Reopening Plans!

So the question of the spring has been, are we ever going to reopen or what? And the other question has been, why can’t we see a list of your inventory online? As some of you may recall, we had already closed before the Coronavirus panic erupted. The answer to the first question is that we are shooting for right around the first day of summer, or about a month from now. This makes sense for a number of reasons, a big one being, our period of very low inventory over the winter will be coming to an end, and that is also about when I expect to finish cleaning certain places that need to be presentable, a time-consuming process.

To the second question, the low inventory situation will soon be behind us, as the stuff I have been potting on through late winter and early spring finally fills out enough to become available. Except for all the stuff that froze dead when it unexpectedly dropped to 23°F on March 15th. That was too bad. That is the latest 23 we have ever had, and I would certainly have done a few things differently if I had known it would happen. Weather in general was a bit rough on plants early this spring with periods of cold and wet alternating with periods of blazing sun, abnormally low humidity, and extreme dinural fluctuation. Freshly potted cuttings don’t like that too much. But in spite of that, inventory will overall be on the upswing soon, and thus will again be worth listing on the web site. So that stuff will all be back, even if it is taking us a while.

Then there’s mail-order. I think we can resume mail order just after we reopen, or about early July or so. That puts us a bit later than the spring mail-order rush (still ongoing for other nurseries), but we don’t really want to start off overwhelmed so that is fine. We will be well poised to have a great fall mail-order season.

What kinds of plants will be available? I think we’re looking at a good selection this summer of plants such as evergreen oaks, Hebe, Olearia, Grevillea (finally!), Leptospermum, and Opuntia cacti. And perhaps later, Eucalyptus. Things are still not moving too fast in the Agaves and Yuccas department, and Arctostaphylos will probably be a bit sparse this year, but we are working on all those. There may even be a few fancy things like Leucadendron and Protea species available later this summer if we’re lucky.

Then there’s the seed list. What happened to that idea? Well the seed list is ready to go. I just have to jump through a couple more hoops and get all my ducks in a row at this end. I might even get that done by the end of this week. As was the case years ago, the seed list will be heavy on Eucalyptus and large-scale succulents, with a few other random odds and ends.

The main point here is, just because it appears I am moving slowly, does not mean I am not moving. In fact the nursery is keeping me quite busy, with a lot of time still being dedicated to maintenance and cleaning. Put another way, I’m very goal-oriented, but it often takes longer than I expect to get where I want. Increasingly I see the value in “plodding along” at a couple hours per day per task, to ultimately fulfill multiple goals at once. By playing the long game you’re not as likely to get burned out. I know, I know, some of you figured this out long ago.

So there you have it, our reopening plans. As usual, watch this space for updates.

Oh, one final note, I haven’t forgotten that I promised to follow up on my post about street trees. I started on it but it’s fairly involved to come up with a good tree list. That will be a fun summer project.

A few current nursery photos, including new Grevillea cuttings that should be ready sometime in July, Leptospermums that are pretty much ready now, and some nice 1 gallon Opuntia cacti.

NEWSLETTER: Open House time again at the Desert Northwest!

Greetings Hortophiles,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Desert Northwest


Gunnera manicata at Chetzemoka Park, Port Townsend

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!


Desert Northwest OPEN HOUSE this weekend!

Hi Folks,

Well, open house weekend has sneaked up on me again, but at least this
time I’m getting the newsletter out two days before the day of, instead of
half a day before (e-mail version only, not this blog post!). So as usual we will be open this Friday and Saturday with limited signage and all that. Details and directions are found here.

Also as usual, I’m still behind on everything, so the web site is still
not updated (I don’t even want to talk about that. LOL). But if you have
seen us at the regional sales, you know we have a lot of good nursery
stock out there that looks fresh and is ready to find a home in your
garden. It was interesting at the last open house how visitors gravitated
towards the somewhat overgrown greenhouses because they look “full,”
rather than the new greenhouse, which has a lot of great stuff in it but
may look “sparse.” Well the reason it looks that way is I’m not going to
fill it up with plants that looks rough because they needs attention.
First we pot it up, then put it out there, so everything out there looks
splendid. So don’t be shy about going into the new greenhouse—that’s the
one that still has no plastic on it, which is fine because it won’t be too

So not having the web site up to date, I’d better talk about some of the
exciting plants we have in stock. We may hope that a plant name or two
will jump out at you as something you have been looking for or have an
interest in trying.

In the Chilean department, Luma apiculata is looking good, and we have
plenty of both the “usual” form and hardy form selected by Sean Hogan.
This small tree has attractive peeling bark, showy white flowers, edible
berries and it’s evergreen. Also looking good now are Azara microphylla,
the rare A. dentata with conspicuous yellow flowers, some unusual showy
Escallonias we bet you haven’t seen; and little pots of Maytenus boaria, a
beautiful evergreen tree from Chile with fine weeping foliage.

In the New Zealand department, Olearias have received a lot of attention
lately on social media, and we have a whole lot of them available. One of
them in particular, an evergreen shrub with gray leaves and white flowers
smelling of coconut, has been talked about quite a lot. This plant has
been sold as O. cheesemanii and O. x mollis, but we’ll admit to stirring
the pot (no pun intended?) a bit by insisting (based on my research, of
course) the correct name for this plant is O. x oleifolia. In any case it
is a great plant, and we have plenty of it in 4” pots. We also have about
12 other Olearias in stock including the olive-like O. lineata, showy and
fragrant O. x haastii and toothy leaved O. macrodonta. Most of these are
in little pots but a few larger specimens are out there as well, and
anyway they are quick and easy growers. Also in the New Zealand
department Pittosporum colensoi is looking good, as are little pots of
Corokia cotoneaster (wire netting bush), Astelia nervosa ‘Westland’ and
Griselinia littoralis, and a million kinds of hardy Hebes.

Conifers are still looking great. Notably Araucaria angustifolia is back;
YuccaDo used to sell little pots of this for $30 so I don’t feel bad for
asking $24. We have a good crop of Juniperus maritima right now; this
tree-sized juniper is special since it only exists west of the Cascades
and is very rare. It is a fine drought-tolerant native tree. We continue
to offer Chilean conifers such as Fitzroya and Podocarpus salignus, both
looking great. And then we even have odds and ends like Chamaecyparis
‘Karst’ (—I’m now a little mystified as a google search turns up nothing
for this plant).

In the Australian plants department, we have our best selection in a long
time of Callistemon and Leptospermum in both 1 gallon and 4” sizes. If
you have been saying to yourself (as I’m sure you have) I need a bunch of
1 gallon hardly bottlebrushes, well now you know where to find them. Some
of the really showy ones like C. linearis var. pumila and our own ‘Hot
Pink’ are available and looking great. Our purple-leaf form of
Leptospermum lanigerum is looking good, as is L. lanigerum, L.
namadgiensis, ‘Eugene Hardy’, and others. The silvery Ozothamnus hookeri
‘Sussex Silver’ and O. coralloides remain available in quantity. Also in
the Australian department are a fine selection of the reliable, tough and
long-blooming Grevillea ‘Poorinda Leane’ in 1 gallon and 2 gallon sizes,
and G. rivularis in 4” pots, a very rare species with deeply cut, prickly
leaves and mauve flowers.

Mass production of the fancy Arctostaphylos species from the Siskiyous
continues to elude us, but we do have a lot of nice 1 gallons of reliable
manzanitas such as A. densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’, ‘Pacific Mist’, and A. x
media. We also have A. rudis which is exciting because it blooms in
December. Ceanothus ‘Blue Jeans’ and C. gloriosus ‘Emily Brown’ are both
looking good; these species have deep blue flowers and are not encountered
nearly often enough.

In the Mediterranean department, myrtles (Myrtus communis) are still a
thing, and we bet you don’t have a Cytisus sessilifolius. This yellow
flowered broom relative looks nothing like other brooms and doesn’t seed
itself. Tree heath, Erica arborea var. alpina, is also a good drought
tolerant shrub you need. What could be cooler than a heather that grows
10′ tall? Your neighbors don’t have that.

Finally, our hardy Opuntia table looks great; everything has put on new
growth. This table consists of perhaps 20 Opuntia selections, mostly from
smaller growing and native populations, but a couple larger types as well.
Of particular interest are a few of the Opuntia fragilis/columbiana (?)
collections from the interior of British Columbia that we have finally
gotten into production. They are kinda small but exciting for the avid
collector of hardy cacti. We also have quite a few forms of O. fragilis
and O. columbiana; the latter is from eastern Washington but it does great
out here in the right spot, such as in a rock garden.

Well if you have read this far, thanks for reading, and for your continued
interest in our nursery. If you are waiting to hear from us about an
order we hope to do some catching up in August and you are always free to
bug us again. We hope to see you soon if not this weekend!

Thanks, Ian & Co.
The Desert Northwest
PO Box 3475
Sequim, WA 98382