Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Big Plans Gone Awry

I had big plans yesterday to do a three-nursery tour on the other side of Puget Sound. I wanted to visit The Desert Northwest in Sequim, which was having its first ever open house, Far Reaches Farm in Port Townsend, and Dragonfly Farms in Kingston. From where I live south of Seattle, this was a major undertaking. Just to get to the ferry in Edmonds to cross to Kingston is a one-hour drive. I thought leaving at 9 a.m. would give me enough time. But when we reached the ferry terminal, we discovered that because this was also the same weekend as the Lavender Festival in Sequim, which is a once-a-year major celebration of the wonders of lavender, the ferry trip had a two-hour delay.

Normally, it would have taken me three hours to get to Sequim. Because of the ferry delay, it was going to take me three hours to make almost no progress. But I persevered, and stayed and waited for the ferry, thinking, well if I at least make it to the Desert Northwest for the rare open house, and have to visit the others at a later date, then that will still be a win.

It took us until 12:30 just to get to Kingston.

After which, we ended up in bumper-to-bumper traffic, all heading at a snail's pace into Sequim for the festival (which we were not attending, we were just going in the same direction). At the rate we were moving, it was going to take us 6 or 7 hours to make a trip I could usually make in 3.

Frustration and disappointment reigned. Well, at least it wasn't raining. In fact, the sun actually came out.

But, ultimately, we decided, instead of traveling all the way into Sequim, to veer off at Port Townsend and visit Far Reaches Farm.

Which was a treat. And a half. No, make that two treats.

Far Reaches Farm is owned and operated by Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken, two plant-obsessed collectors who travel the world looking for garden-worthy plants. You can order online at their website here. You can read an article by Valerie Easton about them here. Ian Barclay, the proprietor of The Desert Northwest, wrote about his visit to their nursery here. They also usually have a booth at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show (I've bought plants from them there, as well as at the Bloedel Reserve's spring plant sale) and the NWFGS has written a short article about them here. It looks like they will be at the Fronderosa Frolic next month, which I'm planning to attend (if I don't run into a major traffic jam on the way). Anything I regretted not buying yesterday might be available then.

Seriously, follow those links and read about Kelly and Sue and their nursery. And then come back here, and check out all the pictures I took of their fabulous nursery and display gardens. My pictures do not do even a modicum of justice to it. It was a foliage orgy. I'm sorry I'm not knowledgeable enough about the plants to identify them all.

My first view of their sales tables. The flat-roof lath and shade cloth structure in back covers their shade display garden.

They have a huge selection of Crocosmias.

Pond and bog garden. On the left is their green-roofed gazebo. The blue strap-like shapes rising out of the pond are glass ornaments.

Sarracenia/Pitcher plant in the bog garden

I'm not a big fan of Tradescantia, but this one fascinated me.

Look at those fuzzy leaves!

Full sun bed

Mertensia maritima (simplicissima)

Some kind of thistle?

Part of the lath-house display garden. There are paths all throughout this sea of foliage. This is only about half the display, there is more behind me.

Don't know which Epimedium this is, but look at that wonderful red edge!

Love this planted log! See all the sori on the back of the fern?

Podophyllum with mottled foliage

Arum seedheads, bet they will look awesome when they turn red!

Persicaria 'Golden Arrow'

Don't have a clue what this is, but I love the big leaves and blue berries! Edit: Thanks to Scott Weber, I'm pretty sure this is Diphylleia cymosa, a wonderful PNW native!

Maidenhair fern

The flower here, probably a terrestrial orchid (Dactylhoriza ??), actually belongs with the straplike dotted foliage below. The big leaves are maybe a type of Chinese mayapple?

Hey, this is a combo I actually have in my own garden! Woo Hoo! Brunnera 'Jack Frost' and Begonia grandis


I have no clue what this is, but isn't that peanut-like seed pod the coolest thing?

Something I can't identify with shiny black berries

I loved this combo of iris-like strappy foliage with a falling carpet of Epimedium below.

This looks like a hart's tongue fern, but the leaves/fronds were fuzzy and soft.

Hydrangea with a mottled leaf

Wonderful foliage combo -- long, thin and prickly with short, fat and prickly

Another amazing fern, I don't recall seeing it for sale

I realized once I got home that there were things I saw there that I thought I had taken pictures of --  an enormous Terapanax 'Steroidal Giant' for example -- but hadn't. And I completely neglected to get pictures of their long full sun border that runs along the driveway on the way into the nursery. And that cool gazebo with the green roof.

About five minutes after I arrived, a busload of gardeners on a tour showed up. Yet, I never felt I was annoying anyone with my questions or requests. A young man named Jason helped me out enormously, answering my questions ("What's that? Do you have it for sale?") and running all over finding wonderful, healthy specimens for me to take home.

So...what did I buy?

A large, beautiful Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Golden Arrow'

Sinopodophyllum hexandrum

Podophyllum delavayi

Epimedium 'Black Sea'

Impatiens omeiana

Harpochloa falx/caterpillar grass

Garrya elliptica 'Evie'

I also bought a Pacific Coast Hybrid Iris called 'Dorothea's Ruby', two pots of Asarum marmoratum (similar to Asarum caudatum, but with mottled leaves), Corydalis scouleri, and a pot of Mertensia maritima (simplicissima).

By the time we left, it was close to 4 p.m., and Dragonfly only stays open till 5, and all I had eaten since getting up that morning was a nasty cup of ferry coffee and a stale, mass-produced chocolate chip cookie. So we ventured into Port Townsend and explored there. What a sweet, charming town! We took a nice walk along the waterfront, checking out interesting shops and looking over several restaurant menus before settling on what turned out to be a satisfying meal at The Public House Grill. (I had a big plate of steamed clams and mussels in a tasty broth.)

We returned home after a long wait for the drawbridge across Hood Canal, not getting in until 10 p.m., 13 hours after leaving that morning. We only visited one nursery and had one meal.

But it was an excellent meal. And a phenomenally fabulous nursery!


  1. Dealing with ferry traffic can be frustrating. There always seems to be some festival the same day we are crossing to do something else. What a cool nursery though and so many interesting plants! Glad you at least made it to one.

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  3. Even though you did not make it to your original destination, I think Far reaches farm was a fabulous place to spend your time.
    Hubby and I were on the 10:30pm ferry back to Whidbey Island, and the traffic leaving the island was still backed up, way up the hill from the ferry.

  4. I love the primrose and the golden arrow. Sorry the day didn't go as planned. I know that frustration. That nursery looks like an all day adventure. Thanks for the tour.

  5. You certainly know how to make the best of a bad situation! And you've got me wanting to visit Far Reaches again someday when I have more time and the skies aren't angry.

  6. Sorry about the ferry mess! Far Reaches is a wonderful place & seeing your pictures makes me want to go again! What great plants you got! Have you considered coming through Tacoma and taking highway 16? You can do Valley Nursery on the way to Kingston & then go to Pt. Townsend & maybe even hit Bainbridge Gardens! No Ferry & might be closer for you?

  7. OMGodness what a day! I love your plant purchases..

  8. Hardly seems fair that we get to enjoy the wonderful parts of your day without all of the hassles you endured. BIG THANKS are in order...and the sunset shot alone seems worth the trouble.

  9. Ouch...traffic during those festivals is such a nightmare...but I would have done the same thing! I think they mystery plant with the blue berries is probably Diphylleia cymosa...a gorgeous native. Of course, since i begged Kelly to bring me some Persicaria 'Golden Arrow' to our fall plant sale last year, I love your plant choice ;-) You'll love it...mine is HUGE and gorgeous this year...just protect it from to much sun.

    1. Thanks Scott! I think you are right. What a great native plant that I'm not familiar with, I love it. Have to find a source now. I would never have heard of the Persicaria either if I hadn't seen it on your blog!

  10. What a beautiful sunset! So many wonderful plants..however were you able to make the choices. I really had no idea that there were so many nurseries all around our state. Enjoy your new plants! xo

  11. Hi Allison!
    First, you have a gorgeous garden blog. I must come back to visit! :0)
    But my main reason for coming is to warn you about raccoon poop. I read your comment from Danger Garden and hurried over here.
    I had a family of raccoons living in my back yard last Spring (and we don't feed them!)
    I found out that you must be very careful with their droppings because some raccoons carry raccoon round worm. This can infect humans if ingested and can lead to a terrible infection that can even travel to the brain. Though very cute, you may want to research raccoon round worm and give the information to your neighbors who feed raccoons, especially if they have small children. It scared me to death and stopped me from ever having any thoughts of feeding the cute raccoons.
    All the best!
    Copy & paste this link into the URL window for more details

  12. I am in plant heaven, it's like going home and seeing all of my old friends again, and meeting a few new ones....oh the green, the lushness.

    That is one of the tidiest, nicest looking plant nurseries I have ever seen.

    What a treat, yes a double treat, well worth the frustration on the road, and the drive.

    Thank you so much for sharing a glimpse of my past, in the days we lived on the coast some of those were the sights I got to see at work each old boss was a plantaholic, and loved anything new.

    Up here the climate is harsher, and it's more difficult to find the rare and the unusual...I am sure I will encounter them eventually...but for now I live vicariously through your photos.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  13. Wow Alison, what a great nursery. I can understand why you made such a trip out there. I am surprised you didn't get the Tradescantia, it was cute being so fuzzy.

  14. What a wonderful nursery you visited. Living in the high desert of Oregon, I miss a lot of the things you get to grow there. We have been to Malbecs in Woodenville when visiting family up that way. Now we have a new place to check out next trip - thanks!

  15. I was going to comment about all the wonderful plants, but then I read the words "steamed clams." MMmmmm, steamer clams are my favorite! That's a great way to end a long day.


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