June 20th reopening and Covid protocol!

At last, we have landed on a reopening date, which will be on Saturday, June 20th, the first day of summer! Yay. We will also plan to be open Saturdays through at least early August. Later I’ll work out a schedule for late summer and fall. We can also be available by appointment during the week. Just shoot us an e-mail at mail@desertnorthwest.com and let us know if you need to schedule an appointment!

So what’s available, you’re wondering? As of June 17th, I have finished a current plant inventory with prices, which is now posted on the web site. Thus far it is just a list with no descriptions or photos, unfortunately; but for now we hope that an up-to-date list of everything we have available will help motivate at least keen gardeners with some plant knowledge to come out here and shop. You may also notice that mail-order will be restarting in mid-July. We’ll talk more about featured plants in the next update.

And now to talk Covid protocol. We are not oblivious to the fact that Coronavirus is still looming out there, and even if things are now opening up, we sure as heck don’t want to catch it and we don’t expect you do either. In my case I’m not only concerned about spreading the disease, but if I fall sick for two or three weeks the nursery can quickly fall apart. So we’re putting into place the following precautions:

#1 If you’re sick, don’t come! That should be obvious. Please wait until you are completely all better, and then come.

#2 Masks. We have decided not to make a big deal out of masks, especially since we ourselves are unlikely to wear them especially in hot weather. Visitors may wear masks, or not. I think the main point is just to be aware and considerate, and don’t breathe on people or their stuff. If you are uncomfortable with non-mask-wearing, we respect your choice to delay your visit, and mail-order will be available soon!

#3 Distancing. I don’t know why they call it “social distancing;” it should be just “distancing.” I can still practice distancing while being anti-social, and you could say it is easier. In any case we ask that you respect other people’s space, and ours, as much as possible, keeping at least six feet away or better yet ten feet. We don’t anticipate this to be a huge problem as there is plenty of space here at the nursery, and usually not a lot of people come through at once.

#4 Touchless sales. We’ll ask that you pick out your own plants. Most people do this anyway. But we hope you will make an effort not to handle plants you have not decided to purchase. We know this isn’t always realistic but let’s give it our best shot. If you’re trying to pick through a group of plants to select the best one, we will not pull them all out for you too look at. We will also not look at photos on your phone of a space you want to work with, or a plant you want to identify, or that sort of thing. We’re not hostile, only taking precautions.

#5 Carrying plants. Boxes will be available for you to put plants in. But for the present, we will not help you pack the plants into boxes as has been our custom. There should be no need to use a cart or wagon. If you purchase a lot of plants and don’t want to carry them all, you can just back your vehicle right up almost to the sales table, and load up.

#6 Labeling plants. In normal times, we typically label plants as they go out. If you don’t need labels, that’s fine and makes things easier. If you do that’s just fine also. We will have a box of disposable gloves and I will put on a new pair to write your plant labels while transacting with each customer.

#7 Transactions. I believe I have thought through how to do this very safely–much more safely than, say, Safeway (is that ironic or what?). We will have a box that you can drop your cash or check into without touching it. We think that payment by check is the most preferable at this time, followed by cash, with credit card being the least preferred option (but can still do it if necessary). My reasoning is that a check may be written out in the exact change with tax, whereas it can be difficult to predict in advance the exact amount with cash (unless you want to bring a lot of different types of bills). But if you want to do cash I can supply you with change while wearing disposable gloves. This also applies if you want a receipt, which we usually try to provide especially for large purchases–but if you don’t need one, that’s fine and makes things easier. For credit cards, we can process them by manually inserting the number, but will not swipe them. You could either read the number aloud (might not want to do that with other customers present), or set it down on a table and I could read it off, then let you pick it up and read off the security code.

That sounds like a lot of information, but we are all used to this sort of thing now, and I don’t really expect it to be that difficult. I am confident that our customers are the kind of people who excel and being mindful and considerate. I’ll look forward to seeing you this summer!

Ian

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Summer 2019 Update and Nursery Open Days

So here it is, almost summer already, having our usual bit of cool June weather before it really kicks in. And what looked like it would be a great year for our nursery back in January has turned out to be, well, quite different from expectations. I’ll comment a little more on that at the end of this post, but the main thing to discuss for now is how we plan to proceed with summer sales. I’m getting a lot of emails asking are we open, and when? It would have helped to post that on the web site earlier, I know. But I’ll get there. And rest assured we will still be open this weekend (June 21-22) as originally planned. Also if you show up this weekend you’ll get to see some amazing Echinocereus cacti in bloom in our display bed!  (Sorry, none to sell right now.)

I’ll be very up front about the state of the nursery, which right now does not look much like I wanted it to. I can’t pretend it looks spectacular. But it doesn’t make sense to cancel anything, since there are still so many great plants out there! There isn’t everything I was hoping for by now, but there are still a LOT of cool plants. And there are a few new items. If anyone wants little plants of Eucalyptus neglecta or E. gunnii this is your chance! They are small but look perfect, and I’ve had the best success putting them out from little pots.

So the basic plan is, we are open this Friday and Saturday, then on top of that will be open every Saturday through August and perhaps beyond. We will also be open August 9th and Sept 20-21 which was advertised earlier. But I’m not going to call it an “open house,” nor will I be sending out the usual e-mails in advance either. It’s just, show up on any Saturday you want, and we will be here. We will be potting up, cleaning up, and selling as the occasion arises. We will probably not be providing signage for the plants this time around as we have done in the past; I think there just isn’t going to be time. However, a deep discount is provided for quality-compromised plants, which has been the case for some time.

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Speaking of TIME, I suppose that’s the big factor in what’s going on with the nursery. As in, there’s not enough of it to go around, and I’m having a lot of trouble keeping up. This could be attributed to poor planning on my part, but there are also factors beyond my control, such as the weather and me getting sick. I’ve been considering options to solve these problems, and doing some re-thinking on the direction of the nursery for the future. I may produce a longer blog post about that sometime. But at least, I think closing the nursery is not an option. When my greenhouses didn’t collapse in the snow, I took that as a sign that I had best continue. Also, gardeners’ interest in our plants and nursery concept continues to be very high. So I guess this means we’re not giving up!

But with that having been said, perhaps I’ll shoot for a little sympathy here. First, the weather hit us really hard in February. Did I EVER think I would see two feet of snow in Sequim? (Which was mostly in 24 hours.) Well, honestly, I should have, since it happened in 1996. As I was out there knocking snow off greenhouses all night, to the limit of physical exhaustion, I was thinking to myself, let’s suppose two feet of snow at once is a “20-year event.” Do I want to be out here doing this again when I’m 60? As an aside, it’s a good thing I started taking some steps last year to get in better overall physical health, or I certainly would have lost the greenhouses. As it was, I was pushed close to the limit of my physical endurance, and I’m certain the greenhouses were close to collapse. We ended up with 36” inches of snow for the month. Some of you folks back east are probably like “what’s the big deal?” But around here this almost never happens, and you sure as heck don’t see it coming.

Second, did I ever think snow could take so long to melt? The last patch of snow finally fizzled out on St. Patricks Day, which has to be some kind of record. But it’s a real problem when everything stays basically frozen for a month. I need that time to work on the nursery and clean up the plants for spring. I can’t get the weeds out of the plants when the plants are frozen and the potting soil is frozen. And this is one reason I am so far behind.

So in March, I managed to pull together enough plants for the Sequim Garden Show. And then of course I got the flu. It seems to take longer to recover every time I get it. That was just when we had that hot weather in March, and I didn’t feel well enough to adequately keep watered all my exciting cuttings from California the Southwest. Some will be fine but a lot of them died that week, sadly. I’m sure going from winter to summer in a matter of about a week was as much of a shock to the plants as to me.

April was more productive, and the Hortlandia sale may be considered a success given the circumstances. And I’m glad the weather was normal for the whole month.

Then I got the flu again in June and lost a bunch more work time. In fact I didn’t even feel good enough to produce this blog post yesterday or this morning, so here I am doing it in the evening. I think I’m on the mend and should be good enough for this weekend. But sheesh.

Do I have enough material yet for a Shakespearean tragedy? Now, I know there are solutions to any of the above problems. Much has to do simply with preparedness, given that it is impossible to know what the future holds. But it takes time to implement any of those solutions.

Finally, on a broader scale, I have come to a better understanding of reasons the nursery has been in a general state of “decline” (in terms of maintenance, not sales) since 2015. But the reasons for that are personal and complex; and I don’t want to go into detail here except to describe (again, in a future post) what I see as the best solutions going forward.

Before wrapping up this post, I wish to thank my current volunteers, Bob and Susan, for their help this year (and in the past). Sometimes it is easier to deal with someone else’s mess than your own, which seems like the only possible explanation for why they continue to return. I do greatly appreciate them.

Oh, one last announcement, I should mention that wholesale will not be offered in 2019. Last year was very successful, and we hope to do it again when we can. But this year the weather really screwed it all up, at a time when we needed to be potting all that stuff up, everything was frozen solid. Once again, more time, attention and planning could offset such challenges in the future. It’s all part of a learning experience!

So if you read this far, thanks for reading. I guess we’re not like those other businesses that make everything sound like lollipops and rainbows all the time. Apparently we’re all about honesty around here! Rest assured there is still a lot of cool stuff available, and we look forward to seeing you this summer at the nursery.  

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(Here’s a scene we’d like to forget.  What happens when there isn’t enough space between the greenhouses for snow to collect?  Well it stacks up to 7′ high, that’s what.  At that point all I can do is try to keep snow off the center of the greenhouses.  Glad I had snowshoes or I wouldn’t have been able to climb up there!)

2019 Plant Sale schedule, starting with Sequim Garden Show this weekend!

Dear Readers,

Well it has been a heck of a winter, as you know if you live in the Pacific Northwest.  But, for better or worse, we have survived and are still here.  We’d be singing a different tune if I’d lost some of our large aluminum frame greenhouses from heavy snow, and it was a close call!  But finally, the last patch of snow melted off our driveway yesterday, and I’m starting to once again be able to see my Utah cactus collection that was sitting outside when multiple feet of snow got piled on top of it that I pulled off the greenhouses.  More about that later.  Amazingly, they still look fine.

So we’ve hit that time of the year where we frantically scramble to get ready for the Sequim Garden Show while planning for what the year ahead looks like in terms of sales and events.  Last year it was not so frantic, since we’re getting better at planning ahead and making advance preparations over time.  But this year it’s frantic.  I basically lost the entire month of February for productivity, due to not being able to work at night and with frozen potting soil.  We have a lot of catching up to do!

All the same, our nursery stock has, by and large, hung on to survive the winter.  So we’ll still have a respectable selection of cool stuff to bring to the Sequim Garden Show this weekend, which is Saturday and Sunday (see website for details).  This will be our 11th year of participation in the show.  We expect that a lot of people are feeling the same sense of enthusiasm about getting outside and planting, after not being able to do so for weeks.  We can also at this time assure you of the hardiness of the plants we are bringing, since nearly all of them were in an unheated greenhouse where it was well below freezing many nights in a row in February.

So that’s this weekend–wish us luck getting ready.  After that, we have the following events scheduled for this year:

April 20 – 21: Hortlandia, Portland, Oregon, the Northwest’s biggest and best plant sale at this time.

June 21 – 22: Open House, here at the nursery in Sequim.

August 9 – 10: Open House, here at the nursery in Sequim.

September 20 – 21: Open House, here at the nursery in Sequim.

That’s all we have planned so far.  Why so few events?  Well, as much as we’d really like to do the Rhododendron Species Foundation Sale in April, I don’t think we will have enough nursery stock to go around for both that and Hortlandia, following this weekend’s event.  I guess that’s what happens after a good sales year such as last year.  Of course, there’s a lot of new stuff I’ll be potting up, but it won’t be ready to sell by April.  I also think two consecutive weekends away from the nursery in April puts me at a major disadvantage for keeping on top of things here.  That is the reason I dropped the Grays Harbor Sale–although it was reasonably successful, that weekend (being mid May) my time is simply more valuable here at the nursery.

As for Heronswood, they changed their fee structure for vendors this year, in a way that causes me to wonder if we’ve been selling a lot less than the other nurseries who attend.  I’m going to wait to see how that pans out, but at this time I’m not feeling inspired to participate.  The other sales we have discontinued in the past have been discussed in earlier blog posts.  If anything changes, or if I add any more sales, I’ll try to remember to post it here!

Not committing to this yet, but one thing I might do is add another Open House in late May, which we have done in the past.  But I need to wait and see what I think the nursery will look like at that time.  In addition to giving the plants some time to bounce back, I also need to consider some damage to our infrastructure caused by the snow.  In the meantime, remember that you can always come out and shop from us by appointment!

So that’s how things look right now.  Stay tuned for more updates, and perhaps we’ll see you this weekend in Sequim.

Desert Northwest Last Open House of The Year, This Weekend!

Dear Hortfolk,

We hope you and your garden have survived a summer of even-drier-than-usual drought and annoying fire smoke, which we are glad to apparently have behind us. Since you still don’t have enough plants, we would invite you to come and see us this weekend for the final open house of the year, here at the nursery in Sequim. The hours for this event are, according to our usual habit, from 9:30 to 5:30 Friday and Saturday (directions here). Shop from an array of interesting water-wise plants all locally produced by us, here on site!

Now usually we would call this the “fall open house,” but it seems that in the official sense summer will actually linger through part of the weekend. Whatever. The calendar may say summer has a couple days left; but the weather, unlike last year at this time, is making it feel like summer was over a while ago. That’s fine by us though, and I think most of us are glad for the change. We can even see fresh snow near the summit of Gray Wolf Peak (7,200′) which is visible from the nursery. (Speaking of which, I need to get up there sometime and see what is growing at the top!)

This summer we have been salvaging a selection of hardy cacti and succulents from a garden in Rock Island, whose owner plans to sell and is concerned the new owners won’t appreciate being in a house surrounded by prickly things. (I can’t imagine, but hey.) So if you visit this weekend, you may see us in the process of “assembling” a really fabulous cactus bed which will probably not be finished until sometime next week. The end result should be exciting. All these plants are totally hardy, but the question is whether they can survive a (relatively) wet winter having lost much of their root systems in transplanting. We will know by spring!

Now to tell you of some really exciting plants that we have grown just for you. You probably got our availability list in the August newsletter so we won’t send that again, as little has changed. This is an excellent chance for you to get a Eucalyptus neglecta. Despite the somewhat disparaging botanical name this is a great plant. It has big round leaves on square stems that smell strongly of, well, eucalyptus. (Imagine that.) Unlike some eucalypts this species makes rather dense shade, and may be considered a good fast-growing and very unique broadleaf evergreen shade tree. It is very cold hardy and our trees were grown from a tree I planted 16 years ago that has never been damaged by cold. (A 21 year old E. neglecta also grows there, which has also never been damaged.) Oh, did I mention the new growth is purple? No joke. Yes it is pretty cool, and, we think, rather hard to find in nurseries lately.

We also have lots of the purple form of Leptospermum lanigerum, which may look a bit underwhelming right now as we have had it under shade cloth, but turns a nice shade of purple out in the sun. (Should have moved them outside before the open house, oh well.) Eucryphia x nymansensis is looking fabulous, as is a nice crop of Arctostaphylos pajaroensis in little pots. This seems to be one of the easier manzanitas to grow in the garden as well as in containers, but for some reason doesn’t get the same attention as popular manzanitas like ‘Howard McMinn’ and ‘Sunset’. Also Gunnera manicata is still available, because G. chilensis isn’t big enough, we had to grow the really big one! Because who doesn’t have room in their garden for a plant with 9′ wide leaves? This one needs water though so watch out for that.

What happens when someone puts a trademark name on a wild-collected plant, such as one of the South African hardy ice plants? Well first of all people who care about integrity in naming plants get slightly annoyed. It would have been better to market it as a selected form of a known species. The main result is that it is still fine to sell the plant, but it cannot be sold under the trademark name. So you have nurseries such as Plant Delights selling it as Delosperma ‘Fiore Spinner’ (note spelling), and we are selling it as Delosperma ‘Spinner of Fire.’ We’ll leave it to you to guess what the trademark name of this plant is. And no, we’re not being naughty: only plants of cultivated origin may be patented. It is unfortunate that the way people use trademarks results in this mess. You’ll want to check out this cute succulent groundcover with conspicuously yellow-centered red flowers. It’s even blooming now!

I will stop there. If you can’t make it to the open house, we thank you for your past business, and hope we all have a great winter!

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

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

General Update: The Good, The Sad and the Ugly

Hi Folks.  I know you haven’t heard from us in a while, so I thought I’d better post something to let you know we are still living and still operating a nursery which is in business.  (We won’t even talk about the web site.)  And if you keep reading you will see that the title of this post is no joke.

We are actually having a remarkably good year.  Apparently we have eliminated much of the competition while demand for cool plants still exists.  Ten years ago I attempted to sell some plants on the wholesale market and I had a heck of a time getting any nurseries to buy from me, so I gave up.  This year I thought it might be time to give wholesale another go.  In late winter I sent out a modest availability and within two weeks 70% of the plants listed were pre-ordered.

At the retail end, people keep coming out here and buying stuff despite having to guess what is available from the out-of-date web site.  At the Sequim Garden Show we exceeded our previous sales record by about 20% despite having only one booth instead of the usual two.  (A Dan Hinkley talk promoting some of my plants helped.)  We also brought plants to “Hortlandia”, the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon sale in Portland, and did so well that I am still in shock.  We were up 95% over the previous record for that sale and grossed our second highest total ever for all events of this type that we have ever participated in.  (The second year of the now-defunct Bloedel Reserve sale holds this record, if you were wondering.)  The Rhododendron Species Foundation sale was up 90% from the previous high.  In short this season is going to be a tough act to follow.  We thank all of you who have come out to support us.

I never usually say this but I am getting a little nervous about running low on plants while having trouble finding the time to produce and pot up new stock.  This week I’m in the middle of taking apart the whole area in front of greenhouse 2 and 3, repairing the tables and cleaning it all up.  But I think things will fall into place and there will be plenty of new stuff by summer.  We are buying some important supplies for the nursery such as a compost tumbler to mix soil and fertilizer (I’ve been mixing it by hand all these years), and seeds of unusual rare stuff from various sources.  We were generously gifted a minivan earlier this spring, which was a big help to get more plants to the sales.  We have just bought a fancy tag printer.  That’s right, after 13 years we are finally going to have pre-printed tags with descriptions on them.  I have hand-written thousands of tags over the years so that will be an exciting change.

Shifting gears here, back in September, Laine McLaughlin, a friend and former employer, passed away.  Laine was the owner of Steamboat Island Nursery where I had worked in 1997, 1998 and 2002.  In the official sense it was my first “real” nursery job.  I had intended to write a longer post about Laine and the nursery in October and I regret not managing to do it.  In any case, I attended her memorial service at the end of October, which was held in a little meeting hall within walking distance of her nursery.  I still have a number of interesting plants from Laine including Ceanothus gloriosus ‘Emily Brown’ which has been passed down through a few different hands, and Eucalyptus urnigera x dalrympleana which I planted at my parents’ house in Olympia and later took the opportunity to propagate from cuttings after regrowth from frost damage in 2010.  Although the nursery closed several years ago when her partner Duane passed, Laine and her crew grew top-quality plants that were unusual and always got attention.  She was well-loved by the local horticulture community and is already missed.

And now for some terrible news, which is also old news by now, but I’d better report it.  Rod and Rachel Saunders, the British owners of a world-renowned South African seed Company, Silverhill Seeds; were kidnapped back in February by a remote cell of ISIS terrorists and apparently killed.  I say “apparently” because Rod’s remains have been found, but not Rachel’s.  Some have postulated that they were tied into their sleeping bags and thrown into a crocodile infested river, so Rachel’s remains may never be found.  This is horrific on several levels.  First of all what the heck is ISIS doing in South Africa?  I am no expert but this seems rather unrelated to South Africa’s other current policital/social challenges.  Almost like it might have happened anywhere.  More significant is the shock one feels over losing a friend(s) in a horrific manner.  Although I never met them in person, I have been ordering seed from Silverhill for over 20 years, long before we opened the nursery!  This included a lot of correspondence, in which Rachel helped me greatly with my plant selection when I was just doing this for a hobby.  And they were very close friends with a number of our mutual friends, who had met them in person.  So at this point, the shock is wearing off but the anger is not.  I am glad the suspects have been identified and captured and as old school as it sounds, I hope that justice is served.  I just placed a small order from Silverhill Seeds, and at this time it seems the business is continuing without Rod and Rachel.  But for how long, who can say?

I’m contemplating planting something special in their honor, which would have to be something I got from them and that will do well here in the long run.  Perhaps Leucosidea sericea.

That’s all for today.  Let us be hopeful that when I write the next blog post all the news will be positive!

Link to a news article about Rod and Rachel Saunders

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Remains of Steamboat Island Nursery display garden in 2017, with Trachycarpus fortunei, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, and Chusquea culeou.

 

Sequim Garden Show This Weekend, and Other Events!

Chelsea. Philadelphia. Northwest Flower and Garden Show. Sequim Garden Show! OK, maybe these other shows aren’t quite as exciting as the Sequim show. But the Sequim show, at only $5, costs a lot less to get into. It is held the third weekend of March every year, at the Boys and Girls Club in Sequim. And that means all the excitement starts this weekend.

So, really, what can you expect at the show? Well, it’s actually more of a friendly small-town garden show with nothing too flashy or extravagant. Despite a lot of Northwest nurseries going out of business, there are still a number of nursery vendors at this show. We will be there in our usual space with a fun collection of cool stuff. I have been cleaning plants all winter long (except for a couple weeks when I was sick), and we now have a whole lot more cool stuff that looks good, compared to most years in late winter. I’m gradually learning that cleaning plants all winter is a worthwhile effort, despite the amount of time it takes! We have already had a few special requests for the show, and you’re welcome to send more of those to mail@desertnorthwest.com

As for the rest of the sales we are doing this year, we don’t have all those pinned down yet, but I’ll name a few:
Hortlandia, in Portland, is April 14 – 15. For some reason we have been at this sale about every other year lately. Anyway, this year we will be there!
Rhododendron Species Foundation Sale, April 20 – 21 in Federal Way. We do this every year, but it sounds like they have a new location this year at a nearby church.
Heronswood: As we did last year, we’re skipping the spring events at Heronswood, but will be there on July 21.
Open House: The summer open house will be on August 10 – 11. We will also have “open house” events in June and September, but you’ll have to stay tuned to figure out what the dates were, because we are not sure yet. I’m leaning towards pushing the June open to a later date than usual.

As always, mail-order shipping and visits by appointment continue to be available. Until I get the web site updated, please e-mail us for a more current plant availability.

As far as more general news, I am glad to be over the flu. At first it seemed convenient that I was sick the week it was cold and all my potting soil was frozen (thus not wasting any additional time I might have been working), but then the weather moderated and it took me more than another week to get better. That was seriously the worst bug I have had in a long, long time. Although the late February cold was annoying (didn’t it seem like we were going to sail from a benign winter right into spring?), nothing really got damaged despite dropping to 21 degrees.  So it could have been worse.  Our snowfall total for the winter (assuming we’re done with that) was 14″, the highest since 2010-11.

And with that, I’m wrapping up this post in just a few short paragraphs. See you in Sequim, or perhaps somewhere else!

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Sequim Garden Show last year

Grevillea ‘Neil Bell’ at the Desert Northwest OPEN HOUSE this weekend!

Dear Plant Friends,

Since you don’t have enough plants, we are open for business this Friday and Saturday, June 23 and 24, from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. You can find directions to our nursery here (please pardon last year’s open house dates still up there).

We still have all kinds of Grevilleas, Callistemons, Ozothamnuses, Leptospermums, Olearias, Podocarpuses, Cupressuses, Arctostaphyloses, Cistuses, Quercuses, Delospermas, hardy cacti, and all the usual suspects; but this time I’m just going to highlight one plant, which (as you will have guessed) is Grevillea x ‘Neil Bell’. If you don’t have this Grevillea, you are missing out. It is a large and fast-growing evergreen shrub to 8′ x 8′ with BIG orange-red flowers. It blooms for months, including most of the winter, and hummingbirds flock to it. Compared to the usual form of G. victoriae, the leaves are a bit smaller, the flowers are larger and more numerous, it is somewhat more deer resistant, it grows a bit faster, and (importantly) it is much more drought tolerant. It is rock-solid hardy, having breezed through 5 degrees F unharmed in the Portland area.

As for the history of this plant, Grevillea x ‘Neil Bell’ originated as a chance seedling at Xera Plants, a Portland area nursery, and was selected by owner Paul Bonine who recognized its superior qualities. It almost certainly has some of G. victoriae in its ancestry, but it’s hard to guess what else it might have crossed with—possibly another hybrid Grevillea cultivar. Paul named it for Neil Bell, who manages the trial gardens at the North Willamette Experiment Station south of Portland, where various genera of plants have been under evaluation to observe their long-term performance in the Pacific Northwest (see this web site). Our cuttings come from the garden of Mike Lee, formerly the owner of Colvos Creek Nursery. We’re making this highly desirable and easily grown yet exotic shrub available for just $14 each in the 4” pot size.

Lots of newly potted little plants are coming along, so come on out and see what else is growing! When you visit our nursery you are certain to find rare and interesting plants none of your neighbors have. And it promises to be a nice weekend with beautiful weather to visit the Olympic Peninsula and hike, or even hit the beach. We hope to see you this weekend!

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

Here are a couple photos of ‘Neil Bell’… the plant not the person.  Unfortunately it was not quite in peak bloom at the time of this photo; also, this plant has been trimmed back repeatedly to keep it out of the path.

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

See Us This Weekend at the RSBG Sale in Federal Way! Also, 2017 Schedule of Sales and Events

I’m a little late as usual, but I think we’ve finally sorted out what events we have planned for the season and when, so here they are. Not listed is the Sequim Garden Show, which was announced in the previous blog post and via e-mail, and has already passed us by. It was the third weekend of March and went pretty well as always. We thank those of you who came out to see us for that event.

As usual, a complete list of events we are participating in is followed by my commentary:

April 14-15 (This weekend!) – RSBG Spring Plant Sale in Federal Way.  See also this list of vendors.

May 20-21: Grays Harbor Home and Garden Show, Elma. See also this site.  Map to the Fairgrounds Event Center where this show takes place.

May 26-27: Spring Open House here at the nursery in Sequim.

June 23-24: Early Summer Open House here at the nursery in Sequim.

July 22: Plant Sale at Heronswood Garden, Kingston.

August 11-12: Mid Summer Open House here at the nursery in Sequim.

September 9: Salem Hardy Plant Society Sale, Salem, Oregon.

September 16: Plant Sale at Heronswood Garden, Kingston.

September 22-23: Fall Open House here at the nursery in Sequim.

This weekend there is really way too much going on. First there is the RSBG Spring Plant Sale in Federal Way this Friday (tomorrow) and Saturday, which is the most important one since we will be there (ha ha). But there is also Hortlandia, the huge HPSO sale in Portland (Saturday-Sunday) which draws plant geeks from all over the Northwest, and the NARGS (Rock Garden Society) spring plant sale (Saturday only). I wish we could be at all three. So how is a plant nut to choose? Well I have the answer: Go to the RSBG sale Friday (first!), the NARGS sale Saturday, and Hortlandia Sunday (if your April plant budget isn’t exhausted by then). Problem solved. Fortunately, I’ve given you an entire half day of notice to plan all this out.

Our next event is the Grays Harbor Home and Garden Show in Elma, Coming up on May 20-21. This is a new event for us, but of course we like to try almost anything once. I’ll bring fewer manzanitas and succulents, and lots of plants that love the coast, like Olearia, Leptospermum and conifers. Despite our nursery name we actually sell an extensive range of plants that do great with high rainfall. Some of you may recall that I grew up in Olympia, and tested a lot of plants there that we still produce and sell. We thank John Kugen for connecting us with the organizer for this event.

The Salem Hardy Plant Society sale was the first we might have considered dropping, due to the travel distance/expense (and we didn’t do as well in 2016 as previous years). But this year they are moving to a new location closer to I-5 (Seabright Gardens). So we’re sticking with it, since the new venue may bring in more people, especially from the Portland area; and because if we drop it we’ll have no events in Oregon in 2017, which would be unfortunate. This is a great chance for you Portland folks who will miss us at Hortlandia to send in your special requests and take advantage of our expanded inventory, which is at its most diverse in late summer!

Now for the usual review of what are we not doing, and why? I feel like this is important just so people don’t wonder if we are out of business or dropped off the face of the earth or something. The big one of course is Hortlandia. After skipping it in 2015, we were back last year and it did about as well as usual. This year our main reason for skipping it is the schedule conflict with the RSBG sale (according to my notes, this was also an issue in 2015). The RSBG sale makes more sense for us in terms of travel expenses, less time away from the nursery, and seeing people who only come to that sale. We regret that we can’t be at Hortlandia and hope to return next year.

We missed a Heronswood sale on April 1st, and there will be another on May 13-14 we have decided not to attend, and leave a space open for someone else. The reason for this, as I noted on my January 5th blog post, is that we need to spend enough time at the nursery to stay on top of things here. I have come to realize that when I spend too much time away from the nursery in the spring, I start getting behind on projects to where things snowball out of control. So I’m trying not to let that happen this year (also the reason I haven’t been spending as much time online since March). You also have to consider that each plant sale doesn’t just “use up” the day(s) of the sale itself, but also basically an additional whole day required to prepare for it, and a couple hours unloading and putting away what doesn’t sell at the end. If I do three sales in April (as in last year) the amount of time consumed really adds up!

So with Heronswood sales in July and September we can still hope to be invited to, we thought it made sense to drop the spring events at Heronswood.

The Gig Harbor Garden Tour was pleasant and well managed. But we learned it is not the right venue for selling our products (no money lost, just time), so we are not participating this year. I highly recommend this event for anyone who wants to see some impressive and well-tended gardens. Many of the garden art vendors bring creative and beautiful pieces to this event as well.

And I think those are about all the changes from last year. Changes we made further back have been discussed in previous blog posts and can be read about by scrolling back to find them.

And yes, we did add one open house this year from the usual three. Well, sort of: technically we had four last year, only the last one, in late October, wasn’t announced until September. This year we managed to plan them all out in advance on dates that make sense, concluding that people aren’t thinking that much about planting by late October (even if they should be). If we can catch a few more people that way, that will be great; and at the rate I am potting stuff up there will be a ton of new plants available by summer. The mid-summer open house is the same weekend Fronderosa used to be, and although we can’t claim to be as diverse as Fronderosa, at least we might draw in some people who miss having an exciting plant shopping event in August. This will also be our first May open house in years and I think we can be ready enough.

Finally, we’re open to possibly adding another event or two anytime from about mid-June on. Let us know if you think of anything we should look into!

As usual my post has gotten quite long-winded, so thanks for reading. We look forward to seeing you at one, two, several, or all of these events! And of course if you can’t make it, there’s always mail-order.

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