NEWSLETTER: We’re OPEN Oct 29! And new plant list.

Dear Plant Friends,

I’ll be producing the e-mail newsletter version of this tomorrow, but for now let’s make sure this actually gets up on my blog.  As announced in the previous blog post, we’re having one final open day this year, which will be October 29th, a week from Saturday!  Come on out!  I’ll attempt to entice you with some nursery photos below.

But first, let’s talk about miracles.  If you never believed in miracles, now you should.  Because, after months and months – no, years – of pledging to update the plant list, and on multiple occasions making good progress on it but never managing to quite finish the job; I have actually, finally done it, for real!  And that is nothing short of miraculous.  Now you can go to and actually see what we have, and not see what we don’t have.  Imagine that!  And that is a remarkable achievement.

Now, a few comments about the new catalog are necessary.  First, you’ll notice that some photos and descriptions are still absent from the list.  But I can fill those in over the winter.  Although people increasingly rely on smartphones and google to find the plant information they need, I still think it is of value to produce our own content.  So I’ll be working on that.  I’m also considering some other changes to the appearance of the page to make it easier to read and more colorful.  We’ll see what I decide to do.  And yes, I will update the “featured plants” on the home page someday!

Second, you’ll notice a major change to our pricing and shipping policies.  All shipping/handling costs are now included in the price for mail-order purchases, and a minimum order of $40 applies.  We could call it “free shipping!” and be gimmicky, but in reality we have simply opted to absorb those costs by raising prices accordingly on mail-order sales.  (I don’t know, maybe I should call it “free” anyway!  Hmmm…)  I’ll be writing another blog post soon elaborating on the reasons for these changes.

However, if you buy from us in person here at the nursery, our prices are unchanged from before (since the cost of shipping does not need to be covered in that case), and there is no minimum purchase.  In fact, unlike a lot of mail-order nurseries, very few of our prices have budged since we opened the nursery in 2005, and those not by much.

We must also note that the format of the catalog has changed from category-based to strictly alphabetical.  Honestly that was a major part of what was holding me back, as far as getting this update accomplished.  I actually wrote the script of the web site myself long ago, and while I’m sure there are now easier ways to do this stuff, I felt like I need to get on top of this “the old fashioned way” first.  Sort of a personal sanity issue, you might say.  And I have finally had to admit that to do so, it is much easier if I only have to maintain a single alphabetical list with all descriptions and photos.  Previously, as you may recall, I had an alphabetical list with the name only and cross-links to the plants with descriptions and photos listed under their respective categories, with separate pages for each category.  Then within the categories were more cross-links for plants that belonged under more than one category, and plants known by more than one botanical name.  What a mess.  Anyway, I finally “bit the bullet” and opted for the easier A – Z only format.  But even just to make that transition took a lot of time, and I had to write a new script for the new alphabetical page (now divided into eight pages) and copy all the plant names, descriptions and other information into it.

But, I still like the category-based format, so the categories are still noted in each plant description.  I think they have value, both in terms of planning one’s garden, and when considering plant relations and adaptations.  Hopefully someday we’ll get as far as an online shopping cart with multiple layers of categories possible.  This A – Z list with categories noted under the plant names is, in my view, a step in that direction.

Then once I got all that done, I had to rewrite the order form, and the “Info/Terms” page to reflect the changes to ordering and shipping policy/pricing.  And now it is time to write this newsletter and update the e-mail list before sending it.  I’m not complaining; it’s just nice when I feel like people understand all that goes into this!

The list for larger plants – stuff we don’t ship – still isn’t done and current.  I hope to attempt to do that early next week, so I’d say you should check the web site at about Wednesday or so and you’ll see our list of larger stock.  The fact that I have completed the retail list gives me hope that this too will get done!

Some of the nursery highlights include a great selection of smaller-growing cold-hardy Opuntia cacti, and quite a few Olearias, Callistemon, Leptospermum and other stuff that you need.  Araucaria angustifolia is back, along with Eucalyptus regnans, the world’s tallest non-coniferous tree!  The selection of hardy Hebes is much better than it has been in a while, and lots more.

Did you know that you need a Leptospermum namadgiensis?  I am convinced this plant is so tough it will grow about anywhere.  It comes from one of the coldest parts of Australia and can handle single digit temperatures.  It has bronzy new growth and always looks super year-round.  It takes drought, wet, poor soil and the deer don’t eat it.  But let’s get to some nursery photos already.


Here are those Leptospermum namadgiensis, don’t they look nice?


More stuff in the Australian section… heaps of Callistemons, Leptospermums, Drimys lanceolata, some very cute Ozothamnus coralloides, and more.


Grevillea and Banksia section, freshly cleaned up.


In the center of this photo we have a new Grevillea introduction we are calling ‘The Precious’.  (I thought the Lord of the Rings would be a fun theme for Grevillea introductions.)  It was a chance seedling, probably of ‘Poorinda Leane’, that popped up in my parents’ garden in Olympia.  You can be among the first to try it!  Then at left is Grevillea ‘Pink Pearl’ which we haven’t had in years (nine years maybe?), and a few Lomatia myricoides in the foreground.


Manzanita (Arctostaphylos x ‘Sunset’) with silverleaf oak (Quercus hypoleucoides).


Agave neomexicana and A. montana, both hardy west of the Cascades.


Griselinia, Corokia, Carmichaelia australis (look that one up, it’s cool!), Hymenanthera and Olearia in the foreground, cactus table with hardy fuchsias underneath in the background.


This is Banksia integrifolia subsp. monticola flowering in the back of one of our stock houses.  It is the largest Banksia in the wild, reaching a height of over 100′, and it is disjunct from the usual coastal form, occurring well inland at an altitude of 3,000 – 5,000′ in New South Wales.  Sounds like just what you need, right?  And we have them in 1 and 2 gallon pots only!  I need to get those back on the mail-order list sometime.

Anyway, we’ll call that good for now.  Thanks for reading!  Remember if you can’t make it on the 29th, you can still e-mail for an appointment at anytime.

Have a great fall!


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!


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.


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!


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.


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?


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!)


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.


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.


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).


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.


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


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.


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.

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

Sequim Garden Show This Weekend! And 2016 Schedule of Sales and Events

Well it’s that time of the year again: The time when I invite you at the last minute to the Sequim Garden Show, and then try to come up with a (more or less) complete list of the plant sales and events where we will be selling in 2016. If I were really clever one of these years I might manage to remind you of the Sequim show more than a week in advance. But for now we can be impressed that I manage to find time to post this at all, considering how far behind I am on everything.

As a side note, I’ve been building some new benches for the Sequim Garden Show to display our plants. I’m kind of having fun designing something that doesn’t take up space when collapsed and makes the plants look good. Perhaps I’ll post some photos of them later when all of them are finished and painted.

I am actually more enthusiastic than usual for the Sequim Garden Show this year. Last year we did great at this show. You wouldn’t know it from the web site but this year we actually have FAR more good looking nursery stock to bring. It’s in Sequim and it’s this weekend! Here’s the link to the web site.

So here is a list of the sales and events we are planning to do this year. It is as complete as possible for the time being, but it is inevitably subject to change.

March 19 – 20: Sequim Garden Show, right here in Sequim

April 2nd: Heronswood Early Spring Open, Kingston, Washington

April 8th – 9th: Hortlandia, Portland, Oregon

April 15th – 16th: Rhododendron Species Foundation Spring Plant Sale, Federal Way, Washington

May 14th: Heronswood Spring Open, Kingston, Washington

June 3rd – 4th: Spring Open House here at the nursery in Sequim

June 25th – 26th: Gig Harbor Garden Tour, Gig Harbor, Washington

July 23rd: Heronswood Summer Open, Kingston, Washington

July 29th – 30th: Mid-Summer Open House here at the nursery in Sequim

September 10th: Salem Hardy Plant Society Sale, Rickreall, Oregon (near Salem)

September 17th: Heronswood “Fall”? Open House. I hope they don’t call it that, since it will still be summer. Kingston, Washington

September 23rd – 24th: Fall Open House here at the nursery in Sequim. Take a day trip to the peninsula and enjoy free admission to Olympic National Park on the 24th!

In addition to these events, we are considering selling plants at the Port Angeles Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays, just on an experimental basis. This is only an idea for now, but we’ll make an announcement here if we actually decide to do it, and if they let us.

Some notes and further thoughts follow:

This will be the first year for us doing the Heronswood Early Spring event. We have done most of the others since they began but not this one. While everyone else will be there with their cutesy spring ephemerals and whatnot we will have the usual supply of Grevilleas and Leptospermums, because, of course, they are not just for summer. We’ll see how that goes over. I hope the weather is nice!

Last year we skipped Hortlandia. This year we will again be back at Hortlandia. Yay. However, we will have a limited amount of nursery stock due to lack of vehicle space (I’ll probably rent a car). So I’m kind of doing it just for fun. But I will bring the coolest and most exciting stuff we currently have in stock.

Last year we skipped the Clackamas County Spring Garden Fair in Canby. I hope to get back to that event again sometime, but probably not until all vehicle/trailer issues are resolved, which still hasn’t happened. So we are again taking another year off from that, but not giving up on it. (What happened to that trailer, you might be wondering? Well, I had it just about ready to go for Fronderosa last August, but it turned out the wiring needed more work, so we still haven’t used it. Then over the winter the vehicle with the trailer hitch on it died. Bottom line, cars hate me, but I knew that.)

The Gig Harbor Garden Tour is a new one for us as well. I don’t know what this event is like but we will just try it and see how it goes.

The Fronderosa Frolic in Gold Bar, which we had done every year since 2008, is sadly no more. It had a great run, but even by the time we joined on was (so it was said) not as spectacular as it had once been. It would be interesting to analyze “what happened” to make this sale go from an exciting event to one that was gradually less interesting each year. But the ultimate cause probably has to do with the general troubles faced by the nursery and garden industry as culture becomes more globalized, out of touch with nature, and disenchanted with local horticultural events. Times have changed and the nursery business must adapt. I am glad to have been a part of Fronderosa while it lasted.

It felt good not doing the NHS fall sale last year, which is also a shadow of its former self, and which always seems to be the same weekend as something else we like better. So I guess we’ll have to skip it again.

We look forward to seeing you at one of these events. You can even come to all of them! We will be impressed.

What’s blooming on December 19th? You’d be surprised!

Traditionally, many people in the Northwest don’t think of December as a time of year for gardening. The days are short, it rains all the time and everyone who still doesn’t hate Christmas (judging from Facebook, this seems to be a growing trend) is busy with Christmas plans. Late fall, it is assumed, is when the garden goes to sleep so we don’t have to think about it until spring. If your garden looks ugly and dead by December, by which time we have usually had a few hard frosts, no one will judge you for it.

But after they see this garden on Whidbey Island, perhaps they will. (Is that how I wanted to start this paragraph? Maybe not.) Let’s put it this way. Hummingbird Hill garden, which we visited over the weekend, shows us how one can achieve excellent success creating year-round interest in the garden right here in the Northwest. It was created by the late Bob Barca, with a great deal of assistance from his family who continue to maintain it. Sadly, Bob passed away unexpectedly a couple years ago.

Mostly the photos below highlight the plants that are in bloom now. Of course, creating year round interest also involves making good use of interesting evergreen foliage and structure. That could be another whole post. For now though we’ll take a look at what actually blooms at this time of year around here, that more people should be growing. I think you may be surprised!  You’ll notice that Grevilleas are kind of a big deal.


View to the residence. I feel that a couple large Olearias and/or Leptospermums may have been removed from this area, but in a garden like this, who’s counting them?



A fine specimen of Grevillea miqueliana subsp. moroka greets you as you pull up.



Adjacent the front gate is Grevillea victoriae ‘Marshall Olbrich’.



Grevillea victoriae subsp. nivalis ‘Murray Valley Queen’ is truly one of the best Grevilleas. It is a prolific bloomer from October through April and sometimes longer, and hummingbirds love the flowers.



Grevillea lavandulacea ‘Penola’ isn’t quite blooming yet, though it’s budded up.


This is a newer cultivar selected by Xera Plants, Grevillea x ‘Neil Bell’ with good hardiness and large flowers.


It’s now been so long since I’ve worked in conventional nurseries that I can’t remember what this is. But hey, it’s blooming.


Melianthus major, not blooming, but it looked so great I had to include it in this post. Melianthus generally grows in winter in nature, and looks best when the weather is cool.



Arctostaphylos rudis, native to southern California, but it does fine in milder Northwest gardens.


Grevillea ‘Poorinda Leane’. Bob bought several of these from us (along with quite a few other plants) and they have all flourished, surviving below 10°F when they were much smaller (in November 2010). It is one of the hardiest and easiest Grevilleas to grow.


Grevillea victoriae subsp. victoriae, not as floriferous as ‘Murray Valley Queen’, but hardy and dependable.


Ooh it’s winter blooming heather. OK, not that rare, but it fits the theme.


Another manzanita, which is almost certainly the cultivar ‘Austin Griffiths’, a known December bloomer. If those flowers look an awful lot like that winter-blooming heather, well they are in the same family!


Grevillea x ‘Audrey’. This blooms nearly year-round in the Northwest.


Acacia boormannii, not blooming yet but in full bud. This isn’t actually hardy, however, and was certainly planted sometime after the aforementioned winter of 2010-11. Acacia pravissima, also not really hardy but tougher than this species, was in full bud as well. These should start opening up around mid-January or so.


Abutilon megapotamicum.


Grevillea x gaudichaudii, OK, it’s not blooming, but it looks so cool that we don’t mind.


Thanks largely to the nectar-rich Grevillea flowers, hummingbirds seem to really like to hang out in this garden!

So that will have to wrap it up and I hope you enjoyed the tour. I suppose I had better mention that we have most of these plants for sale at any given time, or at least similar items. If you want a garden with cool stuff that blooms in winter, you know where to find them.

Also as this is my last post of the year, let me say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We wish all the best to you and your family.

Better Late than Never

This is where I offer a quick update to let everyone know I’m still alive. Now I have once again been very delinquent in maintaining the practice of posting our nursery newsletters to this blog. I send them by email and I should post them here but I sometimes just can’t get to it all. For the sake of consistency I think I ought to post them here even if they are old news. So you can look at those below if you are really bored and want something to read. I know some of the information about past events isn’t going to do you much good at this point.

As we head into winter my level of occupation with the nursery and other important pursuits continues apace. There is no “winding down” with the tail end of the fall season, at least not this year. Retail nursery people might not get this, but I would be happy to put them to work on a number of tasks if they are bored and want to work for free. Ha ha.

Most importantly we are in the process of building greenhouse 4. (I said that in the newsletter below.) If that gets done before winter strikes, life will be much easier because there will be plenty of room in the greenhouses for all the stock that needs to go in. If winter decides to show up in mid-November again, then I am going to have to shove everything into the other greenhouses and end up moving it twice and not be able to reach everything. That is a lot of extra work but if it is what I have to do we will do it. I think this greenhouse will be done by about Thanksgiving, but it’s not that I got a late start– I have been clearing a pile of rocks out of the way since August. Generally, the stuff sitting outside that needs to come in can take a little frost, and sometimes more, but real winter– mid 20’s or below– really needs to hold off a few more weeks or I will have to ask for my money back.

Soon-to-be-assembled greenhouse 4, all the posts set and just a few large rocks still left. I moved all those rocks just after I took the photo.

Soon-to-be-assembled greenhouse 4, all the posts set and just a few large rocks still left. I moved all those rocks just after I took the photo.

A 5' tall pile of rocks that I moved from the space where greenhouse 4 is going. By the way, did you know that rocks are heavy?

A 5′ tall pile of rocks that I moved from the space where greenhouse 4 is going. By the way, did you know that rocks are heavy?

What else do we do in winter? Well last winter, I did a lot of organizing papers in my house. It had been neglected and put off for a few years but I made a major dent in that stuff and got organizeder. (That should be a word.) I had some other house projects to do as well—building shelves and that sort of thing. Also last winter I did a lot of cleaning up in the greenhouses. Stock gets old, gets weeds in it, roots into the ground, etc., and needs attention. But I did not do nearly enough. This year I shall be far more aggressive about it. I also expect more success since I have new soil, unlike last year. New soil with no weed seeds in it gets me off to a much better start each season. And I also did a little planting in the ground last winter. But this year I want to do a lot more. We’ll see how far I get, but I probably won’t get too serious about it until that greenhouse is done.

This is the Grevillea section. It is already cleaned up, but there is much more work to do in other areas. The kneeling pads, broom and dustpan are placed to make it look as if someone is working on it.

This is the Grevillea section. It is already cleaned up, but there is much more work to do in other areas. The kneeling pads, broom and dustpan are placed to make it look as if someone is working on it.

A new pile of soil with no weed seeds in it. Yes, it really is as exciting as it looks.

A new pile of soil with no weed seeds in it. Yes, it really is as exciting as it looks.

Here are some plants that are in the ground, and have been for just under a year. There are few weeds in this spot because it still hasn't really rained under the large douglas-fir trees where these are planted.

Here are some plants that are in the ground, and have been for just under a year. There are few weeds in this spot because it still hasn’t really rained under the large douglas-fir trees where these are planted.

This Arctostaphylos manzanita 'Montlake' is also in the ground. The cage is in place to protect it from giant, evil rats with antlers.

This Arctostaphylos manzanita ‘Montlake’ is also in the ground. The cage is in place to protect it from giant, evil rats with antlers.

In winter, we still ship, but we try to pay attention to the weather. If it’s bitterly cold where the plants are going, or en route, we wait until a break in the weather. Shipping along the West Coast is certainly not a problem, as long as we are above freezing here. We also continue to be open by appointment.

In theory we also work on the web page. I don’t even want to say anything about that because this is like the sixth time in a row I have said I am going to update it and then I can’t quite get it done. But someday I will, and when it happens I will certainly announce it here.

Late fall is also when we propagate nearly all of our cutting stock. We do not have a mist propagation system yet, so we find that cutting propagation works best during a relatively narrow window from late fall up to about New Year’s. We are constantly on the lookout for cuttings of new and interesting things, so guard your plants carefully! Ha ha, yes that was a joke. (Or was it?)

The beginning of fall cuttings. At left is Romneya, which I haven't propagated in several years.

The beginning of fall cuttings. At left is Romneya, which I haven’t propagated in several years.

Here I am attempting something experimental. Certain easily propagated plants such as Hebes and Fuchsias have been stuck in their individual pots with potting soil. As long as they can root without bottom heat I think it may just work.

Here I am attempting something experimental. Certain easily propagated plants such as Hebes and Fuchsias have been stuck in their individual pots with potting soil. As long as they can root without bottom heat I think it may just work.

I also have numerous “family commitments” as we might call them. So that’s all right, and I don’t feel like I’m wasting time even if I’m not spending as much on the nursery as the nursery would appreciate.

So that is what we are up to. And here are those newsletters that should have been posted here months ago. Better late than never, right? Hey, at the rate we’re going that could be our motto.


July 29th Newsletter
The Desert Northwest SUMMER OPEN HOUSE! …and more news.

Dear Plant Friends,

Welcome to another dry Northwest summer. While this summer has been drier and hotter than average by a significant margin, there is still nothing unusual about the fact that it has been dry. Lest we forget, it gets pretty dry around here every summer, just not as early and not this hot. So while some of us are scrambling to keep everything watered, we here at the Desert Northwest continue to propagate as quickly as possible more exciting water-wise plants for your garden.

This newsletter is to remind you all that we will be open this Friday and Saturday, July 31 and August 1, for our annual summer open house. (See for details and directions.) Unlike the spring open house, this time we will be putting signage back up in the nursery, although we don’t have signs for everything. The “overly attached plants sale” will be on once again: that means 50% off the regular price of anything that is rooted into the ground through the bottom of the pot (or otherwise shabby). The numbers of these have diminished somewhat compared to the spring sale, but not quite as much as we would like, and a lot of new and fresh nursery stock has been piled in front of the old stuff until we have time to deal with it. Which we will. Oh yes we will.

What’s new as far as plants? All of a sudden Australian tea trees (Leptospermums) are back and we have a lot of them! L. namadgiensis and L. ‘Eugene Hardy’ in particular are very useful garden plants, making a beautiful fine textured screen that tolerates drought, any soil and the deer don’t touch it (yes, for real!). Available primarily in the 4” pot size (but a few odd larger ones), these grow fast and will be impressive in the garden within a year or two. Colorful new growth and early summer flowers are nice too. The silvery L. cunninghamii and deep-green ‘Highland Pink’ are also still available, as well as others.

Then we have the manzanitas (Arctostaphylos), which are among the most valuable water-wise plants for Northwest gardens, and our selection of these is now on the upswing once again! These are mostly in the 4” pot size but a limited selection of larger sizes can also be found. There are too many types to list, but they include both the popular hybrids such as ‘Pacific Mist’ (back after a long absence) and ‘Howard McMinn’, along with a limited number of wild selections of species and hybrids native to Washington, Oregon and Northern California. The much talked about Xera Plants selection A. x media ‘Martha Ewan’ is also available (although you won’t see it on the list yet, because they looked too small a couple weeks ago when I made the list).

Complimentary to manzanita is the genus Ceanothus. We currently offer a nice form of C. impressus, as well as a huge mystery hybrid Ceanothus that ought to make a fabulous large-scale groundcover and be hardy to subzero temperatures. Some forms of C. prostratus also look like they’re just about ready to sell (also not yet on the list). This native species is slow-growing, cute and rarely offered.

And of course there is all kinds of other cool stuff available as usual, but I don’t want this newsletter to get so long that we don’t make it to the end. OK, but just one more thing: Telopea truncata. What is it, you ask? Basically it’s an Embothrium relative from Tasmania but with dark red flowers in tight clusters. It is super rare! People have been asking me about this for years, and at last I have managed to produce a nice crop of them. They are little but look great!

So what’s up with the web site? It still says 2013 on the plant list, which I admit is now way out of date. However I do HAVE a new list, and it’s just a matter of getting it on the web site. Actually I almost finished that about two weeks ago when some other stuff came up and I just couldn’t quite get it—oh well, hopefully soon. In the meantime I will attach for your viewing pleasure an up-to-date and CURRENT list of our plant availability to this e-mail.

If you can’t make it to the Open House this weekend, come and visit us at the Fronderosa Frolic in Gold Bar the following weekend (August 8). (See And as always, you are welcome to request plants from our list that you might want and we will bring them!

Thanks for reading! We hope to see you soon.

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


September 18th Newsletter
The Desert Northwest OPEN HOUSE, Late Summer Update and Special Offer!

Greetings plant people! We write to remind you of several things. First off, NEXT weekend, on September 25th-26th, is our FALL OPEN HOUSE, our final open house event of the year (directions at Fall rains are here and it is a fine time to plant (except really tender stuff). Come on out and shop till you drop! If that doesn’t work for you, we’ll be at the Heronswood sale THIS weekend (the 19th) in Kingston (details at And if that doesn’t work, there’s still mail-order and appointments at any time! You’ll have to keep reading for the special offer part. Are we tricksy or what?

While everyone may be talking about fall, we haven’t forgotten that it is still technically summer. We like to remember these things because we don’t fear the heat. And what a summer it has been. We extend our sympathies to those who have suffered losses from the unusually bad wildfire season this year. I figure this summer has been a bit like the Holocene Warm Period of 7 – 10,000 years ago; when Garry oak, golden chinkapin and sagebrush dominated western Washington’s vegetation: hot, dry and sunny with smoke in the air half the time. Only we’re not accustomed to that.

More importantly (ha ha), our gardens are not used to it! I’m seeing all kinds of established plantings, usually of species that prefer summer water, that look either very stressed or fried to a crisp. And even some native plants and other water-wise species are under stress. When the weather deviates from normal, root systems are simply not equipped to draw water deeply enough from the soil to sustain the plants in good condition. Except cacti; they do fine.

This leads me to my next point. Our selection of hardy cacti is expanding! A few months back I took some cuttings of 15 or so different Opuntias (prickly pear cacti). They don’t have any new growth yet but they are rooted and ready to sell. We promise lots of new growth next year, and as long as they have good drainage, yes you can plant now—these are all super-hardy types including some native to Washington. Did we mention they have fabulous flowers? This is why we need a few display beds. But hey, we’ll get there sometime.

So, what about the rest of our plant availability? It’s actually on the upswing, and more on that below. It seems every time I send out a newsletter I say I am almost done with an update to the web site, and then never quite manage to finish it. That is really lame since it is so far out of date. On the other hand, I suppose it is a good sign I am keeping busy enough with ongoing maintenance and orders from people who email and ask about availability (and this is very much welcomed) not to have much time to work on it. Let’s just say I haven’t given up, but I’d best refrain from making any promises as to when that update will appear. For now I will append to this newsletter the July 2015 availability list which is reasonably up to date. This is the same list I sent out with the July newsletter, but I’ll send it again just for fun.

Now if you come out to the nursery, you’ll find there is actually MORE available now than even the July list shows, particularly in the 4” pot size. This is because a lot of the cuttings I potted up in May and June matured after I made the list. This includes a broad range of items from manzanitas to Grevilleas to Chilean and New Zealand stuff. So there are actually lots of new (and returning) treasures available, and no telling what you will find! I’d better mention Grevillea juniperina ‘Molonglo’ which we have not had in many years. We also have to note Ceanothus impressus really does impress us. And yes, Telopea truncata is still available.

So about that special offer. If you show up at the open house, I’m offering a free plant of either Arctostaplylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’, Arctostaphylos ‘Pacific Mist’ or Leptospermum namadgiensis—yourchoice!—with any purchase of two plants or more. Hey, if you blow a lot of money here I might even give you more than one. Don’t you just love gimmicks?

The Overly Attached Plants Sale continues yet again—that means 50% off the regular price for plants that are rooted through the pot and into the ground, or otherwise severely distressed. There are a few less of these than in July but I have not had the time to deal with these that I had hoped for. Perhaps I will in the coming months. (This had really better be the last time I do this or I will have some major problems next year.) Oh, and our familiar gray canopy died in the windstorm, which is tragic. If I had been using my head I might have put it away first. Maybe if the Heronswood sale goes really well I’ll feel inspired to buy another one next week, probably something smaller.

As long as I’m rambling enough to mention the canopy, I may as well note that construction of greenhouse 4 is underway, with the goal of being completed around early November! We can hope that the room to spread out will be just what we need to improve the nursery’s organization going into the future. We hope to move a lot of stuff around over the winter when it is done. Watch for an update on that, and other happenings, on my blog! I ought to have more time to provide updates on this stuff come late fall and winter.

See you soon!
Ian & Co.
The Desert Northwest
PO Box 3475
Sequim, WA 98382


Spring open house is this weekend, Friday through Sunday, details and directions about which can be found here. More about that below! But first, some whining:

Good grief, what a month! I am sorry if I have not responded to your email. To start with I had my SECOND hard drive crash of the season, which had the misfortune of coinciding with my computer guy being out of town. At least the hard drive was under warranty, but I still don’t have my main computer back (and the others don’t really work well enough to count). Then on top of that our internet hardware seems to have died. I hope we have that resolved in the next day or two. In the meantime I admit the emails are piling up. I’m here in the library typing this and for some mysterious reason STILL can’t get into my Desert Northwest email. (Which also means this newsletter won’t go out via email right at this moment.) I hope all this will be resolved soon, hopefully before I turn into a complete technophobe.

Then there’s the nursery. Earlier this spring I got off to a great start, but parts of the nursery are now in, shall we say, less than ideal condition because babies (of the human variety) don’t sleep through the night. They are also a major distraction but in a good way of course. So the end result is, I’ve decided to announce a sale on OVERLY ATTACHED PLANTS. All overly attached plants will be offered at… drumroll please… 50% OFF the listed price on the web site.

What’s an overly attached plant, you ask? Well, that’s a plant (generally in a 4″ pot, but even a few larger items) that just loves being at our nursery so much that it rooted itself right into the ground through the bottom of the pot before anyone managed to move it. In general most of these plants are still salvageable given the right care. You’ll see some that I pulled out, cut back hard and potted up earlier and they are now doing fine. I still have a lot more of that to do and fortunately all summer to do it. But maybe we can speed this process along by trying to clear a bunch of them out right now.

The only conditions are that “overly attached” is defined according to our discretion (but don’t worry, we won’t be stingy), and plants should be pulled under staff supervision (that’s me!). Reasons for this include making sure you, the customer, have realistic expectations about the plants’ salvageability/performance. We’ll want to determine that a good proportion of healthy roots are still in the pot. We may also want to cut it back for you and/or soak it in water, which will be available. Another reason is if you pull something from the nursery and later decide you don’t want it, we’ll need to attend to it/them that evening. They may not last if they are just left out in the nursery, especially if I don’t find them for a while i.e. if I don’t know they have been pulled. Finally, the usual quantity discount for one-time purchases of $200 or greater does not apply to these plants.

Now lest we think this is entirely a salvage operation or something, there is also plenty of good news. Certain sections of the nursery are in good shape such as the conifers (a great selection as always) and the Fuchsias. Our selection of things like Olearia, Callistemon and Podocarpus remains good as well as various Washington native cacti (all Opuntia, no Pediocactus at this time). There are even a few exciting things like Heteromeles arbutifolia, Grevillea x gaudichaudii and Brachyglottis ‘Otari Cloud’ out there if you poke around. So yes, there are still a lot of NEW plants in the pipeline, and hopefully clearing out some of the old stuff will make room for them to fit!! And as always, some of the usual stuff like Grevillea, manzanita and the like remain available.

I will not be putting up my usual signage for this event, so it will be beneficial to arrive with a list of what you have in mind. I will be here and available all weekend to assist you with any questions. One thing about my signs is that there are a lot of good plants in the nursery for which I have no sign, and people keep passing these by, so we’ll just see how it goes without signs this time and call it an experiment. Maybe some of the other good plants will get some attention!

So there you have it. This is the first proper “sale” we have ever had and will probably be the last for a long time! Unless we change our minds. Well I’d better stop typing before the library staff accuse me of hogging all the internet. Thanks for reading!

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

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