The Practical Plant Geek: Nursery Visit

Note: This is part of our Guest Blog Post series. You can also read this post on The Practical Plant Geek’s website

Back towards the beginning of April (the 8th, to be exact) a group of bloggers, master gardeners, and horticultural professionals assembled at Little Prince of Oregon to tour their impressive and immaculate greenhouses in Aurora, south of Portland. Of course, there was shopping involved, too. I was an attendee last year, but was apparently a bad blogger and never got around to posting about that trip. Since I was the instigator of the tour this year, I’d better make sure I post about it. For a few different perspectives, visit Danger GardenChickadee Gardens, and Flutter&Hum.

The famous Sedum squares of Little Prince of Oregon.

My garden plans this spring included large quantities of plants like Mahonia nervosa and Mrepens, solid, evergreen natives to flesh out the garden around all the (eventually) taller trees and shrubs. Lucky me, I know a whole group of garden bloggers who are always equally eager to take advantage of a rare opportunity to visit a wholesale nursery and shop in exchange for spreading the word about a worthy supplier of great plants. We gathered in their beautiful new office (see other posts for photos) for a delicious lunch provided by Mark, the director of business development at Little Prince, and heard a bit about their operation. With around 70 greenhouses (and large ones, at that) they’re no small affair. Most of the greenhouses are unheated, or minimally so. This way, the plants aren’t soft and wimpy when they’re shipped out to retail locations and taken home to plant in gardens.

I don’t have a photo of the new office, but I did get a view from the third floor! Here are just some of the greenhouses. Note the rain in the distance. Miraculously, it stayed dry until most of us were done shopping.

While Little Prince of Oregon is not regularly open to the public, you can find their plants in retail nurseries and garden centers across the Pacific Northwest. Their plants have even made it to the East Coast! If you’re a member of the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon (or want to join), and these posts about the nursery have you itching to visit, you’re in luck! On Thursday, June 15th, Little Prince of Oregon will host an HPSO After Hours event. Keep an eye on the HPSO homepage, or your emails if you’re a member, for details.

More greenhouses, with the blue-grey shed for reference. And that still isn’t all of them!

Now for the plants! I was on a serious shopping mission, but did manage to take a few photos.

Ajuga pyramidalis ‘Metallica Crispa’, sometimes sold as a variety of Ajuga reptans, is my favorite ajuga. It’s a bit slower to spread than most reptans cultivars and has the most marvelous, shiny, textured purplish green foliage. Bonus, it also has these beautiful blue-violet flowers.

These Carex glauca were putting on a serious floral show, you know, for a sedge.

I was definitely in a mood to admire grasses that day. Helichtotrichon sempervirens ‘Saphirsprudel’, usually sold in the U.S. under the English translation Sapphire, in bloom.

I liked the subtle white variegation on this Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracilimus’. I’ve been on the look out for large grasses, or grass-like plants, and was considering Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, a more heavily variegated version of this plant. In the end, I went with the less subtle ‘Morning Light’, which I found further on in this same greenhouse. They’re not evergreen, as I had intended, but they are supposed to stand up through most of the winter.

Pennisetum messiacum has such cute little flower heads.

If you’ve read any of the other posts about this trip to Little Prince (which you should) you’ll know I’m not the only one who fell in love with this sweep of Stipa tenuissima. That reminds me, I still haven’t cut back all of mine yet. I hope it’s not too late. I want this lush green look, too.

Dicentra spectabilis ‘Valentine’. Actually, it’s now Lamprocapnos spectabilis. I’ll remember that, eventually…

I hadn’t planned on adding more hardy fuchsias to the garden this year, but this Fuchsia regia ssp. reitzii somehow ended up in my hands.

Azorella trifurcata ‘Nana’. I love those undulating mounds of plastic-like foliage.

I’m a bit embarrassed about this Ceanothus griseus ‘Horizontalis’. I read the sign, yet somehow my brain saw Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Repens’. I purchased three, still thinking they were the latter until I got home and processed my photos. ‘Repens’ is a bit hardier than ‘Horizontalis’, and I wanted that extra hardiness for my slightly colder garden. ‘Horizontalis’ is still a good garden plant and after doing some research, I decided it was hardy enough even for me. So I planted them anyway.

One of the most exciting group of plants coming down the Little Prince pipeline is their new collection of Arctostaphylos. Not far from Little Prince of Oregon is the Oregon State University North Willamette Research and Extension Center, where they have a trial plot of many Arctostaphylos varieties. The selections Little Prince will be offering are the best of those varieties grown at the research center. I’ve seen the plants in the trial plot and I have to agree. These are some great plants, tried and tested in the PNW. The soil in the trial plot is well-drained, but it’s your typical PNW sticky clay loam, so the varieties that do well there should do well in the average garden. I’m a bit less confident about the ability of certain garden centers to keep them in good condition until they sell, but there’s only so much Little Prince can do about that. The following are three of the selections Little Prince has in production that I’m most excited about.

Arctostaphylos manzanita ‘Dr. Hurd’, a popular larger selection for PNW gardens, flushing out after a bit of pruning.

Arctostaphylos pumila [grey selection], probably not well known, but a truly exceptional plant in the trial garden.

Arctostaphylos sp. RSABG. The RSABG stands for Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, in Claremont, CA, where this unidentified species (or more likely a hybrid) was selected. Like the Arctostaphylos pumila above, it’s probably not well known. The lack of a cultivar name certainly doesn’t help, but mostly it just hasn’t been circulated yet. That’s going to change. Another really wonderful selection that’s proven it can handle the PNW climate.

 I’ll end this post with a shot of Lewisia cotyledon ‘Rainbow’.
But wait. what did I get, you ask? Unfortunately, I neglected to take photos before I put everything in the ground. I brought home two flats of Mahonia repens, a flat of Mahonia nervosa, 3 Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’, one Fuchsia regia ssp. reitzii, and a Callistemon ‘Woodlander’s Hardy Red’. It turned out to be a good thing I didn’t find everything I was looking for, because I used up all my cash on that haul!
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