To Toot Our Own Horn

In what may be my briefest blog post in a while, if we’re lucky (and because I don’t have a lot of time), we will embark on a bit of shameless self-promotion.

First, I must call your attention to our mail-order catalog, where 46 new species have just been added to our list. Notable features include an assortment of new Arctostaphylos generally unavailable elsewhere (e-mail for availability first; we just sold out of a couple things), and an expanded selection of conifers. Astelias are back for the first time in years, and we have a few of the spectacular Protea punctata which seems to actually have a shot at being fairly hardy in sheltered Northwest gardens.

And, of course, there are lots more. Not everything we have just added to the list says “New Fall 2013” as this designation applies only to plants that are truly new to our mail-order list, not those that have returned after being unavailable for a time.

Basically I am playing catch-up from all the plants I should have added over the summer. Oh well – better late than never. It is still a great time to plant, fall (despite a dramatic start) being far from over; and we would be thrilled to have your business to keep us going into what is usually the slow season for nurseries. I don’t know about you but our soil is nice and moist and ready for planting, even here in the rainshadow.

The big news however is that we are famous. During our September open house a group of very enthusiastic garden bloggers dropped by for a visit and quick tour. We were happy to welcome this group as they were serious plant nuts who had never seen our nursery before. In order to fully savor our new-found fame we must share the posts by these bloggers that included mention and generally favorable reviews of our nursery. We thank them for the visit and they are welcome back at any time.

The relevant links follow.
When You Come to the End of a Perfect Day; The Desert Northwest (The Outlaw Gardener)
Veni, vidi, WeHoP – a glorious garden geek adventure – part 2 (The Creative Flux)
And finally, The Desert Northwest… (Danger Garden)

Not directly related, but as long as I’m at it, Loree at Danger Garden (among the group of intrepid nursery hoppers) has also mentioned us in this post.

Finally, we wish to offer our sincere thanks to all of you who attended our open house, purchased from us at the Salem Hardy Plant Society Sale, or the NHS Fall Sale. I’m no economist but I have a hunch it would be a lot more difficult to run this nursery if no one ever bought anything. Drop me a line sometime and let us know how your plants are doing.

NEWSLETTER – September Open House and Sales! Featuring Conifers.

Greetings Friends Against Boring Plants,

September is here, and despite it still being summer, our fall rains have arrived early! And it looks like more is on the way this weekend. Of course we all know fall is a great time to plant, and that is especially true of early fall, and it is even more true in weather like this. We have been doing a little planting ourselves.

So here is what we have in the pipeline. This weekend is our final open house of the year! (Details/directions on our web site as always.) Then after that we have two regional sales coming up: The Salem Hardy Plant Society sale, Sept 14th in Salem, and the Northwest Horticultural Society sale, Sept 20-21st in Seattle. We welcome your special plant requests for either of these sales. After that, well, there is still mail-order, and you can always visit the nursery by appointment!

You hear often that “fall is a great time to plant,” but is it really true? Well, yes, in fact, it is. Studies have shown that many plants make more root growth in the fall than at other seasons. And we have certainly noticed that plants set in the ground or potted on in the fall have a great advantage in the next growing over those whose planting was delayed until early the following spring. Not only do they start growing faster and better, but they look greener and healthier too, with fewer physiological problems.

As we are highlighting different groups of plants with each open house event, I thought this time we would go with conifers. (Even if I have already mentioned some of these earlier.) They might not be listed on the web site yet, but we still have a few Juniperus maritima left. This is one of western Washington’s most special native plants, being found only in the ‘Salish Sea’ area and a few isolated pockets of the northeast Olympic Peninsula. A true relict from the Holocene warm period, this is a great drought tolerant, conical, small tree for the garden producing berries that attract the birds. It is uncommon in the wild and very hard to find in nurseries.

In the Juniper department, we also have an ever-increasing selection of Juniperus communis var. saxatilis forms from various places around the Northwest. This is a nice groundcover that grows slowly enough to be considered well-behaved. For something shrubbier, we also have an upright form of J. communis. And just in case you need something extremely drought tolerant that will keep the neighbors out, we have a few Juniperus oxycedrus. This Mediterranean species makes a big prickly tree! Just don’t plant it too close to anything else.

Getting back to rare and special Northwest native conifers, Taxus brevifolia, the Pacific yew, is a nice small tree that thrives in shade. It is easy to grow but slow, and with its glossy, dark needles I think it can look a bit exotic in the right spot. We also still have plenty of Modoc Cypress (Cupressus bakeri) in stock (small size only). This beautiful tree occurs farther north in the wild than any other Western Hemisphere cypress, and has fine, soft, grey foliage. Although easily hardy in Northwest gardens, it remains very rare. We have a few other rare Cypresses in stock too, like C. austro-tibetica and green Arizona cypress (C. arizonica subsp. arizonica).

Looking at a few more West Coast conifers, you can also find at our nursery Pinus jefferyi, which does great here and looks much like a Ponderosa. We also have a new crop of the deep green and vigorous Cupressus pygmaea and the beautiful C. macrocarpa ‘Donard Gold’. And we have just a few of the very rare Torreya californica, a yew-like tree with long sharp needles that can eventually reach quite a large size!

Port Orford Cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) remains a great choice for well-drained Pacific Northwest gardens. We carry an excellent large-growing blue form of it as well as the fabulous upright cultivar ‘Blue Surprise’. If you want to try something different we also have some little starts of ‘Chilworth Silver’.

The beautiful Chilean conifers Podocarpus salignus and Prumnopitys andina remain available in ample quantities, as does Fitzroya cupressoides, the “Patagonian redwood” which can live longer than 1,000 years! Some other fun Southern Hemisphere conifers in stock would include the golden totara, Podocarpus totara ‘Aurea’ from New Zealand, and the weeping Tasmanian Huon pine, Lagarostrobos franklinii. We also have an exciting form of Afrocarpus falcatus that has proven hardy at the J. C. Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina. This is usually regarded as a houseplant in our climate but why not try it outside?

In the smaller Podocarpus department, we continue to have plenty of Podocarpus lawrencei ‘Purple King’ with its beautiful purple winter color, as well as P. alpinus ‘Red Tip’, and the plain green form of P. alpinus, and P. nivalis which makes a nice little groundcover.

Finally I shall mention a couple of Asian conifers: Podocarpus macrophyllus, which is often sold as a houseplant though it is actually completely hardy outdoors in the Northwest. With its huge strappy leaf-ish “needles” it hardly even looks like a conifer. And Cephalotaxus harringtonia is a fun plant with a tiered branching habit and dark green needles. It does great in the shade, and both of these will appreciate summer water.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you soon!
Ian & Co.
The Desert Northwest
PO Box 3475
Sequim, WA 98382
mail@desertnorthwest.com
http://www.desertnorthwest.com

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

Fellow Heroes of Horticulture,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Olearia macrodonta, a spring bloomer, with Phormiums.

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

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Olearia avicennifolia blooming in August!

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

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

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Divaricate growth habit of Corokia cotoneaster.

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Leptospermum scoparium, the source of tea tree oil.

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

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

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

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Podocarpus totara ‘Aurea’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Gardening Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK, I’m done now. Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you soon!
Ian & Co.
The Desert Northwest
PO Box 3475
Sequim, WA 98382
mail@desertnorthwest.com
http://www.desertnorthwest.com

Fronderosa! Manzanita update. Naming plants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEWSLETTER – June 2012 – First ever OPEN HOUSE and more!

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Sequim! Where did spring go?? More on that later. First, we have some exciting announcements!

You will not want to miss our first ever AWESOME OPEN HOUSE! What’s that? We’re really going to be open? That’s right. For one weekend, on July 20 – 22, we will be open for business and you can come out and see our amazing collection of cool and unique plants! Also, if you’re a certifiable plant geek, you may be interested in our Plant Geek Convergence on the 21st. For more information on both, and of course the all-important directions for how to get here, please see http://www.desertnorthwest.com/openhouse.html We look forward to seeing you at what is certain to be a unique plant shopping experience!

Next, and almost as exciting, we have finally updated the mail-order list again. This has been in the works for a long time, but required a major edit on our part as I wanted to go through all the plant descriptions to make sure they were accurate and up to date (and to redo some formatting), as well as add a new feature, Drought Resistance Codes. So it was supposed to be the spring 2012 list, and now it has ended up being the summer 2012 list – but hey, it all worked out! And it is very much current, even including stuff that has just become ready in the last few weeks. The Drought Resistance Codes are something we hope to continue to work on. So people won’t be totally lost we have posted a small essay to introduce the concept, which you can view at http://www.desertnorthwest.com/catalog/terms.html and scroll to the bottom of the page.

The new list, of course, contains many exciting new plants! (http://www.desertnorthwest.com/catalog/) Of particular interest will be our recent Penstemon collections; these are the perfect drought tolerant perennials for the Northwest garden (unless you live in a swamp or a dark forest, like Shrek). You will find a number of new selections on our list including the spectacular P. barrettiae, a rare endemic of the Columbia Gorge area that features glaucous-bluish leaves and tight clusters of light purple flowers! Then we have Grevillea australis, which is perhaps the hardiest Grevillea, or close to it anyway; and has (surprisingly) fragrant flowers: it does not get enormous and is perfect for smaller spaces. And Kageneckia oblonga is an interesting shrub or small tree from Chile in the Rosaceae family, that ought to be fun to try: so far the plants remind me very much of Vauqelinia (Arizona Rosewood) or Lyonothamnus (Catalina Ironwood), to which it must be closely related.

Also noteworthy from the list; Embothrium coccineum, the stunning Chilean Fire-Tree, is back after a many-year abesnce; as is Fuchsia procumbens. We also offer one of our Ceanothus prostratus collections (a particularly nice one, too!), a plant that is not easy to find; an evergreen Mediterranean oak that I haven’t seen here but it ought to do well (Q. faginea subsp. alpestris); an easy-care tree Aloe (A. plicatilis), the groundcover Gunnera magellanica, and several new conifers including the ever-popular Araucaria araucana (monkey puzzle tree). All of the new plants are noted on the list, but we still like to suggest looking carefully at the whole list,, as certain “returning” plants we have not offered in many years are not noted as new.

So, what else is new? Winter wasn’t bad, making me wish I had planted more stuff out in the ground last fall. We got snowed on for a few days totaling 9” but the ice missed us completely. June weather has been a drag (as I type, rain is pouring down – yes, even in Sequim) but April and May were about dead-on average which felt nice after last year. Even so, our spring seemed to get sucked away on various projects and we are now massively behind on potting up plants. Hopefully we can do some serious catching up over the next couple months now that we have about finished our third greenhouse. That has been a major time-consumer and I think I have learned my lesson to never again build a greenhouse in the spring when I have so much to keep on top of with the plants!

We (or in some cases, just I) enjoyed seeing you at the plant sales in which we have participated this spring; including the Bloedel Reserve sale, Hortlandia, the Rhododendron Species Foundation sale, and of course the Sequim Garden Show. Our next such event is the Fronderosa Frolic which is coming up the second week in August in Gold Bar, so if you can’t make it to the open house we will be glad to bring any plants you would like for pick-up there. If you can’t wait that long, we will also be present at Dragonfly Farms Nursery in Kingston on the weekend of July 14 – 15 with a selection of plants to sell (we thank Heidi for this opportunity!); again, special requests are welcome for that too.

Thanks for reading and for your continued interest in our nursery! May your garden live long and prosper. And please come and see us at the open house!

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

Has the word “nursery” lost its meaning?

It’s time once again for more of a rant-style post. And this is going to be a long one, as in loooooong with lots of extra o’s. But it’s more than just a rant: it’s also a splendid collection of astute observations, ending with a challenge. And I had better mention that I’m not doing this just because I think it’s fun or like to be negative. It’s more that I think I am asking some very important questions that people ought to stop and think about.

A few posts back, concerning trends in nursery business models and marketing, I posed the question, “is the past the key to the future?” I noted very briefly a number of subjects surrounding this question where the game has changed considerably in the past 50 years; and, not surprisingly, there is much more to be said about how nurseries have responded to these changes, or in some cases failed to respond to them. Most importantly, as we look to the future, one has to assess “what we should do” as a business to succeed and remain relevant and competitive into the future. So having said that, I had better preface this post with an important point. I recognize that everyone has to find their own path to success (or at least try!). So it sounds like I’m trying to tell everyone how to do things, but I realize it would be pretentious of me to assume such a position; especially with my business only in its very early stages, with little going for it that may appear decisively “successful” from the outside. The disclaimer, then, is that these ideas are just that, ideas; and they are my ideas, which means I allow plenty of room for disagreement. Fire away! So, here we go.

Back in high school, when I first began taking an interest in plants, one of my favorite nurseries was a place called Olympia Greenhouses. (I would be thrilled, by the way, to hear that any of my readers remembers this place in its original form!) Olympia Greenhouses was among the last of a dying breed of nursery: the kind that propagated and produced plants on site, and sold them directly to the local community. When I walked into this place, it would be in varying degrees of disarray, with way too many of certain plants than could possibly sell, hundreds of giant houseplants, and a nursery yard going so far back you could get lost in it, with no possible hope of keeping it all tidy and under control. But that was all just part of the fun. You could go in there once a week and find something new—tucked away in a corner, or brought out of production—with each visit. And by something new, I really mean something old. Not the latest and greatest plants, but the one’s we’ve increasingly forgotten, in some cases for the better but often to our own loss.

In about 1996 (I think) this nursery was bought out by an owner (or group?) who was apparently totally incompetent and quickly ran the business into the ground. It soon closed, the greenhouses collapsed and became overgrown with blackberries and eventually alder trees, in which condition it has remained the last time I checked. Oh well.

Today I can count on one hand the number of these old-fashioned production retail nurseries in western Washington that have survived more or less in their original form (that I am aware of!). By far the best known is Flower World in Maltby. Another example (and I haven’t been there in years, so I hope they’re still around) is The Brothers Greenhouses, which is found along Highway 3 between Belfair and Gorst. I stepped in there and almost thought I was back in Olympia Greenhouses—although the selection wasn’t as interesting, the place had the same sort of feel. (They said they also did some wholesale, but it was really tough to tell who their market was—certainly not any of the local retail nurseries I have ever visited in the area.)

To be clear on what kind of nursery I’m not talking about: I can also think of a few nurseries who claim “we grow our own plants;” yet, while they may produce a proportion of their own stock, it’s obvious that they have also brought in plenty of plants from wholesalers such as Monrovia (as if they could hide those green pots!), and lots of bare-root trees and shrubs that they didn’t produce themselves. So they don’t count. Also, I’m excluding from this categorization nurseries that produce many of their own plants and offer some retail sales, yet have another major outlet (usually mail-order) for their plants. These are usually specialty nurseries and include Desert Northwest and a number of other nurseries that continue to do business this way (Raintree, Coenosium, Colvos Creek, Fancy Fronds, etc.)

The nursery industry has changed dramatically over the decades. It now appears that the majority of retail garden centers and nurseries now buy most or all of their stock from wholesale nurseries. For those that do continue producing some of their own stock, this seems to account for a continually decreasing proportion of their sales, with a trend towards producing only a limited variety of annuals with no other plant types represented. While the industry keeps trending in this direction, it’s rare that I see anyone stop to critically analyze the possible benefits and drawbacks that may result from these changes. (One could say that critical analysis in general tends to be severely lacking from the horticulture industry, and this is but one example – oops, did I just say that?)

In fact, I’m to the point of wondering why businesses that don’t produce plants should appropriately be called nurseries. My dictionary defines a nursery as “a place where plants are grown for sale, transplanting, or experimentation.” The use of the word “grown” in this context would appear to suggest that plants at a nursery are meant to increase in size while there. This idea stands in opposition to the usual intent of retailers, which is to buy retail-ready plants from vendors and liquidate them as quickly as possible, and in pretty much the same form. So I guess I have this novel idea that nurseries, to be worthy of the word, should not just sell plants, but they should grow plants. Businesses that have completely abandoned production might be more appropriately called “plant stores.” I realize that’s possibly a subjective point, depending on how much one wishes to stress dictionary definitions; but still, it bears contemplation.

When retail nurseries produced their own plants, that meant the people selling the plants actually had plenty of hands-on experience with the plants. They knew exactly what everything they sold needed to succeed in cultivation, because they had, in fact, grown it themselves. Now garden centers often pride themselves in having knowledgeable employees, yet it’s my observation that this knowledge is based more often on books, the internet, plant tags, and (everyone’s favorite) heresay than on personal experience. These sources of information are potentially less reliable, or sometimes inapplicable to our region, than good old personal observation of plants over time. Unfortunately, most people who work in retail nurseries don’t have sufficient funds or garden space to buy one of each plant offered and try it, nor do they have a chance to watch the plants over a period of time on the sales floor in the same way that they might at a production nursery. The result is that while the breadth of knowledge may be impressive, the quality of knowledge isn’t always adequate. Have you ever wondered why so much plant information circulating today is still just plain wrong, after we should have had decades to figure things out? Perhaps this is partly a result of this shift away from production by retail nurseries and corresponding tendency for many of their employees to lack the hands-on plant experience they need to discern such things. It’s something else to think about the next time you visit a nur – I mean, plant store.

Also contributing to the misinformation problem is the tendency of wholesalers releasing new plants to make definitive statements about their needs or features based on trials over an inadequately short time period or narrow range of climates. How can they really know how big something will get in 10 years? In 20? If it grows 10′ tall at the test garden in California, who’s to say how big it will get in Seattle in the same span of time? 3 feet? 15 feet? Or will it freeze dead the first winter? Now I know that sometimes growers and breeders do a better job than that testing new plants – but it’s still not always good enough to be sufficiently accurate. I have observed that, generally, retail nurseries accept whatever the wholesalers tell them and pass this information on to the customers without bothering about its accuracy. Is that really the best thing for the overall health of the retail business?

In fact, another more subtle phenomenon that has shadowed the shift of retail nurseries away from production is that, increasingly, plant breeders and wholesale nurseries are controlling the market. For a while I had doubts about whether this is true, since common theory dictates that the market is based on the demands of consumers. But if nothing else, I’m certainly convinced that the average nursery retailer has completely lost control, and this does not benefit the gardening public. The retailers should be the experts, and should be leading the way, and deciding what they sell based on what they actually want to sell. They should be able to discern that new plants promoted by plant breeders are not always superior to the old plants, and inform the customers. Instead, they (not without exception, but all too often) just play along with whatever the wholesale reps tell them, compromising their long term potential as a trusted source of garden expertise for their short term profit margin. Related to this, people are forgetting “old” plants that used to be more common and deserve much wider use. For example, Photinia serrulata is a useful, attractive, small evergreen tree that performs perfectly in Seattle, where it lingers in certain older gardens. But I can’t recall ever having seen one at a nursery. If the wholesalers don’t grow it, no one else does either, so people forget it exists. Or they’ll bring a piece of it into the garden center hoping to find someone who can tell them what it is, and none of the employees younger than 65 will be able to identify it, and if anyone wants to buy one, well they’re just plain out of luck because no one is growing it anymore.

SO… what’s the big deal? Maybe you’ve accepted all those trends as just the way things are. This is how it is in all the other nurseries, so why break the mold? But, all these other reasons (and nostalgia) aside, I can add a few very practical reasons why retail nurseries should seriously consider a deliberate return to production, and why I believe the future may, and should, see a reversal of the trend away from it.

Let’s consider for a moment what a retail nursery is paying for when it purchases a plant from a wholesale nursery. One must pay for the soil, fertilizer, and labor that went into its production, for facilities and maintenance, taxes, and (sometimes) for patent rights and water. One must also usually pay to heat greenhouses. You’re also paying for your friendly wholesale nursery representative. And I’m sure we could think of lots more expenses; that was just a quick list “off the top of my head.”

Then — the big one — one must pay for delivery. Even in those rare cases where there’s no visible “delivery fee,” we all know (unless we forget to stop and think about it – I hope not!) that you’re still paying for delivery, since the wholesaler has to absorb those costs somehow. I think we can safely predict that delivery of plants on trucks is not something that will get less expensive in the future. Obviously, producing plants on site eliminates these costs entirely—producing them off site a few miles away, under control of the retailer, reduces them substantially; and still has the side benefit of allowing for better control of one’s inventory vs. being at the mercy of wholesale suppliers.

And then – the even bigger one – wholesale nurseries have to absorb all those costs making only half as much money or less per plant as the retailer. Suppose a wholesaler puts $4.50 (all of the above costs together) into a 1 gallon plant and sells it for $5.00, keeping the remaining $0.50 as profit. In theory, the production retailer (assuming a professionally trained production staff and adequate facilities) should be able to put the same $4.50 into that plant and sell it for… $12? $15? I grant that keeping a sales staff and appealing customer experience adds a bit of additional overhead to the $4.50, but even so, it’s not unrealistic to possibly keep $5 – 6 or more as profit for the same plant!

(By the way – that math in the last paragraph is what we in the specialty nursery business call a trade secret. So, shhhh! Don’t tell anyone! Actually, anyone who has managed to read this far is welcome to it.)

And THENNN, we’re all observing a cultural trend whereby products shipped over long distances are increasingly less “cool” among those who decide what is hip and fashionable, than things produced locally. People want to “shop local” – why not be the first in town to offer locally produced plants?

ANNNND – yeah one more – as long as we’re taking about what people want (imagine that) – and tying into this problem of plant breeders and wholesalers controlling the industry – shouldn’t we be wondering how much longer customers are going to tolerate poorly adapted or just plain lousy patented plants that fail to perform as expected? I’m not saying all patented plants are necessarily lousy, but a surprising number of them are genetically weak or just aren’t bred for the Northwest’s climate. Meanwhile, wholesale nurseries push them into our marketplace at the expense of more appropriate selections. Will there be a backlash? Will gardeners someday start specifically avoiding the latest patented cultivars because they are skeptical of them in general? Who knows? – someday it could happen.

As far as I can tell, the main reason retail “nurseries” and garden centers are not interested in producing their own plants is they have established what they consider to be a successful model of business and would prefer not to change it much. But the time may come when this change may be necessary, and these businesses should be ready. We would all agree that there’s no point in sticking to your guns to the point where you start losing money and losing business to your competition. I’ve heard plenty of other reasons not to explore production, from the cost of heating greenhouses (which you essentially pay twice as much for when purchasing wholesale plants, as spelled out above), to the challenge of finding and training new staff. None of these excuses really holds water. To me, the best — perhaps the only — excuse for retail plant stores not to expand into production is the lack of available space. And even this may not be a workable reason forever, as many nurseries have found that substantially downsizing in coverage is what it has taken to get through our current difficult economy. Hmm, now what to do with all that “extra” space?

I’m not advocating a return to the past just because I happen to like it better. I think it’s partially true that what was unworkable about Olympia Greenhouses was partially its failure to adapt to a changing market at the time (although I also heard rumors of the new owner being a plain lousy and irresponsible boss making numerous missteps with management and staff). We can expect change to continue, and should always be ready to adapt to it.

But here’s one thing I think would actually be helpful to the nursery business: I would like to suggest a return to a gardening culture in which nursery people who sell garden plants are the same people actively involved in breeding, propagating, selecting and producing the best ones, rather than this ridiculous breeder to grower to broker to retailer chain we have now. I believe more than a few positive changes would result from this, all the way from quality of plant material and advice, to employee satisfaction; vastly benefiting horticulture and gardening culture at large. And that is just one reason why we at the Desert Northwest remain firmly committed to propagating and producing all of our own plants here on site. Anyway, this is getting so long, I’ll try to describe exactly what that would look like in greater detail in a future blog post.

In the meantime, just to be obnoxious (wasn’t that one of your New Year’s resolutions too?), I may as well go on labeling non-production “nurseries” as plant stores. If we don’t draw the line somewhere, the word nursery as it pertains to horticulture loses its meaning.

Peninsula Gardens, Gig Harbor, Washington in 2007. A classic example of the “plant store” business model (in their later years at least), they are now out of business.

Derby Canyon Natives, Peshastin, Washington. Although many of their plants go towards restoration projects, and the like; at least they are a grower that sells directly to the public. (I had such a hard time finding a photo of just the sort of nursery I am talking about that this was the closest thing I could think of!)

THE DESERT NORTHWEST NEWSLETTER – August 2011

Ed. note: Following is our first email newsletter in years, but hopefully not the last. Enjoy!

Dear Friends,
Greetings from Sequim, Washington, where we are pleased to announce the sun is out once again and for the last week or so it has finally started to feel like a normal summer. As I look back I note that our previous newsletter dates back to – wait for it – October 2007! That’s right, when things still looked rosy, before the economic meltdown really set in. Now that things aren’t so rosy anymore, we hope that people will be increasingly interested in saving water and reducing garden maintenance, and therefore interested in our plants which (for the most part) require little of either once established.

With such a long hiatus from e-mail newsletters, some of you may be wondering if we have gone out of business, or if your attempt to sign up for the newsletter was unsuccessful, or what. You may have even forgotten you signed up! But in any case, we’re still here, and at long last we’re finally organized enough to make this happen again. I know it’s not exactly a spectacular example of effective e-mail marketing from a business standpoint, but at least we are not guilty of spamming your inbox with at least two or three “newsletters” a week as is another certain mail-order nursery which shall remain unnamed. In theory we’d like to aim for about four to six newsletters per year. Due to the long break, this newsletter will necessarily be the longest one we have ever sent. Think of it as a “chapter” in the story of the Desert Northwest.

We would like (before rambling enough to completely lose your attention) to draw your attention to our largest EVER inventory of mail-order plants, which can be viewed at http://www.desertnorthwest.com/catalog
Now the only problem is that we provide only a simple list of plant names: we have not managed to keep up with our enticing descriptions. We hope this shall soon be remedied, but don’t wait for it. (And hey, at least we have kept the list current for the last couple seasons, which is more than we can say for certain periods in the past.) In the meantime, you can find out how cool these plants are by plugging the names into a Google search and/or Google image search. Between Google and Wikipedia you can probably find out a lot more about some of these plants than I could tell you anyways (although that won’t stop me from trying in the future!). I know, it’s not quite the same, but it’s something to do on those days when you just need to geek out with some plants.

Highlights of the mail-order list include our best selection of Arctostaphylos (manzanita) in years, including an outstanding local form of A. x media with grey-green leaves and pink stems. We also have four collections of Banksia marginata now, three of which are new to us. This is certainly one of the most promising Banksias for Pacific Northwest gardens, as some specimens even in cold gardens remain alive after the last few cold winters. We also have B. integrifolia subp. monticola, a “mountain Banksia” of giant proportions never before offered in the US that we know of (except by us last year). We also have five species of Azara, fourteen(!) Callistemon selections, and fifteen of Grevillea (that may be our best ever, or close to it), and fifteen of Leptospermum including some very hardy species (the newly offered “spreading form” of L. lanigerum, shared with us by Mark and Lila Muller at Fairmeadow Nursery, endured 6 degrees F undamaged!) – each more beautiful than the next, of course. If you need any advice selecting the best ones for your site, just e-mail us and we would be glad to help. Our conifer selection has also expanded greatly, and don’t miss the Hebes which have now all been re-classified under Veronica for some reason.

We would also like to present our largest list ever of specimen plants (which is what we are calling plants in 1 gallon or larger sizes) for sale, which can be viewed at http://www.desertnorthwest.com/catalog/specimen_plants.html
These plants, available for local sale, look great now – so, hey, come and get ’em! Just e-mail us for an appointment; we are happy to accommodate.

For those of you who are wondering about seeds, we are unfortunately suspending seed sales until later this winter when I will make a reassessment. (I know it doesn’t say that on the web site.) With the absence of any recent collecting trips, and the fact that some of the stuff we used to collect locally has frozen in the last few colder winters, you could say our seed sources have somewhat dried up. Stay tuned for more updates and if there are any particular items you are interested in you are welcome to inquire about availability.

So, to quickly recap what has happened since October 2007: in 2008 we moved the nursery from Poulsbo to Sequim and went through a difficult period of having very little time to take care of the nursery or build new greenhouses in Sequim. A proportion of our inventory and collections were lost in the December 2008 freeze, although we did manage to save a lot of stuff by moving it into the garage for a time! Since then we have been adding as much as we can to our facilities, having constructed a shade house and two large (20 x 84′) greenhouses (with only one layer of plastic, I have been using them more as cold frames so far). So we have certainly kept busy. This year I feel like things are really coming together better than ever before, and I suppose that relates to our impressive (for the scale of our operation) inventory of healthy plants. If you’re interested in a closer look at the nursery development process, go to our blog at https://desertnw.wordpress.com/ and start clicking back at ‘Older Entries’ to see the documentation of greenhouse construction and other exciting stuff.

Some may be wondering how we feel about the “lousy” weather we have been experiencing over the last couple years. Mostly I have been too busy working on the nursery (among other responsibilities) to have time to complain. I will say that a cool spring actually makes things easier in some ways – if plant growth is slowed down a bit by cool weather then I’m under less pressure to pot up those plants that don’t sell right away, before they become rootbound and leggy. I then have all summer to catch up which actually works out quite well. The other thing to bear in mind is that no matter how cool and dark it gets around here, we can never manage a truly “wet” Northwest summer. Unless you live in a swamp, sooner or later your soil dries out, and if your garden is thirsty then you’re watering, even if only for a short period for some years. Thus we continue to believe that what we are doing remains relevant and beneficial. We would also note that one of our coolest summers in history, 1957, was followed immediately by an exceptionally long and hot one in 1958. Anything can happen!

A couple other quick notes before I wrap this up. I mentioned the blog – I have been posting more regularly there about a variety of topics that you may find interesting if you have a professional interest in horticulture. Another way we are staying in touch is through Facebook or “the evil empire” as we sometimes call it. We have been posting brief updates there once or twice per week as well as the most current photos of the nursery. If you are on Facebook please consider going to https://www.facebook.com/TheDesertNorthwest and …(cough)… “liking” our page.

Finally, since I know you’re looking for something to do next weekend that doesn’t involve hanging out with people who don’t care about plants, we would like to invite you to the 2011 Fronderosa Frolic, which will be held at Fancy Fronds Nursery in Gold Bar (for more information see http://www.fancyfronds.com/frolic.cfm). We will be there along with all the most exciting Northwest nurseries with all the coolest plants, including some of our favorites such as Fairmeadow Nursery, Steamboat Island Nursery, Cistus Nursery, Far Reaches Farm , Dancing Oaks Nursery, and more! And you should come and buy some ferns from Judith at Fancy Fronds who is truly one of the coolest and most gracious nursery people around. If there are any special requests we can bring for you just let us know and we will bring them – we hope to see you there!

Thanks for reading and may your plants and gardens continue to prosper whatever life brings!
Spinosissimusly,
Ian & Co.
The Desert Northwest
http://www.desertnorthwest.com
mail@desertnorthwest.com
PO Box 3475, Sequim, WA 98382

Why I don’t miss mainstream horticulture

I’ve been following a new online group of nursery professionals, where I recently saw this post which sent negative vibes deep into my soul:

“Is there a site that tells of all the new plants coming out for the new year or do you have to go web site to web site?”
– (name withheld)

This sounds like some people I used to work with.

First question. Why does this nursery feel like it needs to offer “all the new plants?” The implication is that they’re incapable of doing anything original and the loftiest goal they have as a company is just to try to keep up with everyone else. Of course my idea is that if you want some “new plants” go outside to a nice natural area and look around. There’s where the best plants are – not in some plant breeder’s catalog of overbred, boring, patented cultivars.

Next question. Does this person even like her job? Does she even like plants? The expression “do you have to” would seem to leave the burden of defense on her. And if the answer is no then what’s she doing in this job? I know, it’s not a perfect world. But someone who is really passionate about these plants should be asking “do I get to?” “can I?” “may I?” – I mean, at least make it sound like you’re excited about it!

Last question: isn’t this just a ridiculous request on the face of it? Does someone with enough industry experience (I’m assuming she has it if she’s researching this stuff) really expect someone is keeping a descriptive register of “all the new plants” for nurseries to be able to choose from? Have we thought about how many plants that is, or the practical impossibility of offering even, say, 5% of them? I guess what I’m driving at is, I only have a few years of garden center/retail experience, but that’s enough to know that the only way to be on top of bringing in “new plants” is for the retail buyer to maintain a close relationship with all of their suppliers that are marketing new introductions, who can then discuss those that are most appropriate and likely to sell in the market of that particular nursery. Of course sometimes it’s time to bring on new suppliers, but generally it’s the relationship that’s just as important as the plants.

Am I being too mean? To clarify, this isn’t meant as a personal attack in any way. And I fully acknowledge that I could be reading far too much into this post. Still, it’s worth considering as a reflection of the state of the industry. All too often the people in the horticulture industry (especially those in higher paid positions I might add) are not those who truly love plants and gardening. I know this because I’ve seen it myself in almost every nursery I’ve worked at, and in some cases I can tell just from visiting. Furthermore, many retail nurseries and garden centers in general have really lost their passion and/or niche, or never found it. In which case, why do they bother? I’m not sure.

To all those who defy this trend – who love plants and seek to know more about them – and who love the industry and are actively making it better, developing niches and setting trends – I salute you. I have as much to learn from you as anyone else!

In other news, I have made some slight modifications to this blog. Obviously I changed the title, since calling it just “newsletter/blog” was lame and it was time for a change.

I have added “categories” and assigned them to each post, making it possible to browse posts by category. This will be important as I attempt to broaden out and blog about a wider range of subjects in the future. I’ve selected five categories to be directly navigable from the bottom of the header, but I might change them – we’ll see.

I’ve also added a few new links and other favorite blogs. I hope to add to this list over time. If you would like to suggest any that are subject related (horticulture, gardening, plants, etc.) you’re welcome to do so here.

Finally, this blog has mysteriously received much more traffic in the last few days. So that’s nice – thanks for reading!

I promise this will be my last negative rant for a while. Happy new year!

Catalog Update and New Features!

Greetings desert enthusiasts. I hope you are all having a good spring. I have been too busy to do a lot of posting here but you’d better believe we are working hard at the nursery in every spare moment. The weather has gone from mild over the winter to cool and at times stormy for April and May, making for a very protracted spring – that’s fine as far as our plants are concerned because it hopefully gives us more time to get on top of them!

Several items of note. The catalog has been updated and many new plants and returning favorites are now available. So even if you’ve checked it lately, have another look! http://www.desertnorthwest.com/catalog/
New categories for conifers and Mediterranean plants were added in March, and will be maintained. Our inventory is not quite up to pre-move-to-Sequim-and-big-freeze levels, but we’re getting close.

Also, we have added a HOT LIST to note new and returning plants, other changes to our inventory, and plants coming soon. We hope to update it regularly, and you can add it to your bookmarks to check the new and exciting offerings we are able to come up with. But of course, we would say that. I also started a list of discontinued plants but I’ll probably move it to a separate page at some point.

Another change is the assimilation of 1 gallon mail order plants into the mail order catalog. Previously they were only listed separately and without any description on the alphabetical list. So the plants in the mail-order catalog designated as “1 gallon” are larger than our usual mail-order size.

You may also have noticed that I added a couple of “featured plants” to our home page providing additional direct links to the plant list. (I think we have about 400 of Agave montana, and every last one of them deserves a good home!) And I have cleaned up the main page of the catalog to hopefully make it appear more straightforward and less cluttered up.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to follow our Facebook page if you aren’t already!

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