outstanding A. bakeri ‘Louis Edmonds’ with its pink flowers and (when older) smooth purple trunks. In the Grevillea department G. ‘Poorinda Leane’ (a staple here) and G. miqueliana may be found, as well as the nearly ever-blooming G. ‘Audrey’ which has returned after a long absence from our availability. (Seriously it blooms 10 – 11 months out of the year!)

At this time I had best stop writing and start working. Thanks for reading and may your gardens prosper!

Ian

The Desert Northwest

mail@desertnorthwest.com

http://www.desertnorthwest.com

NEWSLETTER: Desert Northwest New Plant List and Open House!

Dear Plantfolk,

Hooray, “fall” rains are here! There may technically be one more day of summer but it no longer feels summer-like out there. We got a whopping 0.07” of the wet stuff this week so far in Sequim, which barely counts for anything, but almost anyone reading this will have had more.

In any case, this is when we tell you it’s time to start planting again, even if there was nothing wrong with planting earlier. So, we want to welcome you to come out and shop this weekend as we will be open on Friday and Saturday for our final open house of the year. Directions and details may be found here. As always, if you can’t make it, we welcome you to e-mail us for an appointment to visit the nursery on another day.

Appended to this email Coming SOON to the web site you will find our latest availability and price list, which is, as the saying goes, hot off the press! (Or you can e-mail me for a copy.) Note that this is only for the mail-order stock: there is a lot MORE out there in 1 gallon and larger sizes that is not listed. We hope to attend to that next. In the meantime getting on top of the mail-order list feels like an accomplishment since it’s the first step to getting the web site up to date again. Note also, VERY importantly, that the prices are $3 off the listed price when you buy the plants on site!

Picking out a few highlights from the list, Arctostaphylos x media is available again, as people keep asking about it. This attractive native plant, a hybrid of hairy manzanita and kinnikkinnik, does so well here and is attractive at all seasons and completely drought resistant, yet remains underused in gardens. Then we have a respectable selection of Ceanothus from groundcovers to large shrubs. They are in little pots but they grow FAST and it may be better to plant them at a small size for quick establishment. These are also very drought tolerant once established and in fact tend to prefer drier sites.

Our Grevillea selection is looking good with a couple items back on the list that have been absent for a long time, like G. lanigera and G. x gaudichaudii. We don’t expect these to last long; in fact this is the first time the latter has made it to my mail-order list before selling out at shows. Finally, the nine Eucalyptus selections listed are more than we have had in years. We had run out of E. regnans but now a new crop is ready. If you didn’t know, this is the world’s tallest tree that isn’t a conifer (or perhaps the tallest, period, but that’s up for debate). Since not all of us have room in our garden for a 370′ tree, we also offer smaller species like E. gregsoniana which, unlike some Eucalyptus, can be relied on not to exceed 20 – 25′ tall in cultivation, or E. pulverulenta, which we grew from seed I collected from an odd tree in Seattle that was more horizontal than vertical. E. nobilis, on the other hand, is another giant, a recently described member of the white gum group (referring to the smooth white bark) that grows at high altitudes in northeastern New South Wales. You can be among the first to try it in the Northwest!

Do you have deer? We’ll tell you what you can plant that they actually won’t eat. A good starter list would include Leptospermum, Ozothamnus, Olearia, Callistemon, Luma, Myrtus, and any of the Grevilleas with small leaves. This would be so much easier if only deer read the right books, but we can say they will leave these alone from our years of experience.

In other news, germination has been pretty good on most of the Yucca and Agave seed I planted this summer. I’m excited that next year we’ll be able to offer many of these again for the first time in years, though at this point they do need to grow on for a bit. I also started a selection of cacti, almost all cold-hardy species, from seed; especially from genera like Echinocereus and Trichocereus. These are a bit of a challenge to maintain and grow on to salable size, so wish me luck! If they make it they will be a great addition to our selection of offerings somewhere down the road.

Did you know that we propagate and produce 100% of our own nursery stock? When you buy from us, you are not just getting plants from a national chain that sells (often as a loss leader) whatever is easiest to propagate and has the shortest production time,while failing to provide expert advice to the buyer. Rather you are personally supporting a small family business in which we know our plants because we grow everything we sell. We appreciate your business, and we look forward to seeing you this weekend or at another time. Happy fall!

Ian Barclay
The Desert Northwest
PO Box 3475
Sequim, WA 98382
http://www.desertnorthwest.com
mail@desertnorthwest.com

*******

And then we have the previous newsletter from early August, which for some reason I managed not to post on my blog at the time.  Oh well; I’m trying to catch up:

Dear Plant Enthusiasts,

It’s that time again! This weekend, on Friday and Saturday (August 11 and 12), we will be open for business here at the nursery in Sequim. Come on out and see what’s new! Yes, there are some exciting new plants that are not on the web site yet. Also I had better mention once again that we can now process your debit and credit card, though we will still happily accept cash or a check. Directions to the nursery may be found here.

It’s too hot to plant, you say? Well, it’s true that things like Rhododendrons or ferns have to be handled with care at the peak of summer. But most of our plants can take the heat, and we grow them “tough,” erring on the side of more sun exposure, and not too much fertilizer, to produce strong plants. It is actually a fine time to plant anything you don’t mind watering from now until the fall rains arrive.

Most importantly, weather like this is really not that unusual (except that annoying smoke—that can go away any time please). Every summer it’s dry, and every summer we have a week or two of hot weather. So this weather is your annual reminder that water-wise plants such as those we grow make sense, and everyone ought to be using more of them!

Last time I managed to lure some of you in here by promoting just one very cool plant, Grevillea x ‘Neil Bell’. We had a huge crop of these this year, so although we sold quite a few, there are still plenty available for everyone. They are now growing so large in their 4” pots they could make full 1-gallons. Grevillea victoriae ‘Murray Valley Queen’ is back, which we haven’t had in a couple years. Truly one of the best Grevilleas, it starts blooming in the fall and doesn’t stop until spring! It is much more showy than the “usual” form of G. victoriae, being covered in large flowers.

If that doesn’t grab you, we have a great selection of Leptospermum right now including a large crop of ‘Eugene Hardy’ in 4” pots. This makes a great hedge plant with pretty foliage and flowers, and the deer won’t eat it. Speaking of things the deer won’t eat, Ozothamnus hookeri ‘Sussex Silver’ and Olearia x oleifolia ‘Wakairiensis’ are also looking fine. Some little hardy Eucalyptus trees of various species are coming along; they are not quite ready to sell yet but they sure are cute.

It has been an exciting summer here at the Desert Northwest. Although I haven’t done much with the web site lately, I have been busy with the nursery. I have started many more plants from seed this year than I have in several years. Seed is more expensive than it used to be, but I can collect some of my own; also, some old seed I have lying around is still viable. So there are a lot of Agaves and Yuccas in the pipeline as well as Eucalyptus and other random stuff. Hopefully even a few hardy Acacias which we haven’t sold in years. Things like Puya, Dudleya, Nolina and Banksia are germinating now.

In late July I took a quick trip to Vancouver Island, where I got to see some really remarkable gardens maintained by serious plant collectors. I also visited a number of nurseries. I have uploaded photo albums from each visit to Facebook, and set them to “public” so you should be able to view them even without a Facebook account. Check out the links below, and I think you’ll be impressed! Each one opens a different photo album.

Garden of Jeff St.Gelais, Victoria, BC
Garden of Judith McLauchlan, Victoria BC
Garden of Graham Smyth, Victoria BC
Garden of Cal Mateer, Victoria BC
“Vanisle Bamboo” garden in Comox BC
Valley Succulents, Comox, BC
Comox, BC public plantings
Vancouver Island Nurseries

However, another purpose of this trip was to explore the possibility of marketing plants to customers in British Columbia in the future. We hope to pull that together by this time next year. So far we have not offered this service, for reasons I won’t go into here. There are, of course, certain regulations that complicate the process of bringing plants across international borders. Numerous plants do cross the border under the appropriate regulations, but it is easier for larger nurseries that have the resources to stay on top of this. Anyway, we’ll see what we can come up with, so stay tuned for that.

We look forward to seeing you this weekend, if you can make it to Sequim!

Ian Barclay
The Desert Northwest
PO Box 3475
Sequim, WA 98382
http://www.desertnorthwest.com
mail@desertnorthwest.com

Seeds for Sale!

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Here’s a fun fact.  Years ago, before I actually started the nursery, I spent a period of time collecting and selling seeds.  I now view that as an endeavor that was perhaps not viable on its own, but could be a good complement to the nursery for certain items.

Over the years my opportunities to collect more seeds fizzled out, and eventually I had to take the seed list off the web site rather than sell seed that was getting old and may not be viable.  However I am now compelled to resume seed sales again.  The main catalyst for this was that several large eucalypts came down last winter in the snow, which were all loaded with seed that I would not have been able to reach otherwise.  But even before that happened I had an interest in getting back into seed sales and had started collecting a few things.  I am now ready to go with all the seed pre-packaged, which helps me to be more organized.

So we’re getting off to a modest start, with a relatively small list for now.  When I really get going with this I will add the seed list to the web site, but for now I’m posting it here on the blog only.

The prices listed are, of course, per packet.  These are small packets of seeds, containing at least 30-40 seeds except as noted. Of course for things with tiny seeds like Callistemon there are a lot more seeds than that.  All of the seed was locally collected in western Washington by me personally, within the last six months (as of this writing), and has been properly kept in cold storage to maintain viability.

Banksia canei (packet of 15 personally inspected seeds) – $8
Buddleja globosa – $6
Callistemon pityoides- $6
Callistemon subulatus- $6
Callistemon viridiflorus (hardy form)- $7
Callistemon sp ‘Woodlanders Hardy’- $6
Eucalyptus neglecta- $6
Eucalyptus parvula- $6
Eucalyptus pauciflora subsp niphophila- $6
Eucalyptus praecox- $7
Eucalyptus rodwayi- $6
Eucalyptus stellulata- $6
Eucalyptus subcrenulata- $6
Leptospermum juniperinum (Mt Imlay NSW)- $6
Leptospermum rupestre (upright form)- $6
Leptospermum scoparium (Washington Park)- $6

To order, print off the order form and mail it with payment to The Desert Northwest, PO Box 3475, Sequim, WA 98382.  Shipping for seeds is free for domestic (USA) orders of $20 or greater; orders under $20 and all international orders please add $3 for shipping.

A couple items deserve special mention.  Banksia canei is one of the hardiest Banksias, called “mountain Banksia” and occurring in subalpine regions in the wild.  It is almost never seen in cultivation, but I have a few in the greenhouse that I grew from seed 11 years ago, that have now flowered and set seed.  The flowers are yellow and they are very nice.  Eucalyptus praecox is interesting because it has lived through all the cold winters in Olympia (remarkably, considering it is not terribly cold where this thing grows in nature) but is virtually unheard of in gardens.  Older references list it as a subspecies of E. mannifera.  It is a pretty medium sized tree (to 50′ or so) with a smooth trunk.

Hopefully I’ll be able to continue adding to this list as time goes on!

Desert Northwest Newsletter: OPEN HOUSE this weekend!

Dear Plant Friends,

Sometimes we wait until the last minute to announce important events around here, and we didn’t want to disappoint anyone this time around by being inconsistent. So come one, come all to our first open house of the year this weekend. As usual we’re making it a Friday and Saturday event with the hours being 9:30 to 5:30. It promises to be a beautiful weekend too! Directions may be found here: (And if you see any 2016 dates on that page, disregard them because we’re in the process of fixing that this weekend.)

Another thing we can disregard is that old fashioned “cash or check only” stuff. We have now finally moved into the 21st century with credit card payment being available. Some people around here thought they would never see that happen. We won’t say who.

So how is the nursery looking these days, you might be wondering? Well what usually happens is that things start off nicely in early spring, but then everything goes off the rails as soon as I start going around to all these regional plant sales and being away from the nursery. This year things did not start off so great because it was frigidly cold right into the second week of March. As announced earlier, I cut back on those sales, but some other commitments came up which also used up a good deal of time. So the nursery as usual doesn’t look perfect, though it has received some needed attention in the last couple weeks. So it’s still, shall we say, navigable.

On the positive side, I hit it really hard early this spring with potting up the new and cool stuff (even in the cold early on). So the result of that is, there are TONS OF PLANTS out there, especially in the smaller sizes. This is not one of those years where I’m feeling low on nursery stock. And of course, half of the new stuff isn’t listed on the web site by now, since I haven’t had time get that updated lately. We’ll get there.

So for now we’ll just have to tell you about some of the cool new stuff, which may or may not be on the web site, but mostly not. To start with we have TONS of Olearias. I mean about every kind you could want right now. They are the perfect plants for the coast since they love cool weather and wind. They also make pretty flowers (two species being fragrant) and deer don’t eat them. I tried to sell them all last weekend at that Grays Harbor sale, but for some reason I still have plenty left over.

Also in the New Zealand department, some new Hebes are ready including ‘White Gem’, H. anomala, and the purple flowered ‘Purple Shamrock’ and ‘Autumn Glory’. A new crop of Carmichaelia australis is ready– this intriguing plant looks like a mass of growing green sticks, though ours are a bit leafy at the moment. Then we have a unique form of Muehelenbeckia complexa with much larger leaves than usual. It comes from Three Kings Island off the NZ coast, but is perfectly hardy. And finally if you’re in the market for a 1-gallon Corokia cotoneaster you need look no further than our nursery.

I just went through all the conifers and got them organized (have to admit I found a few things I thought were were sold out of). Nearly everything listed on our site is still out there, with a couple exceptions. Lagarostrobos franklinii and Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Chilworth Silver’ are looking fine. Araucaria angustifolia is still available and a recently potted crop of Juniperus ‘Gold Cone’ is showing its yellow new growth. If you need a Fitzroya cupressoides (and who doesn’t?), you’d better hurry since we only have ten 1-gallons left!

In the Australian department, it’s pretty fun to watch plants like Leptospermum sericeum, L. humifusum, Callistemon viridiflorus and several others blooming in their little pots. They don’t always do that but I guess I struck just the right balance of how mean to be to them without making them die. Then we have a great looking crop of Lomatia fraseri, a rainforest-dwelling Protea relative that is totally hardy and has large white flowerheads. Some new (and returning) Grevilleas are in the pipeline, including ‘Neil Bell’ which are a bit on the small side but I think they are ready enough to sell. This one looks a lot like ‘Marshall Olbrich’ but with larger leaves and flowers, and improved vigor, drought resistance and frost-hardiness. It is a real winner!

In the western native department, 1 gallons of Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’ are still looking good. If you’re new to manzanita this is one of the most popular selections and easiest to grow. A lot of the newly potted stuff still isn’t ready yet, but here are a few things that are: Two new (to us) Ceanothus, ‘Italian Skies’ with masses of light blue flowers and ‘Joyce Coulter’, and older cultivar with mid-blue flowers and a spreading habit, that grows very quickly! We also have our native Penstemon fruticosus, and a Penstemon barrettiae hybrid (the other parent being unknown). And this is your chance to get a newly germinated Aesculus californica which look awesome.

Now to top off the list with a bunch of really random things. We haven’t carried the South African Buddleja loricata or B. salvifolia for years, but now they are back. Looking similar to B. loricata is B. araucana from Chile, which is also out there. In the Mediterranean department we may as well mention new crops of the extremely floriferous Cistus ‘Chelsea Bonnett’, along with Teucrium fruticans ‘Azureum’, Myrtus communis ‘Andy Van Helvengen’ (a cold hardy myrtle selection) and Quercus trojana, a Mediterranean oak. And finally, I bet you didn’t know we had Hypericum henryi from Vietnam, or Cinnamomum glanduliferum, a beautiful broadleaf evergreen tree that I can’t remember if it’s from China or Japan. (Better look that one up!) Anyway it’s impressively hardy with a rather subtropical look. And if all that stuff grows too large for you, we could still sell you a nice hairy Sempervivum like S. arachnoiderum x pittoni, or the fabulous S. ‘Witchery’. Well that was quite a paragraph. But now I’m done.

If you read that far, you have a feel for what kinds of plants to expect around here. Most of what’s on the web site is still available too in some form, though we may be down to low numbers. Anyway, we look forward to seeing you, whether it be this weekend at the open house, or at a later appointment or at one of the sales and events we participate in.

Happy spring!

Ian

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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