Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Plant Geek Unleashed, Part I

On Mother's Day my family and I went nursery hopping. The weather was beautiful and it called us to explore. We managed three nurseries in total, two of which are old favorites and one is a new favorite that I will be returning to very soon.

Our first stop was The Barn, located just south of Olympia on Old Highway 99 SE. This nursery is right next to Great Western Supply, a sister company that sells landscape supplies. Dairy manure features in several of their soil mixes, and the aroma does waft over the nursery frequently. Those with delicate noses should toughen up. Personally I prefer a whiff of manure to the asthma-inducing fragrances in store isles with laundry or beauty products.



I loved this lush, random, somewhat messy mixed planter. The Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow' arching up from the center was absolutely dripping with clusters of tiny white blooms. The different shades of green and varying textures was drool-inducing. I know many people don't like mixed containers, and I don't often either, but this one spoke to me.

Here's a closer view. You can see in the top center some of the blooms on the leucothoe. All of the taller stems were absolutely covered in this manner. I love the euonymus and Himalayan maidenhair especially, but the various chartreuse plants provide some much-needed highlights.

I'm not a huge fan of garden art, but this flower wood cutout with a green glass lantern caught my eye. I love the style of the cutout and I pretty much always like green glass.

A small display garden behind the barn gives shoppers some ideas for their own gardens, and a place to rest.

I love this combination of dwarf blue spruce and gold thread falsecypress. The pond is home to two white koi.

If anyone can take a stab at naming this heath (Erica sp.), I would love to know which one it is. It was about 3 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide. The white flowers gave off a wonderful vanilla/honey fragrance that was detectable both up close and wafting from several yards away.
Update: Further research leads me to believe this is a cultivar of Erica arborea, possibly 'Estrella Gold' since the new growth just beginning to poke out of the flowers was fairly yellow.

And it was absolutely covered in honey bees! I usually see bumblebees on heaths and heathers more often than honey bees, but these gals weren't sharing!

I've been looking more into ground covers lately, and I am falling under the spell of lady's mantle, Alchemilla mollis. It never really appealed to me before, but I'm coming to appreciate the quiet beauty of this tough, deer-resistant perennial. I enjoy the texture of the leaves and how they hold water droplets. The color of the leaves and the flowers are also a nice contrast to the darker greens so predominant in my garden. I would have taken one of these home, but it's such a common pass-along plant that I'm sure I can beg some divisions off of friends.

I am a major fan of the family Ericaceae, the heath family. One of my favorite genera in that family is Gaultheria. Every gardener in the PNW is familiar with salal, Gaultheria shallon, but the genus comes in many shapes and sizes. This small groundcover is Gaultheria miqueliana, or Miquel's wintergreen. In addition to attractive evergreen leaves and reddish stems, this wintergreen bears clusters of tiny white flowers followed by shining white berries at least as big as the leaves. All parts of this plant, especially the berries, smell of wintergreen.

This stacked-stone water feature in one corner of the nursery caught both my eyes and my ears. It had that perfect burbling, trickling water sound.

 A poor shot, but this shows another section of the nursery with larger shade trees for sale at fairly reasonable prices. Last time we visited The Barn, this area was unused. I believe this area was once part of a wholesale nursery that may or may not have been in partnership with The Barn. The wholesaler relocated and this area was left empty. Business must have been good the last few years as this nursery has expanded their stock and sales area considerably.

A cluster of greenhouses near the front of the nursery house annuals, vegetables, and small perennials.

Inside the namesake big red barn is a selection of garden supplies, tools, and artsy items. One of the tools was this Grampa's Do-It-All.

Apparently it has many uses, helpfully listed on the back of the label. I think Medieval reenactments might be one of those uses, but putting that on the label would probably lead to lawsuits.

They have a large selection of Japanese-style gardening tools, especially weeders and trowels.

The main part of the barn holds artwork, crafts, soaps, candy, etc., giving everyone something to enjoy at this nursery.

One of the more unusual features is this burlap tree, which looms behind you as you approach the cashier.

All those plants and I only took three with me. We did have two more nurseries to visit, after all.

Alchemilla is a larger genus than I realized. This miniscule evergreen ground cover is Alchemilla ellenbeckii. The flowers are tiny and hidden within the foliage, but the vibrant red stems and purple-tinged new growth provide a far superior show. While I passed on the larger lady's mantle, this little cutie had to come home with us.

With this Miquel's wintergreen, I have now officially begun my Gaultheria collection. I haven't counted the masses of salal around the property because it's naturally occuring, but now that I have an intentionally acquired species, I'm counting them as part of the collection. I can't wait to see this spreading into a white berry-covered patch in the garden. I find white berries and flowers very valuable in our dark PNW winters, as we typically don't see much snow.

Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow' also came home with me. This will provide a large-scale ground cover around the persimmons I recently planted. The variegation, red-tinged winter color, and white flowers will add a nice contrast to the dark green pine and mountain laurels.

Next stop Down's Rhododendron Garden for their spring sale!

12 comments:

  1. Looks like you had a grand time and got three great additions to your garden! I love the Barn and try to visit when I'm down in that area. To my nose, the fragrance of manure is far preferable to the chemical stench in the fertilizer section of the box stores. How fortunate you are that your mother enjoys nursery hopping! Who had more fun on Mother's day, her or you?

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    1. I grew up on Sunday trips to nurseries. She enjoys going to nurseries, but probably not as much as my plant-obsessed self.

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  2. Fun outing and new plants too! Looking forward to the next installment.

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    1. I had been needing this outing. It was great, even if it did break the bank a little.

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  3. Oh, that little red-stemmed Alchemilla is fabulous! I'm sure if you come to the autumn plant exchange this year someone will have lady's mantle for you. I love The Barn, it's such a fun place.

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    1. My mother picked out the Alchemilla. I love when my parents get involved in selecting plants for their own garden.

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  4. Although I don't suffer from asthma, I truly enjoy a 'whiff of manure'. It indicates I'm close to farm life and nature, which is irresistible. I love the look of lady's mantle. I saw a large spread of them in south seattle arboretum. They have sprawling tendencies so I never acquired one for my smallish garden, but it could work well in your larger lot. The way their soft leafs hold water droplets is beautiful.

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    1. Growing up in a forested area rather than a farming community, I don't make the same connection between manure and nature, but I do prefer it to smog and chemicals. To me nature is the smell of firs and cedars, salty ocean breezes and crisp mountain air.

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  5. I think that's the first time I've seen Leucothoe in bloom, nice as well as the red stemmed Alchemilla. Looks like a fab day out Evan!

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    1. Alison has a much better picture of a Leucothoe in bloom in one of her recent posts. It was a great day out, and very profitable in the plant sense, though it was hard on the wallet.

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  6. Okay, I must find Alchemilla ellenbeckii! Those ruby stems, ooh, la, la.

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    1. Isn't that color just spectacular?

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