NEWSLETTER: Desert Northwest New Plant List and Open House!

Dear Plantfolk,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Plant Enthusiasts,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spiky Plants of Sequim

About two weeks ago I took my youngest family member on a bicycle tour of some of the spiky plants growing around Sequim.  I thought I would share the photos, but first I’ll make mention of a couple brief notes.

Did you miss our fall Open House the weekend before last?  Well that may be because I neglected to advertise it.  Or perhaps that isn’t the reason.  In any case, we’re planning to have one more open day this year on October 29th.  Stay tuned for more information on that!  Of course, you’re still welcome to come out by appointment on another day if you like.

The other big news is greenhouse 4 is finally done.  Well, it doesn’t have doors, or irrigation, but these are minor details.  The main thing is it has plastic on it and looks great.  The plastic expands when it is warm and contracts when cold, so it has to go on when it is warm (or hot) and sunny or it doesn’t fit well.  Thanks to assistance once again from our volunteer Bob, we got the job done just in time last week, when it was sunny and relatively mild.  Now of course the fall-like weather has set in.  We are happy to have some new uncluttered and open space as it will help us to clean through parts of the other greenhouses that are overcrowded.

Finally we (well just me actually) had the pleasure last month of visiting a nursery I really like, Wild Ginger Farm, which is located southeast of Portland.  They specialize in alpine plants and have a fine selection of Penstemons, Lewisias, Lilies, dryland native plants, and much more.  We thank Truls Jensen, the owner, for a nursery tour.  Very nice folks. We recommend you check them out!

All right, now on to the spiky plants tour!

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First we have this Yucca patch just outside of town.  These appear to be Yucca glauca or a similar species (there are several that look more or less like this).  Might not be all that exciting for some of my readers, but this is actually a very rare plant in these parts, one which nurseries almost never sell even though it is easy to grow and does great here.  The homeowners (one presumes) have tried to kill this thing off a time or two, but it always returns from the roots.

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In another yard, here’s a perfect, mature specimen of Hesperaloe parviflora.  I have pictured this plant on my blog before… a really long time ago.  (I’m sure you all remember that, right? Ha ha.)  It has grown nicely since then; I guess it really likes Sequim!

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This Opuntia engelmannii on Hammond St. is probably a “child” of the large specimen of this species that used to grow at a storefront in Carlsborg.  I’ve posted about that plant before as well.  It’s nice to see someone who likes cacti enough to keep them going.  I have seen a couple others around town too, which are probably all this same clone.

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Here’s a yard on the south side of town planted by someone who really likes interesting plants.  This is a Dasylirion that appears to be too green to be D. wheeleri, but I can’t be certain.  I can hardly tell these things apart and they are kind of a taxonomic challenge.  It may be D. longissimum. I wonder where they got it?

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In the same yard, an outstanding specimen of Yucca rostrata.  Just look how happy this thing is in Sequim.  (The Gunnera in the background isn’t exactly what I think of as a combination plant for Yucca rostrata, but like I said this yard is definitely about the plants!)

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Then right in downtown Sequim along Washington Street (which is basically Sequim’s main drag), the city (presumably) has planted some cute little Yuccas.  I think this is again Y. rostrata but it will be a few years before it looks as good as the specimen pictured earlier.

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This wider shot shows where they are planted, in little islands on both sides of the street.  I actually think this is great.  But I have a few questions.  Did whoever selected these know how tall they can get?  Are they going to be a problem being planted so close next to those large deciduous trees?  (I have to admit I didn’t even notice what those were.)  How long will it be before someone complains about getting poked by them, and the city is pressured to take them out?  That would be a shame, but not really surprising if it happens down the road.

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Not spiky, but this is Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’ at the new Sequim Civic Center.  We sell this, and a few plants from our nursery have found their way into city plantings.  In general, I am pleased to see the city getting a little more adventurous with the use of dryland plants (we’ll ignore that dogwood at upper left for now).

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Also not spiky, but I have passed this Eucalyptus gunnii on Cedar St. a million times without stopping to photograph it, so I figured I’d better do that.

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Now what is this, across 5th Avenue on Spruce St.?  Hint: it’s not a spruce.  (Although spruces are prickly.)

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That’s right–it’s an honest to goodness Agave.  Although not enormous it is certainly large enough to make a statement.  The owners had this plant in a pot for a long time.  After a while it apparently grew too large to overwinter in their sunroom, and they let it sit outside in a pot for a year or two, even through a winter that went down to 17°F.  It must have rooted into the ground from its pot because I later saw it tipped on its side for a couple months. For a while there I was worried they were going to get rid of it or something.  But no, they just wanted to create this special planting bed to put it in, which took them some time. Now it looks happily at home.

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The big question, of course, is what kind of Agave is it?  It looks a good deal like A. americana, but one does not expect that species to survive 17°F in a pot without a scratch in the Pacific Northwest, as this plant did.  In my experience A. americana gets frost damage in a normal winter, and the couple times I put it in the ground it failed. However, it’s not totally out of the question, as there is a good deal of variation in different clones of A. americana.  My next best guess would be A. protamericana, but who knows.  It’s happy and I’m enjoying keeping an eye on it.

Well, if we went a little farther out of town there would be a few more plants I could show you, but that was all I had time for that morning, so it will have to do for now.  All of these plants are rather special.  Some might consider them to be “pushing the boundaries” of what will grow here, but I just think of them as plants that make sense in a relatively drier part of the Pacific Northwest, and require virtually no care.  It’s not like the Agave needs that drip emitter on it! They are actually very practical, and they look different than the same boring stuff everyone else puts in their yards.

Fabulous Embothrium

Ron Brightman pointed out to me this magnificent specimen of Embothrium coccineum (Chilean Fire Tree) in a north Seattle garden.  I’d put this on my ‘plant photo of the month’ page but I have been putting a lot of Proteaceae on there lately.  And by the time June comes it will be about finished blooming.

All I can say is…. wow!!

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A few nursery macro shots

Here are some fun close up shots of some plants at the nursery… and a taste of what will be available in the future!

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Puya venusta

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Aloe pratensis

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Puya bertroniana

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Banksia serrata

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Grevillea ‘Poorinda Firebird’

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Ferocactus seedlings 

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Opuntia seedlings – there isn’t much in the plant kindgom more bizzare than cactus seedlings!