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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Florabundance Floozie

Every spring at about this time, the Arboretum Foundation hosts its Florabundance sale, the largest sale in the Seattle, Washington area, which attracts a large number and variety of specialty nurseries. You can find a list of 2015 vendors here. I've gone to this sale for two of the last 6 years, and decided this year to go again. I don't remember if I've ever written about it on my blog. It's a great sale, and -- dare I say it? -- rivals Portland's Hortlandia, but with room to breathe. They also have a fleet of little red wagons for hauling purchases around in, not to mention the room to maneuver said wagon (I managed to snag one). But if you aren't as lucky as I was, you can leave your box of plants in a holding area, and go back into the fray to fill up another (and another) before checking out. There's a drive-up pickup area just outside the desk where you pay for your plants.

It takes place most years in an old but recently refurbished airplane hangar at Magnuson Park in Seattle, and the vendors fill the hangar. I arrived at about 10 a.m. (the sale opened at 9), and planned to first simply photograph whatever caught my eye, but quickly succumbed to the desire to shop.

Can you hear it? The siren call of plants waiting to be adopted

Hard to tell from this photo, but that hangar goes back a loooooong way

Almost all the vendors at the sale have excellent signage, like these from MsK Nursery (associated with the Kruckeberg Botanical Garden)

Veratrum viridis (False Hellebore)

White Primula japonica

Maianthemum stellata (starry false Solomon's seal)

'Sapporo' Rhododendron

Acer shirasawanum 'Moonrise'

Red Russian kale

Forget eating it -- that color makes it a fabulous ornamental!

Bronze Rodgersia

More Rodgersia peeking out from under one of the tables

Berberis insignis

Eucomis 'Dark Star,' I wish I'd bought one

Schefflera gracilis -- so dainty

Maianthemum sp. at the Far Reaches table

And there's one of the owners of Far Reaches, the ever-popular and fun to eavesdrop on Kelly Dodson (on the right)

A flat of Echium pininana seedlings

Protea cynaroides (King Protea)

There's always Agaves if you look hard enough

Agave schottii

Euphorbia griffithii 'Dixter' (kicking myself now for not getting one -- or two -- or all of them)

So, what did I buy?

In front, l-r: Maianthemum stellata, white Primula japonica, Echium pininana; in back, l-r: Tomato 'Cherokee Purple,' Maianthemum sp., Veratrum californicum, Cypripedium formosanum (my first lady's slipper), Euonymus hamiltoniana ssp. sieboldianus

I've been on a bit of a Maianthemum collecting kick lately. I bought two M. fusca at Hortlandia, and went to the Florabundance sale in search of Maianthemum racemosum (our native false Solomon's seal). I didn't find it but I found the starry false Solomon's seal, and the one from Far Reaches, about which the website says:

"Guatemalan False Solomon Seal. A collection from Guatemala at 8000'-9000' on Volcan Azul by Josh McCullough where he found this growing both epiphytically on Oak trees and terrestrially. Cool New World False Solomon's Seal that is best brought in during the winter unless you are Zone 9. This makes an interesting lignotuber of sorts at the soil surface which is a big swollen storage organ that is often found in epiphytes (tree dwellers) to help them weather periods of dry as well as uncommon cold snaps. Ahh, the adaptations of plants! We haven't flowered it but this has long 10" pedicels according to Josh's notes."

I was surprised to discover this spring that the Veratrum californicum, that I bought last spring and planted in the back garden right before our dry summer began, had survived and come back looking healthier than I expected. So I bought a second one. 

According to its description, the Euonymus hamiltoniana has the same orange berries within bright pink calyxes that E. europaeus has, a plant that my friend Peter The Outlaw Gardener grows that I've coveted. It's going in the front bed along the street, where pink and orange (with a touch of blue) are the signature colors.

And, I've long wanted to try growing a Cypripedium. C. formosanum has the reputation of being one of the easiest to grow. It's going into the new shade bed under the pin oak tree that I recently redid and wrote about here.

Other than its cool flowers, which I probably won't see till next year or even the year after, the Cypripedium has interesting pleated leaves.

This sale pretty much signals the end of the most intense part of spring plant shopping. I've been making lots of changes to the garden lately, but I'm definitely going to slow down on the plant buying from now on. Some day, hopefully, I'll actually plug the last plant in my pot ghetto into the ground. 

Then I'll celebrate!


  1. Cypripedium immediately went into my wishlist Alison! How cool to have a plant sale in an old airplane hangar! I find that sometimes taking photos gets in the way of plant shopping so best get the shopping done first then do the rounds again for photos :)

  2. I wish you had bought the Eucomis, too, Alison. I wish I would buy one as well. Maybe we need more than one.

    Thank you for the excellent tour. You always 'see' things in such an interesting manner even when it gets in the way of shopping.

  3. Planting the last plant in your pot ghetto? I'm not holding my breath! Thanks for the post about Florabundance! It looks like a great event.

  4. What a fun sale, maybe I'll have to add it to my list for next year.

  5. So many plants for sale, they all look very tempting: Please buy me....

  6. I'm just recovering from Hortlandia! You have endurance:)

  7. I've been saying I'll clear the plant ghetto for years.. I probably will this year. By moving it to somewhere with more space :(

  8. What a nice set-up for that sale.We have nothing even remotely resembling either Hortlandia or this event.

  9. I keep saying to myself, no buying more plants until the backlog has been planted! Plant sales are so tempting, I'm not surprised you came away with more goodies!

  10. Hortlandia with room to breath? Sounds like a great sale! I'll have to try to make it up there next year. I love the leaves on Cypripedium formosanum. I think they're about the most interesting in the genus.

  11. This is the kind of plant sale I wish we had here. Although, I'm not sure the bank manager would agree :)
    You came away with some lovely goodies Alison, looking forward to seeing all them thrive in your garden.

  12. I never cease to be surprised just how many plant sales and garden events there are up your way! Great haul.

  13. What a fun sale! Sooo, are there two different types of false Solomon's Seal?

  14. One big improvement over Hortlandia: WAGONS! Backing off on plant purchases? Hard to believe that one.


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