Capital Press | Nursery Capital Press Sun, 24 Jul 2016 03:51:25 -0400 en Capital Press | Nursery Nursery woman adds retail, mail order to wholesale business Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:15:21 -0400 Jan Jackson SALEM — When the wholesale nursery market fell in 2008, Lucile Whitman knew she had to do something different to save her business. She decided to try shipping 1¼-inch caliper and larger full-branched trees across the country to retail customers.

It worked.

“I cater to the people all over the country who want to plant ornamental trees and shrubs big enough to make a statement at the time of planting,” Lucile said. “I grow and ship the trees in root control bags and hit them with an anti-transpirant spray just before I send them off. They arrive looking like they left here only three minutes before.”

But she said she found that the retail business is different.

“Unlike wholesale, retail requires a lot more counseling about whether or not a plant will do well in a given location,” she said.

The hot, dry weather has also had an impact.

“The changing weather patterns are also making a difference as to what I can recommend,” she said. “For instance, Crape Myrtle is the hottest seller right now and it is blooming a full month early here in the Willamette Valley and Seattle as well. These weather changes are making a difference.”

Lucile was born and raised on a small hobby farm outside Atlanta, Ga. She had no real farm experience in 1980, when she and her former husband bought a rundown 35-acre hazelnut orchard in West Salem, Ore.

“I had a doctorate in Latin and Greek and I thought I could teach at schools like Willamette University,” Lucile said. “However, when I got here, I found that schools here didn’t offer classes in Latin and Greek. We bought this place to keep me busy. Because I barely knew the difference between a dogwood and a pine tree, the first thing I did was sign up for how-to-farm classes at Chemeketa Community College.

“By the time the classes were over, I had asked for a chain saw for Christmas so I could go to work on the place.”

That was 30 years ago.

“I still don’t like to sit in the office to do paper work and answer the phone,” Whitman said. “I want to graft and prune and pot, and to do that I wear my phone on my belt and my ear bud in my ears. I keep a pocket full of note cards to write orders on that I can then transfer to the computer.”

Whitman Farms specializes in hard-to-find trees and shrubs, including many varieties of currants. Affectionately called the “Mulberry Queen” because of her extensive collection of mulberry trees, Lucile’s latest project is researching crops to plant on her newly purchased 40 acres. She is asking everyone she knows for ideas.

“I’m thinking of trying something organic but first I need organic certification from the State of Oregon,” she said.

“There’s a lot going on out there, but you know what? It’s still fun.”

Nursery grows its own natural, edible plants Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:14:03 -0400 LACEY JARRELL BONANZA, Ore. — Edible native plants can be an attractive option for residential landscaping, according to Southern Oregon growers.

Owners of Rock Bottom Ranch Koi & Nursery in Bonanza, Ore., focus on hardy native plants for rugged Great Basin, high-desert conditions.

“The Great Basin extends throughout all the sand states. We’re dealing with low precipitation, high elevation and temperature extremes,” said former nursery owner Annie Sedlacek.

Earlier this year, Sedlacek, and her husband Leslie, sold the native plant nursery to Bob and Pat Clickener, but the couple is staying on to help the Clickeners acclimate to the nursery setting.

Rock Bottom features a wide array of native and drought-tolerant plants. Elderberries, golden currants and serviceberry are just a few of the decorative native Oregon edibles customers can pick up there.

“They are beautiful landscape plants, and they are really useful for wildlife and birds,” Sedlacek said.

According to Sedlacek, in addition to providing a nutritious return on investment, native edibles tempered to specific regional microclimates don’t require added fertilizers or maintenance.

“If you can have a beautiful native plant that can feed your family and shelter wildlife — plus keep your landscape less expensive to maintain — why would you select a different plant?”

She said nearly every Rock Bottom plant is propagated outdoors to ensure it has the moxie it needs to survive the region’s hot dry summers and bone-chilling winters.

“We don’t believe our customers have the time or resources to fool with plants that are difficult to grow,” Sedlacek said. “It’s get tough or die in this environment.”

Buyers should think about what they want their plants to do, such as provide shade or stabilize the soil, and how much time they want to spend maintaining the landscape, Pat said. She noted that landowners should also consider how much landscape they want to fill when determining a plant’s suitability.

“It looks much more attractive to cluster plants,” Pat said.

She offered yellow or purple ninebark and red twig and yellow dogwood bushes as examples of non-edible, native Rock Bottom plants that can spruce up landscapes.

“I love the structure of them,” she said. “Not just how beautiful they are during the summer, but how much they add to your landscape during the winter. When it’s barren everywhere else, they add color to a neutral landscape.”

Rock Bottom’s plants are propagated from cuttings or from seed and few, if any, are greenhouse-grown, according to Sedlacek.

“The goal is to grow things outside in as natural a form as possible,” she said.

Most plants native to Southern Oregon need to be planted in fall and go through a cold stratification, which is a natural treatment that weakens the seed coat and promotes germination.

According to Sedlacek, elderberries require a warm stratification, followed by a long period of cold. Young elderberries do well with shade and outdoor drip irrigation.

She said with the right maintenance, native edibles can produce commercial volumes.

“It’s going to be different for every gardener. If the plant is cared for properly, it can certainly produce enough to make jam, jellies, pies.”

Nursery part of grower-owned cooperative Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:12:07 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER SAN FRANCISCO — Flower grower Louie Figone’s days begin early.

“I sell what I grow so I arrive at the Flower Mart in San Francisco around 1:30 in the morning,” he said. “I’m here for sales Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the other days I bring in the flowers to get ready for the sales days. We start cleaning up around 11 and head back down to Half Moon Bay at 1 p.m. with a couple of delivery stops along the way.”

The San Francisco Flower Mart is one of only five grower-owned wholesale flower markets in the United States. The other four are in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle and Portland.

Figone Nursery Co. is one of the growers that provide cut flowers, greens, foliage and blooming plants at the urban market. The Mart opens at 7 a.m. for wholesale businesses and opens to the public at 10.

Growers, wholesalers and others depend on the flower market for fresh flowers and greenery. Event planners and organizations can’t afford to waste time searching the Bay Area for fresh flowers, which are also shipped in from South America, Africa, New Zealand and Holland. Orchids are brought in from Watsonville, Calif.

“I’ll be bringing in dahlias — these flowers love the cool weather and sandy loam soil on the coast — this week to go into the 35-degree cooler because they don’t have a long shelf life like the hydrangeas,” Figone said. “We only sell fresh flowers — nothing over three days old — so we dump the leftovers in the compost heap at the 58-acre farm.”

So far he said he is not too concerned about the drought that has hit other parts of California hard. Growers on the coast don’t rely on federal water projects because they have wells and store water in the winter to replenish them. He admits the creeks aren’t flowing like they did in the past.

“My biggest challenge is not the lack of rain, it’s the government,” he said. “We run tours on the ranch for government officials and I tell them we have to educate you because you know nothing about what we are doing. I am very involved in San Mateo County Farm Bureau and work so that we have a good rapport with our representatives.”

“Louie served on the San Mateo County Resource Conservation District and has been on the Farm Bureau board for some time,” said B.J. Burns, president of the San Mateo County Farm Bureau. “He is vice president and I work closely with him to keep the Farm Bureau updated about local ag issues that we constantly dealing with.”

Figone says growing flowers is not a high-tech industry.

“I love my job and when you love it like this it’s really not a job,” he said. “When I go to bed at night I look forward to going to work the next day. It’s a lot of hours and hard work but fun; it’s the people who make it fun. Look at what I work with — flowers put a smile on everyone’s face.”

Nurseries offer drought-resistant alternatives Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:11:23 -0400 JULIA HOLlISTER SAN FRANCISCO — Parched by the 4-year-old drought, California gardeners are turning to nurseries for help in relieving their watering guilt.

One way is to replace thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant native plants.

“The Bay Area is one of only a few places on the planet with remarkably diverse native flora,” said Geoffrey Coffey, general partner of Bay Natives in San Francisco. “This is because of the Mediterranean climate — mild, wet winter, and nice, warm summer and fog. There are 7,000 different native species in California and 75 percent are drought tolerant — they only drink when it rains.”

In this dry period he said homeowners and gardeners don’t have to let their lawns die; they just have to re-think the word “lawn.”

The challenge, he said, is education. Lawns originally came from England, where it rains often and grass is a lush green. When the English settlers came to the Eastern United States, the climate supported lawns.

However, when settlers came to California they brought their mental baggage, too, Coffey said. Most of California is dry and lawns have never made sense.

“You can still have a lawn and a garden, just a different type with native grass that stays green because of its long tap roots,” he said. “Carex pausa is the most popular grass that thrives in sand dunes or just dirt.”

Coffey said he gets calls every day from people asking what they should do about the drought.

“It is a challenge for people to shift gears in their thinking,” he said. “The real work is to move past the panic and into new understanding into a different kind of gardening. My fear is there are more people who are not calling for advice, they are just not watering.”

California beach strawberries are another option for lawns, he said. “They are happy being dry.”

Drought tolerant plants are the same price as traditional plants, he said.

“It’s not a new idea but one whose time has come,” Coffey said.

Finding alternatives to traditional plants also is a major concern for the state’s nursery industry. Consumer calls have noticeably increased over the past two years.

“Drought is very serious, and we are taking a serious approach and providing the consumers with options and information,” said Chris Zanobini, president of the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers, a trade organization that promotes the state’s nursery industry.

The organization represents 300 nurseries statewide.

“There is no reason for someone to over water and there is no reason people cannot continue to enjoy the California lifestyle in their homes and yard,” Zanobini said. “We are presenting them with ways to use water more efficiently.”

Zanobini said drought-resistant plants have been in demand and sales for succulents and native plants are high. There is also an effort to utilize slow-release fertilizers that require less water. Using mulch around plants reduces evaporation, too.

“Consumers are coming to nurseries looking for options and asking questions,” he said.

Employees own this unique operation Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:10:48 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas KETCHUM, Idaho — Doug Webb came to the Wood River Valley to ski and never left. In addition to enjoying the slopes, he started Webb Landscape Nursery.

Upon retirement in 2001 he placed the business into the hands of his dedicated employees.

“We have an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan),” said Mark Palmer, current CEO.

Many of the employees have been with the company a long time. Palmer was the nursery director for many years.

The company headquarters and office — the hub for landscaping and maintenance operations around the Sun Valley area — are in Ketchum.

“We also have a garden center there, another garden center satellite store in Hailey, and a big nursery (50 acres of tree production) south of Bellevue,” he said.

The company also has work crews who take care of customers’ properties.

“We grow the plants, install them and maintain them, so it’s a three-pronged service. Three years ago we also acquired a location in Twin Falls, Idaho — 5 acres and a garden center,” Palmer said.

“The business just kept growing as we followed demand. If people ask for something we try to fill those needs. The market changes from year to year,” he said.

“We grow trees that do well in zones 3 and 4. We grow aspen from seed, but also have everything from crab apples to maples, spruce, pine and fir.”

Aspen trees have been a consistent seller, but it wasn’t easy when Webb first started growing them from seed.

“Back in the ’70s people just collected the trees, going out into the countryside to dig out a small tree in one of those big stands (all connected by the roots), and shipped them to nurseries like ours. But we found that growing them from seed worked a lot better for us,” Palmer said. “We collect seed from different areas to maintain better genetics, rather than just using one source.”

The company also has a large inventory of flowers, with four greenhouses at its nursery in Bellevue, three greenhouses in the garden center in Twin Falls and a small greenhouse in Ketchum.

“We grow our own hanging baskets and decorative planters, and some one-gallon perennial containers. We stock our greenhouses with flowers and vegetables and also have many shrubs and trees,” he said.

Webb Nursery provides all the bulk material for gardening and landscaping, including mulch, barks and ground covers.

“We sell decorative rock and pavers, and provide full-service landscaping,” Palmer said.

Whether people are interested in flowers, vegetable gardens, trees or shrubs, these nursery centers have whatever they are looking for, and the tools to do it.

The business employs a large crew.

“Last year at our peak season in summer we had 185 people. Summer help often includes high school and college students. We’ve had some students who have gotten their degree in horticulture and come back to work for us. We have several people on staff with horticulture degrees or landscape architecture degrees,” Palmer said.

The company stays busy in the winter.

“We do snow removal in winter and sell Christmas trees at our garden centers. We do Christmas lighting, hang garlands and set up trees and decorate them if people want us to. It’s a fun time for us,” he said.

The Christmas trees are shipped in.

“We don’t have space or the right climate to grow them here,” he said. “We use our garden centers as Christmas lots that time of year.”

Wholesale nursery specializes in cold-hardy plants Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:10:03 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Meridian, Idaho — Meredith Carnahan and her husband, Doug, started Jayker Wholesale Nursery after they bought property on which the earlier owners had planted 19 acres of conifers.

“We started with the Austrian Pine and Colorado Spruce that were already growing on the place,” said sales manager Carla Carter, who has been with the nursery since 1988. “Then the nursery bought 100 more acres in 1989 and added deciduous trees and the first container division.”

Her husband, Joe, started the container division and runs the growing operation at the tree farm. An additional expansion in 1998 added 110 acres.

“We now grow everything from a one-gallon container to a 25-gallon container tree. We do perennials, exotic grasses, and all the shrubs for landscaping. It’s all cold-hardy species; we don’t do any plants that aren’t hardy enough to survive winter in our mountain climate,” Carla Carter said.

The nursery grows many of its trees, shrubs and decorative plants on 240 acres in Middleton, Idaho, and Nyssa, Ore. The nursery doesn’t have greenhouse production, but uses its unheated greenhouses to shelter overwintering young trees.

“We also have shelters in summer for plants that need to be in the shade. They normally grow in the shade of other trees,” she said. In the nursery they go into a shade house, with black mesh to provide a filtered shade so they don’t get too hot.

Customers can look at the trees and plants, or order them online.

“We started as just a wholesale grower, selling to garden centers, large landscaping companies and re-wholesalers,” she said. “Then we opened a 20-acre re-wholesale yard in Meridian in 1993 where local garden centers and landscapers purchase material.”

Jayker grows plants for businesses that don’t have room to grow them.

“We don’t do retail sales to homeowners; we just sell to the outlets who sell to them,” she said. “We ship to garden centers in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and Oregon, and occasionally Washington state. Most of our plants can grow anywhere in the cooler regions of the West,” she said.

Shrubs utilized for landscaping include lilacs, snowball bush, spirea, currents, other common shrubs and small trees.

“There are hundreds of these, and we grow the ones that thrive in zones 2, 3 and 4,” she said. The USDA plant hardiness zones and sub-zones go from 1 to 13, based on average annual minimum temperatures.

Jayker also grows syringa, Idaho’s state flower.

“We don’t actually grow the native variety because it doesn’t propagate very well. The most popular one we sell is called Minnesota snowflake. It’s essentially the same plant but is just a little hardier. It’s tough to get the native ones to grow in a new setting,” she explained.

“We sell some flowers but we don’t grow annuals like zinnia or marigold,” Carter said. “We do all the perennials like lupine, daisies, delphinium, day lilies and lavenders and ornamental landscaping grasses.”

Carla enjoys working at the nursery. “I used to work at a garden center here in town, and bought our plants from Jayker. Then I married the container grower.”

She and her husband own part of the land at Middleton, where the trees are grown.

“We enjoy working with plants and living in the country where it’s quiet and peaceful,” she said.

Nursery does it all, including soccer fields Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:08:41 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas BOISE — Cloverdale Nursery’s original owner, Hans Borbonus, changed the landscape around Boise.

He was born in Germany and worked in the nursery trade there.

“He came to the U.S. in 1958,” says Beni Cook, one of the current owners. “When Hans arrived, he did residential landscaping. Back then, everything was very basic; people just put in trees and junipers and nothing fancy.”

Borbonus added his artistic flair, with stones and more elaborate landscaping — like he’d been doing in Germany.

“He is 80 years old now but still has an eye for pleasing designs and still keeps in touch with the nursery,” Cook says.

When Borbonus started Cloverdale Nursery it was just a small place, headquarters to do landscaping for clients, with bushes to sell. It has grown into one of the largest wholesale and retail nurseries in Idaho.

“Our main emphasis is supplying wholesale customers who have landscaping businesses. We have a 1,000-acre sod farm and sell sod, bulk products, topsoil, bark materials and crushed lava rock for bed coverings,” she says.

The garden mix and planting mix are big sellers in the spring, she says. Planting mix consists of compost, peat moss and a time-release fertilizer.

“We educate people about adding something to soil so it doesn’t compact around the roots, creating a better environment for plants to grow in,” she says.

“We used to do landscape construction but our main emphasis now is landscape supplies, whatever a landscaper would need,” she says.

The nursery has a wide variety of trees and shrubs that are winter-hardy.

“We have such a variable climate here; 9 out of 10 people can grow less hardy varieties, but last winter reminded everyone what you can and can’t grow easily in this region,” she says. “We have a knowledgeable and helpful staff and carry a large amount of a variety of plants so people have a big supply to pick from.”

The trees and shrubs are grown on the sod farm south of Boise, near Kuna.

“It’s a big market, however and we do ship in some of the plants we sell. Many trees and shrubs grow faster in Oregon, where there is more rainfall,” says Cook.

Some plants are grown in 1- to 15-gallon containers.

“Trees are usually balled and burlapped, up to 3-inch caliper trees,” she says.

A one-inch caliper tree would be about 8 feet tall while a 3-inch caliper tree might be 14 to 18 feet tall, depending on the type.

“We carry the whole scope of what people need for landscaping,” she says.

During the busy times of the year, Cloverdale Nursery employs up to 75 people at the nursery and turf farm.

A special project Cloverdale has been working on is a soccer field on top of the Boise State University stadium’s artificial turf football field.

“We are doing the sod for the Basque soccer game here this summer. A professional team from Spain will play a professional team from Mexico. The sod has been growing for over a year. For a soccer field they want a very tight, short grass so it’s very smooth,” Cook says.

“The sod will be harvested a week before the event and moved to the site — to cover the blue turf at Boise State. They will put down plastic and put the sod on top of that, and keep it watered and mowed until the game. It has 3 inches of dirt attached to it, so it can’t move around. After the game is over, they will roll it back up and take it out,” she says.

“The company we are working with has done this before, taking the sod somewhere then rolling it back up and removing it. This sod will go to Ann Morrison Park afterward, to create a soccer field there,” Cook says. “That’s one of many projects we are working on this summer.”

Demonstration garden offers inspiration Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:05:34 -0400 Gail Oberst Independence, Ore. — Inspiration for gardeners sometimes comes from unlikely places.

For years, the strip of land along Ash Creek’s south fork was home to Mt. Fir Lumber Co.’s log landing, until the mill closed in the late 1980s. The company donated the 7.3-acre east side of the creek to the City of Independence, and the “park” land became a jungle of blackberries, Scotch broom and other weeds.

The Luckiamute Watershed Council made the first attempt a few years ago to restore the creek by removing the millpond dam and planting native shrubs and flowers.

But the most dramatic transformation has been at the hands of the Polk County Master Gardeners. In 2012, a dedicated handful of the group’s 150-plus members began clearing weeds and developing what is now the “Inspiration Garden” at Mt. Fir Park, a demonstration nursery that aims at educating and inspiring visitors in their efforts to plan, plant and maintain gardens and yards.

“That’s our mission: to teach sustainable gardening practices to the community,” said Bill Leedy, who led the effort to create a demonstration garden in Polk County. Oregon State University’s Extension Service offers a master gardener course to students who are willing to pay for their education in volunteer hours. Many of the volunteers at the Inspiration Garden are also Master Gardeners.

Leedy said the greatest gift was the city’s cooperation: The Master Gardeners were allowed to landscape the park, and were also allowed to construct a greenhouse and a building for storing equipment and conducting small meetings.

Today, paths that border the creek take visitors through landscaped areas that range from natives to exotics. Entering from F Street between Seventh and Ninth streets, visitors walk past a new wetlands area along the creek, planted with native trees and shrubs. Moving south past the community building, the perennial gardens and then the rain garden (taking advantage of the city’s storm drain ditches to the creek) lead into the vegetable garden — a display of edibles in raised beds, all placed to demonstrate some of the latest horticultural and sustainable practices developed at OSU.

Test gardens at the Independence site show locals the “right plant in the right place,” said Neil Bell, Polk Horticulturalist for OSU Extension. Walk down the path to the children’s garden, and be charmed by fanciful art and toys mixed in with flowers and herbs. Further south is the Joy of Roses gardens and a medicinal garden created by a local pharmacist, followed by an oriental garden and a bamboo forest and a berry patch with fruit trees. At the far end of the path is an oak savannah and prairie garden including camas, grasses and native flowers.

As extravagant as it sounds, the entire project has been sponsored by donations, grants and volunteer sweat, Leedy said. In addition to the city’s donated water, power and land, area nurseries have been generous. Among nurseries who donated plants and materials were Egan’s, 13th Street, Darrel’s, Rocky Mountain, Al’s and Dancing Oaks. Nearby Central High School offered help from its welding class to repurpose conduit spools into arbors and a gazebo. Boy Scouts have helped plant trees purchased by the local Rotary Club.

“We’re not too proud to beg. And people have helped us out, Leedy said.

The park is open from dawn to dusk every day.

Work on the Inspiration Gardens continues.

Yakima nursery thrives in improved economy Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:04:52 -0400 Erick Peterson YAKIMA, Wash. — Having purchased his nursery late last year, owner Bryan Johnson wanted to get moving quickly. He re-opened Russell’s Nursery for the holidays, selling Christmas trees, and he has been on top of things ever since, he said.

His enthusiasm is expressed even in the slogan for his company: “Come grow with us.” It is an invitation to customers, a calling for people to be part of a fun endeavor. He is excited, and he wants his customers to be excited, too.

That is his way, Johnson said. He describes himself as a go-getter who began his work in the industry prior to attending the University of Nevada Las Vegas and obtaining a degree in landscape architecture.

His career progressed upon graduation, and he worked in the industry as a manager before leaving it to become a restaurateur.

He explained that business ownership was a passion of his, and there were better opportunities in Las Vegas to own a restaurant than to own a nursery.

Though he feels he was successful in restaurant ownership over eight years, he missed working with plants.

Some nursery owners inherit their businesses, or have things simply given to them.

“That’s not us,” he said.

When he and his wife, Cheryl, looked around for an opportunity to get back into nurseries, they had to cast a wide net. They considered many locations before deciding on Yakima, a city in an agricultural region where people have a passion for gardening and landscaping.

In a fashion typical of him, he said, he picked up his family and relocated to Yakima within a single week. He did not want to waste time; he wanted to get growing.

So far, the big bet to move to Yakima and re-open the nursery has paid off. He reports that the nursery is extremely busy and the market is favorable to nurseries. He began the season early by stocking up on drought-resistant plants, as he expected Central Washington’s water scarcity to worsen. And customers have responded well.

“It’s been extremely tough to keep some of our plant material this year,” he said. “We’re doing the best we can, getting in as much as we can at the beginning, but it doesn’t seem to be enough.”

He said that several nurseries closed when the real estate market collapsed, thinking that the economy would not rebound. When the economy did improve, and people started buying houses again, demand returned.

“I’m just trying to keep up with it,” he said.

Nursery owner pleased with his career path Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:03:55 -0400 Erick Peterson YAKIMA, Wash. — With 32 years in nursery work, Zach Nurse is an experienced professional. He owns Farwest Nursery and Landscape in Yakima, Wash., and says that there are many things that make nursery work accessible and enjoyable for people like him.

For he considers himself a self-made man in the sense that he did not receive an education beyond high school. He began his nursery career by working for experienced employers, starting when he was 18 years old. He made a point to learn from bosses, co-workers and customers.

“If you quit learning in this business, you should quit,” he said.

He discovered that everyone around him has a bit of knowledge from which he could benefit. This information could then be tested in the field.

After some time, he said, he started his own landscaping business.

With an eye to expansion, he discovered inexpensive land upon which he could start a nursery. He began leasing property on the outskirts of town, an area that appeared rural enough to give customers the experience of getting out of the city. Bird sounds and fresh air are two of the attractions that bring people to the nursery, Nurse said.

People started coming right away.

He began setting up a bare-bones nursery and was ready to open eight days after signing a lease. The first year of business, he said, was excellent, and it only improved during those early years, with sales doubling every year for the first five years.

When the option to buy his property came up in 2005, he jumped at it.

Trouble was just around the corner, though, as the collapse of the real estate market led to a terrible 2009 for Farwest.

“We weathered the storm, though,” Nurse said. Business has bounced back since then, and he has been able to expand. He put up a greenhouse and improved his inventory. He expanded into annuals and increased his perennials. Still specializing in alpine fir, he has begun offering new trees.

He said he wants to be the guy who is always coming up with something new. He aims to always keep his customers curious about his product. Then they will keep coming back to see the latest thing.

In this way, he said, an independent nursery can keep up with a big box store. Independent nurseries can draw customers by being an attraction. Also, they can offer better service and product quality.

Donna Nurse, who works alongside her husband, said that she also enjoys the business. Nurturing living things is rewarding, and “meeting people is fun,” she said.

Employee Randy Bacon, who has been at this nursery for three years, agrees, and said that he enjoys the freedom to be creative. He looks up to the Nurses, and he appreciates his employment.

“I love being here,” he said.

Secretary transitions from hobbyist to nursery owner Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:03:02 -0400 Erick Peterson Cowiche, Wash. — Cowiche Creek Nursery is a hobby that grew out of control, according to Jeannie Stephens, who owns the business with her husband, Mark.

“We’ve been around for awhile; things started and they just kept going,” she said.

In the late 1980s, she was working as a school secretary and gardening in her free time. She liked making flower baskets, she said, and she was doing it more and more. It became an increasingly large part of her life, and she would research new ideas by traveling to nurseries out of town and poring over gardening magazines.

She made baskets and became so productive that she had more flower baskets than she had space. So she gave several away to friends.

A buzz started growing about her baskets, and people started offering her money for them. Friends, acquaintances and strangers were placing orders, she said.

“There were people who were coming to my front door,” she said. They had no idea whether she had a business, only that they admired the flower-and-moss baskets displayed in front of her home. They asked her where they could buy these baskets.

By 1989, with the help of her husband, a professional agricultural advisor who built her a greenhouse and offered his expertise in soils, she opened a full-fledged business.

At first only a part-time job with limited hours, her nursery took off immediately. As her customer base grew, she was able to devote more hours to the nursery. In time, this job became her main employment, and then it garnered so much business that she could quit her secretary job.

This was a big moment for her, she said, as being able to leave secretary work was a sign that she had “made it” as a nursery professional. Further, she was able to look over her inventory, which includes annuals, geraniums and roses, and she could appreciate her own work. She has done well, she said.

Other people agree; customers keep returning.

Nowadays, she busies herself with sales, tending to her flowers and managing the business. Business is still, good, she said, and she has been able to deal with the increasing prices of materials by growing nearly all of her inventory.

More than simply successful, nursery ownership is pleasant and rewarding, she said. At the same time, however, it is demanding. She complains about the physical toll on her body, and she says that she is already growing too old to continue much longer.

Fortunate for her, and her loyal customers, she said, she has a succession plan.

Daughter Serena Gillespie is already working at Cowiche Creek Nursery as manager. She said that she is learning much from her mother, and, she is accepting more and more responsibilities at the nursery. In time, she will be running the place, which will leave her mom free to retire.

“I love plants, and I love gardening,” she said. “This is the best job I’ve ever had.”

Bailey Nurseries on track for a good year Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:02:30 -0400 Erick Peterson SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — 2015 has been a good year for Bailey Nurseries, which is owned by the Bailey family and headquartered in St. Paul, Minn.

By June, the company was on track to meet its annual revenue goal, said Matt Armbruster, office manager and production assistant at the company in Sunnyside, Wash. With peak season continuing into October, it looks likely that Bailey will exceed its sales goals.

The robust outlook follows a reconfiguring of the Sunnyside operation.

“In 2008, everyone got hit pretty hard,” he said. The success of nurseries is tied closely to the housing market. And with the housing market taking a nosedive, nurseries, Bailey Nurseries included, suffered.

The problem, he said, is that landscaping is the “bread and butter” of businesses like Bailey. The company supplies orchardists, but fruit tree sales were not enough to sustain it.

The location’s current 165 acres are now split between field production and orchard production.

“We also try to grow things that other places can’t,” he said.

The company supplies other wholesalers as well as garden centers.

Armbruster said that he is happy with the current success of the overall company, and he boasts of its long history and positive corporate culture.

Started by John Vincent Bailey in the early 1900s, Bailey Nurseries is in its fourth generation of family ownership. At its start, company employees would take produce to market on horse-drawn wagons. After World War II, Bailey got into landscaping and horticulture and transitioned away from produce.

The company expanded into Illinois, Oregon, Washington and Arizona. Its Sunnyside location, formerly Pacific Coast Nursery, was added in 1997.

Meanwhile, the company gained a reputation for quality that has won over thousands of major customers, Armbruster said.

The company distributes products, which includes deciduous trees and shrubs, evergreens, perennials, annuals and roses, to over 4,500 independent garden centers, landscapers, growers and wholesalers.

Armbruster said Bailey employs over 400 full-time workers and 1,200 seasonal employees around the country.

Operations remain all in the family Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:00:45 -0400 CRAIG REED ELKTON, Ore. — When Howard Carnes died in 1996, his three grown grandchildren were faced with deciding what to do with the family ranch along the Umpqua River.

Lisa Davis doesn’t remember exactly how the decision was made, but the siblings concluded, with the blessing of their grandmother, Frances Carnes, to grow trees and shrubs on the fertile bottomland.

“I guess the nursery business at that time was booming so somehow we decided to grow our own plants and trees,” said Davis, who was joined in the decision-making by her older brother, Lincoln Russell, and her twin sister, Lynette Sky.

The result was the planting of seedlings in 1997 and the development of BR Nursery at the Bend in the River Ranch. A few years later after the seedlings had grown into young trees, the nursery needed a retail outlet. A partnership was formed with Mike Cunningham of Drain, who had opened a landscape business on the south side of Sutherlin, Ore. One year later in 2001, the brother and his sisters purchased that business and at about the same time bought a water garden business.

Sutherlin WaterGarden & Nursery was opened. The business sells trees and shrubs grown at BR, landscaping materials and water garden and pond products, including koi fish.

“We love the business,” said Russell who manages the Sutherlin business with help from his wife, Elena. “The family has fun going to work together, working together, getting everything figured out. We have a meeting in the morning to discuss what we want to do. Everybody has molded into their own roles, who does what. It’s working.”

Lisa Davis manages BR Nursery and is helped by sister Lynette, and their cousin Bryce Carnes. The two businesses have no other employees other than the five family members.

“Business-wise we do pretty well,” Davis said. “When we do have disagreements, we’re all pretty-level headed about it.”

Frances Carnes died in 2001. Davis said her grandmother liked the direction the ranch had taken in establishing a nursery.

The sibling partners admitted the learning curve was steep in the early going because they had no experience growing trees. Davis said during the first winter they thought all their first plantings had died because there were no leaves. But with spring and warmer weather, leaves grew and so did the knowledge of the planters.

After more years of clearing Scotch broom and blackberries and 17 years after the first planting, Davis said the BR Nursery has close to 10,000 plants and shrubs in the ground or in pots, representing 300 to 350 species. The nursery also has four hoop houses and a greenhouse.

“We have a lot of unusual stuff growing here that you won’t find anywhere else,” Davis said. “If you’re looking for something unique, I have it.”

After a few years of growth, the trees and shrubs are potted and taken to Sutherlin Water Garden & Nursery to sell.

The partners said if they had paid for their plant inventory, their businesses would not have survived the past recession because business dropped about 60 percent over several years. They had previously sold products to eight nurseries on the Oregon Coast, but six of those are no longer in business. The decline in construction during the recession years also hurt sales.

Davis said sales stablized in 2011 and 2012, and there’s been an uptick in business the past couple of years, both with residential customers and contractors. By growing their own trees, family members believe they can “outsize and outprice” competitors.

“People have been coming back,” Russell said. “People who come in here don’t want to wait for a tree to grow. They want one that’s already got some size.”

Youngblood Nursery: 25 years of the unusual Fri, 21 Aug 2015 13:59:02 -0400 Brenna Wiegand SALEM — Youngblood Nursery brings unusual plants to the public by finding, propagating and wholesaling them to independent retail garden centers along the West Coast and beyond.

The all-container nursery, opened in 1990 by Don and Jeanne Youngblood on two acres of the family’s 142-acre farm near Salem’s Wheatland Ferry, now encompasses 40 acres. The family’s passion for unusual plants caught on and the nursery soon became the farm’s mainstay, now selling 300,000-320,000 4-inch to 15-gallon pots a year and offering about 400 varieties. It employs 35-40 full-time people year round.

Display and trial gardens around the office include rarities from around the globe.

Among them is Chilean native Azara microphylla, an evergreen shrub with winter blooms that exude a potent white chocolate fragrance. Rare Oregon native Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, “Wissel’s Saguaro,” is one of their most popular shrubs.

“It’s tall and upright and puts out these funky arms like a saguaro cactus,” sales associate Chris Steinke said. Ceanothus, or California lilac, is also a big seller, as is the zig-zag-branched Camellia japonica “Unryu.” Youngblood’s specialty is Daphne; the nursery carries about two dozen varieties that include some dramatic departures from the norm.

“The Pacific Northwest is full of nice plant geeks who travel the world and bring back these nice things,” Steinke said. “Once they’ve established that they will work for our climate we go out and see what they’ve got.

“We don’t do a whole lot of research; we just go out and say, ‘That’s cool, let’s see if we can grow it; let’s see if we can sell it,’” Steinke said. “That’s what’s nice about working for a family nursery; we’re a good-sized nursery but it’s easy to change and add things.”

Tiny Treasures is a newer line of younger and dwarf plants in 4-inch pots for a more finished product. Such ideas often spring from networking with fellow growers.

“The nursery industry’s always been pretty much an open book,” Steinke said. “You can go to your neighbor/competitor and get good sound advice and they’re happy to give it. We have the Oregon Association of Nurseries that does a lot of work for the industry, putting on trade shows and seminars; getting the wholesalers connected with the retailers. They’ll go to Capitol Hill to push things through.”

Though the nursery likes to try out new technology, some of its biggest time- and labor-savers come from those custom inventions that tend to happen on a family farm.

“We built a conveyor-fed potting machine 6 years ago that works great,” Steinke said. “Don Youngblood developed a tractor-driven poly roller so you don’t have to remove all the greenhouse coverings by hand.” They also came up with a custom-built watering boom; a drive-under system so workers don’t even need to get out of their vehicle.

Youngblood’s plants are getting easier to find on the retail market.

“If you want the most bizarre, biggest selection you might go to Portland Nursery, or for really off-the-wall stuff Cistus Nursery is super cool,” Weeks said, “but there are little ‘boutique-y’ places everywhere in Portland these days; small corner nurseries that carry some pretty unique plants.”

Five generations have kept Weeks Berry Nursery going Fri, 21 Aug 2015 13:58:22 -0400 Brenna Wiegand KEIZER, Ore. — At Weeks Berry Nursery, each generation has built on the one before. Currently at the helm is John Weeks, president, and his son Bradley Weeks — the secretary, treasurer and fifth generation of the family to work on the farm.

One of the country’s largest wholesale distributors of berry plants, the nursery supplies about 3,000 retail nurseries that order about 25-100 plants at a time.

In 1888, George Weeks started a small peach operation on 300 acres he bought from Thomas Keizer. His son Wilbur was one of the first in the area to receive a USDA nursery license and helped develop the strawberry industry in the Willamette Valley.

Wilbur’s son Wayne brought in raspberries and grapes in the 1940s and was instrumental in helping Welch’s start the region’s table grape industry. Wayne and son John kept expanding the product line — blackberries, asparagus, rhubarb and, in the late 1980s, blueberries, positioning them well when they became a hot commodity for growers.

“People are looking for fresher, more natural produce,” retail manager Penny Schaeffer said. “We’re seeing more blueberries sold in grocery stores.”

Among Weeks’ 16 blueberry varieties are a handful of new introductions; “Raz” is a blueberry that tastes like a raspberry.

Haskaps, the dark blue fruit of the edible honeysuckle Lonicera caerulea, have been found to contain more antioxidants than blueberries and people are starting to seek them out.

Bradley is working to streamline operations through new technology including more efficient rotary sprinklers and cultivating equipment.

“In the ’80s we had 30-35 people and were able to move a lot of product; now we have about 18 who are putting out four times the amount,” Weeks said. “The problem is inflation and high overhead — my last tractor cost more than my house.”

Due to Oregon’s battle with strawberry mosaic virus Weeks re-wholesales about 3 million California-grown strawberry plants a year.

He’s also concerned about the push to raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“I charge about 88 cents apiece for raspberry plants; in Montana, where the minimum wage is $1.20 an hour less, they’ve got 55-cent plants,” Weeks said. “I provide health insurance to my employees and one of my main concerns is being able to compete.”

Great growing conditions and sitting atop one of the largest rechargeable aquifers in the state may not be enough.

“The 45th parallel is considered the golden zone for plant production,” Weeks said, “but if I can’t get the labor I’d be unable to keep doing business here.”

The nursery operates on 165 acres: the remaining 45 acres of the nursery’s original 300 acres, plus leased ground.

“The way farmers get rich is by selling their property,” Weeks said, “I’m trying to hang onto the little bit we’ve got left.”

Nursery specializes in the rare and unusual Fri, 21 Aug 2015 13:55:32 -0400 Gail Oberst Pedee, Ore. — Leonard Foltz, owner of Dancing Oaks Nursery with Fred Weisensee, pulls out a scrapbook of the 1920s-era Priem farm, a dairy that once operated on the land now home to native and exotic nursery plants. The barns and buildings have been since leveled by time and by World War II Camp Adair war games. The Weisensees have owned the land since the 1960s.

While Fred was growing up on his family’s land, across the Willamette Valley in the Cascade foothills, Leonard Foltz was growing up on the Jordan farm his great-grandfather had established east of Scio. His father and grandfather were mill workers and mechanics. His sister still lives in the 1884 house on the Jordan property.

Fred eventually became a doctor, and continues to practice in Corvallis. But it wasn’t until Fred and Leonard attended a series of garden lectures near their former Oregon City home that they began to dream of operating a garden with a nursery on Weisensee land.

“We thought we would move back after retirement, but it was getting too crowded for our rural blood. We thought: Why not now?” Leonard said. Because of an opening at Good Samaritan Internal Medicine in nearby Corvallis they decided to make the move within a few months. 

In August 1995, the two moved into a mobile home on the property and began planting a garden and starting the nursery which opened officially on 1997. They’ve only recently torn down the trailer and built a wood frame and E-crete (energy efficient concrete) house, a few hundred yards from the nursery.

The nursery started small, specializing in water plants — many of which they had started in Oregon City. At their Pedee-area nursery, they sold the seeds, and divided and propagated the plants they owned, including a tree peony that still grows in the middle of the gardens. Today, they gather plants from all over the world and test their abilities to endure Oregon weather before reselling small amounts to homeowners. The nursery doesn’t sell wholesale.

The gardens, which demonstrate landscaping design ideas, includes water features, a prairie garden area, a pergola for roses and vines, a spreading oak tree with shade plants, and secluded areas with benches and tables surrounded by shrubs and flowers, accented here and there with art pieces. Most of the items growing in the gardens can be purchased from one of the five greenhouses. The nursery sells around 1,500 different items throughout the year.

Leonard manages the nursery full-time with help from Fred in the evenings, weekends and his days off from medical practice.

About 10 years ago, Fred and Leonard had an open-beam pavilion built in the middle of the gardens to accommodate visitors who want to sit for a spell on the veranda surrounding the building. The water features followed.

Although there are many native plants available for sale, Leonard said his mainstay is unusual perennial plants — some of which are surprisingly durable. Along the walks is all manner of flowering plants — from gardenias to gunnera, dierama to sinningia — from the Himalayas to the tropics to the Oregon coast.

The company’s website,, has a user-friendly catalog that helps narrow choices based on category, exposure to sunlight or water, and even deer-resistance. The nursery is open Tuesday through Sunday through Oct. 31, then reopens March 1, 2016.  During the off-season appointments can be made by calling 503-838-6058.