“Study Nature Not Books”

(Louis Agassiz – scientist, teacher 1807-1873)


I took a road trip across Oregon this summer, through lush forests of the Cascades, across the high desert where the vistas are endless and the hillsides are studded with picturesque junipers, to the starkly beautiful Steens Mountain in the SE corner, and back through the surprising, dramatic landscape of the John Day Fossil Bed area. It was too late for most plants to be in bloom, but as a plantswoman I am always on plant alert, so I scouted around, learned a little bit, collected some seeds, and took some pictures.  Mostly I had an adventure.


As a Chicago girl, growing up in a typical 1950’s family, we went on vacations. I remember my sister, my brother and myself piling into our 1957 Buick, 2 of us in the back, with the ice chest as a buffer on the seat between us, the other sibling jammed in the front seat between Mom and Dad (we took turns) and, pulling our small rented travel trailer, our neat little self contained play house, we set off to see America. Whether the destination was Yellowstone National Park, Mt. Rushmore, Pikes Peak, Mackinac Island in Michigan, or the New York World’s Fair, it was adventure and excitement and getting out of our little neighborhood into something much bigger than ourselves. We visited the typical tourist spots, but it was the thrill of adventure and the drama of the grand mountains of the west that spoke to me. Every trip was an education and each time I came back feeling, somehow, changed. Then there was the moment when I realized that a person was not just limited to visiting these places, but that some actually lived in them. It opened my world. Since then, my life has brought me out west, living within 100 miles of the Pacific Ocean, 1¼ hour from the base of Mt. St. Helens, with the high desert east of the Cascade Mountains just an easy 2 hour drive up the Columbia River Gorge. The love of exploration has never left me. 


So what does all this have to do with this catalog? I’m not sure really, it was just on my mind as I plan for the year ahead. I feel lucky that I can justify my road trips, even the shortest ones, by combining this pleasure with business and the pursuit of knowledge and understanding of the world around me in a way that cannot be experienced by merely reading about it. What I learn on these adventures cannot easily be put on paper. It is in seeing the details, in observing first hand how things interrelate, how the land and plant associations change, besides giving me the time to contemplate and feel the connection with the rest of the natural world. Books, of course, are invaluable, but for me, there is no substitute for real experience. 


But now to business. We are excited about our catalog this year, with over 160 newly listed plants (some of these were in the fall 2002 list), over 75 new perennials, 8 new ferns, almost 40 new shrubs and trees and almost 50 new conifers. The dazzling Helleborus ‘Fire and Ice’ is back. There are more of the small flowered and species clematis that we like so much, and a few more epimediums. With the publication of the new book ‘The Genus Epimedium’, this group is finally going to be getting the attention it deserves. We see it happening already.  Bill is finally offering two of his most requested hostas, H. ‘School Bus’ with bright gold leaves and red stems, and the silvery blue H. ‘Moon Dance’.  And we especially like the silvery leafed Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, the breakthrough Heucherella ‘Sunspot’ with gold leaves and red veins, and the lovely light pink flowering Calla Lily, Zantedschia aethiopica ‘Pink Mist’.


Conifers are zooming into popularity, and Bill is offering some great new cultivars that are still rare on the market. For gold foliage, what about Picea abies ‘Gold Strike’, Picea abies, ’Vermont Gold’ or Pinus latifolia ’Chief Joseph’? For a small space consider Cedrus atlantica ’Mt. St. Catherine’, PInus mugo ‘Teeny‘, or Pinus strobus ‘Coronado’. First time offered anywhere is the variegated Pinus nigra ‘Mark’s Sparkler’. There are weepers, upright narrow forms, variegates, something for everyone. The conifer world is much larger than most people realize.


Perhaps the best introductions this year are in the category of Trees and Shrubs. We are finally offering Alnus rubra ‘Aldered States’ the gold leafed alder that was found on an evening drive in the Cascade Mountains. Cornus kousa ‘Centerpiece’ is well worth checking out.  Perhaps best of all is Philadelphus lewisii ‘Mt Tahoma’ with variegated leaves and double flowers.





The Constancy of Change


Nothing is certain but change, so they say, and in the plant world, certainly nothing could be more true. We depend on the changes we see everyday; expanding stalks with unfurling leaves, the promise implied in the swelling of a bud, the come-hither look of a fully open flower, the quick fade of the petals as its belly starts to swell and then the seed ripens and disperses, ready to begin the cycle all over again. Finally, with the coming of winter, the plants sleep, as some retreat completely underground, and some don’t, but they are just resting nonetheless. These cycles of nature are comfortably predictable, and as gardeners we are always aware of them. Even though we seem to be in the midst of unprecedented social and technological change, we can take solace in the fact that we can always depend on these ancient changing patterns of nature. No matter what the world may bring, a little bit of time spent in the garden is always time well spent. Wouldn’t it be a better world if everyone had a little plot of land to tend?


So, to business. We have over 150 plants new to the list this year. (Some of these were in the fall supplement), with more than 80 new perennials, 30 new trees and shrubs, and almost 40 new conifers. We have greatly expanded our epimedium offerings this year and there are many more at the nursery. It is getting to be quite an epimedium show just about any time from early April into May when they are in full bloom. The epimedium hybridizing program is coming along nicely. Most are quite ordinary, but every once in a while an exceptional form emerges. The beauty and detail of the young foliage can be extraordinary and the first flowering is an anxiously awaited event. We are finally able to offer our Epimedium ‘Hot Lips’, and later in the year, we hope to have E. ‘After Midnight’ available. We are also offering E. ‘Flamingo Dancer’, which we introduced in the fall. (This one is not our hybrid, but we wish it was).


Conifers are becoming a prominent part of our business as more people learn how diverse and interesting they really are, and how they add stability to the garden. If you are looking for something different in a dwarf form, check out the rarely offered white-tipped Tsuga canandensis ‘Betty Rose’, or the new dwarf Larch Larix gmelinii ‘Romberg Park’.  Microbiota decussata ‘Jacobsen’ is a very dwarf form of the bone hardy conifer sometimes called Siberian Arborvitae. Tsuga seiboldii ‘Green Ball’ is new and also very nice. Pinus parviflora ‘Tanima No Uki’ is not new to this catalog, but is still rare and quite a remarkable dwarf Japanese White Pine with dense, frosty white-tipped growth. If you like conifers with unusual colored foliage, this year we are offering the new golden leafed Dawn Redwood Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’ and a beautiful, narrow, blue foliage Larch, Larix kaempferi ‘Blue Rabbit’. We are especially excited to be able to offer exclusively Abies nebrodensis ‘Sicilian Gold’, a rare gold form of a very rare tree. Pinus strobus ‘Pacific Sunrise’ continues to please.


Our Open House weekends are becoming quite popular, and we have come to really appreciate our ‘regulars’, customers who have become our friends, on whom we can count to pop in sometime during most of our open weekends, to see what’s new, or sometimes just to say hello and have some good conversation and a muffin or two, and to stroll the garden. This year, as an enticement, there are more plants being held back that are not listed in this catalog or on the WEB page, and will only be available at the nursery.  We invite you to come and poke around.


2000 to 2003  this page



10 Years !



As we look back over the last 10 years, we are pleased at the direction the nursery has gone and the progress we have made. When we made the decision to call ourselves Collector’s Nursery many years ago, we envisioned developing and working with a unique collection of plants, first to satisfy our own curiosity and fascination with the plant world, and secondly to try to make a living doing what we loved to do. We have been fortunate to be able to continue pursuing these goals. It has not always been easy. The nursery business, as any business, has it’s share of necessary tedium, and no matter how hard we try to get away from the mundane aspects of it, it all needs to be done in order to make the operation run smoothly. 


From the beginning, we have wanted to select, breed and introduce our own plants. On the following page we have included a list of Collector’s Nursery introductions, to date. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the list is as long as it is. This is really the most exciting part of the business, and there are lots of plants under observation right now that we will soon be adding to the list.  


As always, this has been a busy year. There is always too much to do. Every year I think that the business will be under more control and there will be more free time to explore the countryside around me. It seems like such a small request, but every year seems to go by with so little of that accomplished. But, this year, lots of postponed short trips made way for one big trip. I went back to China in September for more seed collecting. It is fascinating - China is changing so fast. TV and other trappings of the western world are having their effects - more cars, small town airports being built to bring in the visitors, so much road construction, new hotels. It has been a great gift to me to be able to see it first hand. But as much of it is changing, much remains the same: hiking through a misty narrow canyon with huge vertical walls, feeling that I was inside a traditional Chinese painting; at one overnight spot, having to cross a rickety wooden slat bridge over a rushing river to get to the ’bathroom‘; our bus breaking down in the mountains, at 14,000’, and us hitching a ride in the open back of a big blue dump truck, the young Tibetan driver barreling around the corners on this narrow road, massive snow covered mountains all around us against the deep blue sky.  And, of course, the plants, almost 200 different seed collections. Such diversity. Such an amazing place. 


We have over 150 new plants to offer for sale this year. (Some were on our fall list.) For dramatic color, check out Helleborus x sternii ‘Fire and Ice’, a Collector’s Nursery introduction with almost white, mottled foliage, with red stems and red leaf veins. To add to the range of clematis, we offer Clematis coactilis, an upright herbaceous sort from the SE USA, only about 18” tall, with downy, cream colored flowers. Sanicula caerulescens, from the mountains of Sichuan, is an exciting new plant on the market, to only about 6”, a shade loving plant, with dark green leaves and a haze of blue flowers for months. We believe we are the first to offer this in the USA. For the conifer collector we have two of Bill’s introductions, a dwarf bun, Pseudotsuga menziesii ‘Salmon Creek’ from a witches broom, and Pseudotsuga menziesii ‘Windsurfer’, a lush weeping form Bill found growing on a rocky slope in Washington State, with a long full skirt that trails for about 30’ down the slope. I will leave it to you to discover the rest in these pages. 


So, yes, It seems as if I am always hurrying. Hurry to the office, hurry to the greenhouse, hurry to the potting shed. But today as I hurried out of the office to the nursery, I had to stop - momentarily mesmerized by the slow grace of a pair of large marsh hawks silently soaring in circles above the greenhouse in the hazy blue sky against strands of thickening white clouds. It made me stop, and watch, and smile, and for a little while at least, reconsider ---


Thoughts at the Start of a New Millienium


By the time this catalog is printed, New Years Eve, 1999, will be but a memory, the y2k computer glitch may have been a problem for some, but if our predictions are right, most of life will be continuing as scheduled, without doom or disaster, and we will be inching our way up the calendar to the next year, decade, century, and millennium. I suppose a list of horticultural highlights of the millennium would have been appropriate, or perhaps an opinion of the most horticulturally significant event. Unfortunately, there is none of that here. (Perhaps that will come next year, at the start of the REAL new millennium, anticlimactic as that may be.)


I had one of those transitional birthdays this year. You know the type, where the decade of your life changes and you sit back and take a good look at where you’ve been, where you’re going, etc. What I experienced was that it meant something for a few days, then it was back to business as usual. I think that is how this turnover of dates will be. It is symbolic of change, and gives us reason to ponder, but then life goes on, and it will be back to business as usual.  


So, here we go. We have lots of new items this year, over 150 plants that were not in our Spring 1999 catalog, (though some were on the fall list), many offered for the first time anywhere. Especially notable is Corydalis ‘Golden Panda’, a variegated gold-leafed sport of Corydalis Blue Panda. Corydalis ‘Blackberry Wine’ is extra nice, too. I am especially excited about having 2 new non-vining Clematis, C. fremontii and C. fruiticosa ’Mongolian Gold’. Hopefully, within a couple of years, there will be some of our own hybrid clematis to introduce. And take note of the very distinctive Dianthus ‘Chumbley Farrer’. Our conifer business is growing rapidly. We are offering 37 new grafted conifers this year. Some of these are Bill’s selections being offered for the first time. Two new dwarf, frosty forms of Cedrus atlantica are particularly nice, as is Picea abies ‘Gold Strike’, a compact form with green foliage overlaid with gold, and Larix russica ‘Rasputin’ with purple-tinged new growth (all in very limited supply).


We were pleasantly surprised at the good response to our on-line catalog last year. Obviously, more people are using the internet as a quick way to access catalogs and to find what they are looking for, and are feeling comfortable enough to order from this medium. It’s interesting that the plant world includes such a mix of people from hi-tech junkies to back-to-the-earth purists who really want nothing to do with computers at all.  Most people are someplace in the middle, as are we. We are finding that more real information is being added to the internet everyday, and it is a great tool. But, also, it is information overload. The world is moving at breakneck speed, and it is impossible to keep up. If you have surfed the WEB you know how hard it is to stay focused. It will take time to adjust to it all. The beauty of working with plants is that it forces one to sit back and catch one’s breath. Plants won’t grow any faster than they can. 


So here we go - zooming into the new millennium on a multi-layered wave of fascination, apprehension, hope, fear, and excitement,  So many things are hovering on the brink, changing the world as we know it forever, so fast that it is incomprehensible. What will the new millennium bring? Realities beyond our wildest dreams. Tissue culturing of plants is only the beginning. We expect to see genetic engineering giving us combinations of colors and forms yet unimagined. We are eagerly anticipating our first holographic garden – imagine the possibilities! How about a winter garden party, in Buffalo, New York, for instance, with a tropical theme - holographic palms, and orchids hanging from vines, all in your very own living room, for your guests to walk among. Not happy with this scheme? With the flick of a button, you can be deep in the tall grass prairies of Nebraska, or walking among the centuries old Welwitschia in the Namib desert on the west coast of Africa, or maybe in the Olympic Rainforest of Washington State. It is endless, and whether this is good or bad is a subject for another day. As for now, the future is waiting - we’ll see you there !  


Collector's Nursery,16804 NE102nd Ave, Battle Ground, WA 98604, 360-574-3832 / dianar@collectorsnursery.com