A visit to Xera Plants retail store and Cistus Nursery, Part II

As promised, today I'm covering my visit to Cistus Nursery. Cistus has become synonymous with rare, unusual, and downright cool plants. While it's a plant geek's dream and there are many (MANY) plants that are perfectly hardy in the Pacific Northwest, they also offer many plants that are only hardy in the mildest microclimates of the PNW, so they are perhaps not as practical as Xera if you are looking specifically for hardy, climate-adapted plants. I don't mean to criticize. They still have a plethora of plants that are well-adapted to our climate, but if you are looking for those kinds of plants just remember to read the labels carefully and ask the helpful staff if you aren't sure. And while I love Xera's focus on climate-adapted plants, I have an equal but different admiration for the sheer variety offered by Cistus. Like Plant Delights and Far Reaches, Cistus is one of those special nurseries that is at the forefront of introducing new and rare plants for our gardening pleasure. Everyone should have some tender plants (or plants that simply aren't perfectly adapted to your climate) to either try a little zone-pushing, as potted specimens that are sheltered in the winter, or in special areas of the garden where their needs can be met. And it is the prerogative of a nursery owner to offer whatever plants they think are cool and worthwhile. Many of these tender and otherwise less-adapted plants I would love to add to my collection and I probably will at some point. Right now, though, I'm really focused on finding tough, hardy plants that will last in my parents' yard. Take it as the envy of a gardener living in a bit of a frost pocket, with clay soil that doesn't always drain very well and thirsty Douglas firs everywhere.

I'm learning to quell the negative gut reaction whenever I see something resembling Scotch broom. Easy enough with this beauty in the parking lot.

All the beautiful yellow flowers without any of the guilt!

The Eucalyptus were definitely my favorite group this time. Their scent filled the air and made for a magical experience.

The big, crepe paper blossoms of Romneya coulteri.

Another Eucalyptus filling the air with the sound of rustling leaves and a touch of camphor.

Fantastic shaggy bark, too!

Ah, do you hear the beckoning calls of plants waiting to come home with you?

The unusual flowers of Euonymous myrianthus are much larger than one typically thinks of for a Euonymous. They remind me a little of Leptospermum. I'll bet it's fantastic in fall when the yellow-orange fruits open to reveal their red seeds.

I enjoyed the signage. More creative than the usual.

I loved these little houses. It was like walking into a special room full of treasures to discover.

Treasures like this Ficus heterophylla (small-leaved form). Those red stems and petioles are to die for!

Digitalis parviflora 'Milk Chocolate' bares lovely little chocolate-colored blooms.

Pictures of Convulvulus cneorum simply don't do it justice. It is one of the most fantastically silver plants I've ever seen. I have a new love!

Carpenteria californica 'Elizabeth' was loaded with beautiful white flowers. I neglected to give them a sniff, but had the opportunity to get a whiff in another garden recently and love the fragrance. I nearly brought home a specimen of this compact Carpenteria cultivar, but was afraid it would be too large for the spot I had in mind. Then I went and put an Arctostaphylos in the same spot and it could get just as big! A gardener's logic, yes?

I am absolutely in love with the idea of hardy bromeliads, like this Fascicularia bicolor ssp. caniculata Spinner's Form. I passed on this for now. I'd add it to my garden (which I don't have yet) but it's not the kind of thing I'd want to test in my parents' garden. I have another Fascicularia bicolor in a container. That will have to do for now.

These Abutilon megapotamicum 'Sunset' were stunning. My sad little A. megapotamicum is growing rather slowly after its rough treatment moving across the country.

Given how enamored I was of the mature Eucalyptus, I had to bring home a few of my own. This E. debeuzevillei and two E. neglecta came home with me. Unfortunately I forgot to spray the newly planted trees with deer repellent, though I'm surprised (and furious) that the deer even tasted them, smelling of camphor as they do. But deer are curious and will taste anything new. The two E. neglecta got their tops removed, but the E. debeuzevillei, having a much smaller root system, was torn completely out of the ground and left to die. If I hadn't been away in Eastern Washington I might have been able to catch it soon enough to save the tree. Of course the deer would kill my favorite one! I'm not giving up, though. I'll get another and this time I'll remember to spray it, or maybe even cage it.

Moving on to happier thoughts, like the contemplation of these fuzzy Callistemon flowers. That's better, isn't it?

Thanks to a certain Dangerous friend, I'm becoming enchanted with Astelia, like this cultivar 'Red Devil'. The subtle rainbow of metallic colors from green to red and purple, and even some bluish shine, was mesmerizing. This cultivar, with a conservative hardiness rating of USDA zone 7, is hardy enough to tempt me, but I have few places where I can (or want to) provide reliably damp conditions in full sun.

This truly lust-worthy plant is Metrosideros kermadecensis 'Variegata'. Love those spidery red flowers!

The attractive variegated foliage makes it showy even when not in bloom. Not hardy here, but definitely worth growing in a container. This is on my "someday" wishlist, as in "someday when I don't have to worry about inconveniencing anyone else by filling my entire house with plants."

Another plant on my "someday" wishlist is this Leucodendron 'More Silver'. In case you haven't noticed, I have a thing for silver and blue foliage.

It seems like everyone who's been to the nursery recently has posted photos of these two yuccas, but I just couldn't resist snapping a photo of my own!

Upon leaving the front greenhouse, I chanced upon this collection of Dyckia.

Gotta love those brilliant orange flowers!

A foliar tunnel enclosed a path leading back towards the house. I didn't want to intrude and the time for me to go home was quickly approaching, so I left it for another visit when I have more time and can seek permission to explore more thoroughly.

Before I could make my exit, another Eucalyptus beckoned to me.

The colorful, flaking bark says this is perhaps Edebeuzevillei? That feature, and its hardiness, is why this is one of my favorite Eucalyptus.

I remembered I needed to make one last swing through the nursery to get a picture of this Arctostaphylos malloryi SBH 9145 and, more importantly, a picture of its label. For some reason the larger plants had labels with full descriptions, but the smaller plant that I purchased only had the name on its label.

One last shot of the sales area before I left. So hard to drag myself away, and the two employees keeping tabs on things were so nice not to kick me out even though it was already past closing. Time to go, but wait! What is THAT?

How on Earth did I miss the giant laughing vampire duck with a cannon in its mouth? And why have I not seen any pictures of this before?

My haul from Cistus. Did I mention I love silver and blue foliage? Left to right, Arctostaphylos malloryi SBH 9145, Convulvulus cneorum (hardy to zone 8, hopefully the south wall of the house will be warm enough to counteract the slight frost pocket of the rest of the garden), Eucalyptus neglecta. Somehow I forgot to put Eucalyptus debeuzevillei in this photo. Well, I'll photograph the next one I buy.
My first visit to Cistus was definitely a rewarding one and hopefully the first of many. I managed a rather remarkable amount of self-control, as I was itching to buy practically every other plant, at least. If I can, I hope to have two large areas prepared this fall for planting and I've got my eye on quite a few things at Cistus.


  1. I love the big laughing duck at Cistus, I think I put a picture of it in my very first post about my first visit too. You found some wonderful treasures. I can commiserate on your losing the Eucalyptus. My first one, which was also an E. debeuzevillei, died over the winter in its pot, my own fault.

    1. It sounds like several people have posted pictures of the duck. I guess I just haven't come across them before. I think I'll have to wait until next year to try another E. debeuzevillei. I'm afraid that if I plant it this late it won't be hardened off enough to survive the winter.

  2. I was mesmerized by Convulvulus cneorum in years past. Made a few attempts to grow it but apparently it wasn't sheltered enough. It has the most amazing leafs. Good luck. The brilliant orange flowers of the Dyckia is divine!

    1. Sometimes I have to risk a little zone-pushing. Hopefully my Convulvulus cneorum likes the south wall of the house and it has a mild first winter to settle in.

  3. "Ah, do you hear the beckoning calls of plants waiting to come home with you?"....YES! You'd think as many times as I've been there I would feel that I've seen (and bought) it all, but nope. Every time there are new discoveries.

    Of course now every time I see the rusty duck (which I believe is a bbq) I will think "giant laughing vampire duck with a cannon in its mouth," thank you for that!

  4. Now I think I'll have to do some mail-order shopping this fall. What doesn't work for you up there in the gardening haven of the PNW may well work for me here in SoCal. Thanks for the tour, Evan!

    1. Cistus has a lot of plants that I think would do better for you than for me, Kris. They have a lot of heat-loving plants that are borderline hardy here.

  5. We're looking forward to seeing what Cistus has on offer in person soon Evan. Thanks for making us anticipate this even more :)

    1. You'll love it! I really couldn't do it justice in one post. Hopefully you'll have more than an hour to really explore though.

  6. I too have lost Convulvulus and given up attempts at growing it. Too bad we can't know in advance whether or not we're going to have a cold winter. I have never been to this nursery but will definitely have to go when or if I ever get up to Portland.

    1. I couldn't resist that silver foliage. I'll keep my fingers crossed for a mild winter.

  7. Ah, Cistus, another favorite nursery! I posted a picture of the laughing duck with Alison and Loree standing by it at some point. Glad you enjoyed your visit!

    1. I guess I missed your picture, too. I'll have to go back soon for another visit!

  8. Cistus is largely responsible for spreading zonal denial across the land. You'll see: the siren call will be luring you back again and again.


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