Self-described gardening geeks and plant nerds, Larry and Bethany Lael encourage clients to live by their trademarked motto, “Plant your own Eden,” like they did 20 years ago when they turned their hobby into a flourishing business.
To spark clients’ imagination, they provide countless choices — more than 1,000 shade and fruit trees, berries, vegetables, shrubs, perennials, and herbs at Lael’s Moon Garden Nursery, a 4.5-acre outdoor nursery near Rochester, northwest of Centralia, Wash.
“Our return customers tell us they keep coming back for our huge selection, advice about optimal fertilizers, and garden design,” Larry said. “Plus, we’ve grown test gardens, which most nurseries don’t have room for, so you can see what works and get ideas for your own garden.”
Consumers looking for ideas to maximize their gardening and landscape space often pick a grafted fruit tree.
“Some people have room for only one tree in their yard, so they like our grafted fruit trees,” Larry said. “Certain fruit trees like apple, pear, and cherry need pollination from different varieties, so multi-grafted trees provide self-pollination.”
Some clients seek advice about growing an edible landscape abounding with fruit, nuts, and berries.
Whichever plants a person picks, Bethany said gardening should be fun.
“Plants should come back every year with a minimum of fuss,” she said. “We sell what grows well in a maritime climate.”
Their plants have either been tested at the nursery, by clients, or have grown at Washington State University’s test gardens.
The Laels and their four employees sell about 10,000 plants a year, many not found in big box stores — hardy Bletilla ground orchids, flowering quince, Sonoma Dove or Handkerchief tree, Hinoki Cypress, varieties of Japanese maples and dogwoods, Chilean fire tree, weeping spruces, dwarf conifers, bamboo, golden catalpa, and Hakuro Nishiki willow.
They also offer figs, grapes, lingonberry, pink lemonade blueberry plants and several varieties of walnuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts. Among the herb and spice choices are bay leaf and Japanese Sancho pepper.
Calling himself “the Garden Geezer” in newsletters, Larry, 81, writes advice based on their personal experiences gardening. To help plants thrive, he recommends an organic fertilizer Nutri-Rich, slow-release composted chicken manure, and mycorrhizal fungi to help plants absorb nutrients.
The Laels founded their nursery in 1999 on land Larry had been gardening and named it after its location on Moon Road. They bought inventory from a nearby nursery that was going out of business.
Calling themselves “recovering bureaucrats,” they eventually quit their jobs to devote their time to their nursery. Larry had worked for the state’s college board, while Bethany had been a budget director for the state parks department.
Bethany, describing herself as “60-plus going on 30,” says one of their greatest joys is to test the products they offer.
“We love unusual varieties as much as old standbys,” she says. “New plants are constantly arriving. Our inventory is always changing depending on what we bring home from garden shows and what clients want.”
The nursery is open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.