Plant Shopping

Who has the best job in world?  Me, that’s who!  I spent Wednesday plant shopping for a client who had done most of her own shopping for her new garden, but still had a list of plants that she couldn’t find anywhere.  This was the first time I shopped for someone who wasn’t one of my own design clients, so though I had a list, I was curious to see how things went.

Earlier this week, I spent a few hours in my office perusing nursery inventories and making a few phone calls.  It feels a  like a treasure hunt to find the nursery with the most of what I need at the best price. I primarily deal with wholesale nurseries and growers, but also a few retail ones and rarely I have to mail order.  I usually check out the on-island nurseries in person and it feels especially good when I can purchase from them.   I also did some research on  possible substitutions and checked this with the client’s designer,  a good friend of mine.

I packed up the night before, since plant shopping is usually an all day / mostly off island affair – even for a small order.  Tarp ( I was using the CRV this time.  If I use the truck, I pack a shade cloth which I drape over the plants to protect against dessication.),  raincoat, hat, rainpants, at least two pair of gloves, BOOTS, and of course the list which has been color-coded and turned into the most efficient route.

Acres and Acres!

A few of the nurseries had pulled and held plants for me, which saves me a ton of time.  Silly me, there’s a bit of disappointment about this because I love wandering in nurseries.  I like to see all those plants, all those possibilities – some old friends and some new.  I also like nursery people – the nicest, most interesting, hardest working people you will ever meet.    At other nurseries, I need to do my own searching and this is where the outdoor gear becomes essential.  Fields are muddy and slippery, rows of plants are tight and wet and walking through them can drench you from the waist down.  I used to be able to carry three gallon pots in each hand.   These days, I’m down to two in each hand, with an extra hugged in the crook of my arm – hence the raincoat.  A hat is better than a hood for me – I can keep an ear out for delivery and crew trucks.  Two years of plant ID in school serve me well in the wholesale nurseries as plants are not labeled as they are in a retail nursery.

A big retail nursery near Snohomish assured me they  would put aside the hardest plant to find –  Geranium macrorrhizum ‘Album’  (see   What they actually had was Geranium × cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’ and while lovely, not as vigorous or drought-tolerant.  A quick call and trip to a small wholesale nursery I hadn’t frequented in a while netted me the last prize.

Once home, I made sure the plants were ready to be delivered and planted the next morning.  I watered the hellebores and plucked old and spotted leaves from the geraniums.  A new garden, no matter how well planned and planted, often looks like a sea of mulch with dots of  lonely little plant islands.  I get a thrill seeing the new plants all bunched together in the truck, showing off the associations of color and texture that will mature into a beautiful garden.  Seeing the client’s progress in her garden the next morning and her enthusiasm over the new plants inspired me to go home and finish up some planting of my own!


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