Oh boy—a specialty nursery tour. Last week, my friend Ann Murphy, Marketing Director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, invited four of us—garden writers and landscape professionals—to explore the Cascade Nursery Trail. I’m preparing my garden for the July 7 Garden Conservancy open day, so this was a perfect time for plant acquisition.
Oregon is blessed with specialty nurseries—thank you, thank you, all you passionate horticultural professionals! Every owner I met on our tour had started down their hort career path because of their own insatiable interests.
The Cascade Nursery Trail makes it easy to track down seven of these unique growers’ establishments. In one day, cruising around the back roads east of I-5 near Salem, we hit six—a 10-hour (including lunch) plant marathon limited only by how many containers we could actually stuff into the back of Ginger Aarons-Garrison‘s giant Ford Excursion.
Note: when doing any part of this trail, you should give yourself two things. Number one is more time than you think you’ll need—you won’t want to rush through your favorites. And number two, more vehicle space. I advise dumping everything out that’s usually in your car but the spare tire and your wallet. The choice and unusual offerings will seriously tempt you.
Actually, some of the fun for me was watching Oregonian newspaper columnist Kym Pokorny wrestle with not buying plants. She’s moved to a new home and is doing it right this time, design first, plant later. Could she hold out for an entire tour of incredible nurseries?
If you’re in another part of the country and getting frustrated with plant envy, read on. You can click on the nursery links that interest you—several of these establishments do mail order.
First stop: Highland Heather. Nursery owner Janice Leinwebber cleared up my perpetual heather/heath identification confusion: If it only blooms in late summer—it’s likely heather (Calluna vulgaris). Rest of the year—heath (Erica).
I took home: Erica x stuartii ‘Irish Orange’ for the rusty maroon new foliage, and Calluna vulgaris ‘Nana compacta’ a rounded mound that spreads a foot—eventually.
Second stop: Secret Garden Growers. Here designer and writer Lisa Meddinand I wandered the shade display gardens together. We tried to ID all the beautiful plantings designed by owner Pat Thompson—sometimes we got it right.
I took home: Zingiber mioga ‘Dancing Cranes’, a three-foot tall variegated ginger.
Third stop: Sebright Gardens. Hostas, epimediums and ferns, oh my! Great display gardens almost kept me out of the buying houses. But not quite.
I’m coming back for Sebright’s own hosta introduction “Gentle Giant’.
I took home: Six epimediums, three deciduous and three evergreen. These low-spreading perennials are the gold standard for dry shade. I have plenty of that, so I’m starting a collection.
I took home: Astilbe ‘Younique Lilac’ a compact ( sixteen to twenty inches) form with pale lilac (what else?) flowers.
Fifth stop: (Are you hanging in there with me?) Out in the Garden Nursery. A group of heritage oak trees were a delight at this point in the run. Owner Carol Westergreen is building a sumptuous display garden around the grove.
I took home: Hydrangea ‘Little Honey’, a compact three-by-three-footer with golden oak leaf foliage.
Sixth stop: On the home stretch we traveled out to Wild Ginger Farm, where we were greeted by owners Emma Elliot and Truls Jensen, along with various border collies—my favorite brainy breed. Yes, I was lured into throwing a few tennis balls for the retrieving obsessed.
But all kinds of obsessions get nourished at Wild Ginger. I always love walking into a nursery where I can’t identify the plant material—and this went way beyond my experience with alpines and rock garden plants. I purchased several enticing plants to fill in some spaces between the stones in my new rock garden.
I took home: Delosperma davyi, a hardy iceplant (to 10 degrees) that grows an inch tall with an eight-inch spread, with teeny red bronze succulent leaves, Eriogonum arcuatum v. xanthum, a mat-forming buckwheat with gray-green foliage and yellow flowers and Scleranthus uniflorus ‘Olive’ my favorite—a tiny three-inch half mound of dense olive green leaves.
And yes, by the time we had visited this nursery, Kym gave in, although with admirable restraint. Here’s the proof that plants did go home with her.
Here’s what Kym took home: