Change and Growth



When someone learns that we have a nursery business, the first question always is, “What do you grow?”. I never know how to answer this question.


15 years ago when Bill and I first met, we shared a love of unusual plants and a fascination with the intricacies of the plant world. In a very short time, I was also sharing Bill’s dream of starting a nursery business. Together we explored the backroads of the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia River Gorge, and the fascinating flora of the Siskiyou mountains. So, we thought, for starters, we would grow rare native plants. Better yet, since we liked looking for unusual forms of even the most common plants, we would grow unique forms of our natives. Bill has an artists eye, a collector’s mentality, and, at the time, the start of a world class conifer collection. So, as was Bill’s dream long before we met, we would also grow rare and dwarf conifers, and our own selections of course, from witches brooms, and unique forms we would find on our trips. Then came the perennials, but certainly not those we could walk down to our local nursery to find. They had to be dramatic, with good form of foliage and habit, architecturally interesting plants. Hostas and many other shade plants suited this category, and our collection of shade plants grew as we came to appreciate them more and more. Or they had to be obscure and hard to grow. Or little treasures best displayed up against a rock or in a trough, that one has to stoop down to their level to truly appreciate. Variegated plants have always intrigued us, and it reached a new high last year (or a new low, depending on your feelings towards variegated plants) when we found a brightly gold splashed Bull Thistle in the field, and tenderly transplanted it to our perennial border. We also knew that the possibilities from seed grown plants were limitless, as we collected our own seed from the wild, and began trading seed with other plantsmen world-wide. Then, when the opportunity to travel to China presented itself, it opened up a whole new world of plants to grow. The ultimate in brand new plants now are those hybridized by ourselves, the results of which are truly one of a kind.


Now the tissue culture process is changing the horticultural marketplace. What was once ‘rare or unusual’ is now produced by the 10’s of thousands in less than a year’s time. We have mixed feelings about it. We appreciate the fact that so many people now have cheap access to these plants, but we also miss the special place that these once rare plants had in a collection. It is frustrating to have finally acquired a long sought treasure, to have spent years building up enough stock to sell, then to have it propagated so easily and cheaply for the mass market. Sigh. But it is part of the technological age that we live in, and we certainly can’t fight it. History teaches us that change is inevitable. So we join it, in a small way, ourselves selling some of these tissue cultured plants, because we like them, but we continue our search for the new and different, trying to sell a good product and at a reasonable price, and honestly.   


Yes, the plant world is changing.  Everybody is looking for ‘something different’. Modern day plant explorers are on the increase, bringing new plants onto the horticultural scene every day. No longer does one need to be sponsored by a world renowned botanical garden, braving the hardships of the wilds of China, or Borneo, or South Africa, alone and separated from the world for months at a time. Laptop computers, e-mail, cell phones, and Global Positioning Units, have changed all that. Most of the world is opening and inviting. Some extra money, some free time, a sense of adventure, and a few personal connections go a long way. 


So, just when I think we are getting more focused, I realize that we are actually branching out in more directions. We continue to grow what strikes us as interesting at the moment, weaving the threads of our fancy into some sort of eclectic whole. But it seems to be working. We enjoy what we do, and it makes us eager to get up in the morning and start the new day.


As we peruse our catalogs of previous years it sometimes seems difficult to discern the unifying theme, although we really don’t see this as a problem. Except of course, when someone asks us what we grow.





Autumn drones on. My sunrise view of Mt. Hood has returned from behind the tangled branches of the maple grove near the road, the golden leaves finally fallen, but still crisp as I shuffle through flashbacks of days of my Chicago childhood and the old sentinel of a Sugar Maple in the back yard, gifting us every fall for a few short weeks with huge piles of golden-orange-red leaves, that were, in the eyes of a child, made just for jumping in.


 Today In the garden, Franklinia alatamaha stubbornly holds on to one camellia-like white flower, nestled among a few persistent leaves, now bright burgundy red. Touches of red and orange dangle from Japanese maples, but mostly they are bare, except for ‘Shishigashira’, with its upright branching and dense foliage habit, having waited until the rest have come and gone, and is just now starting to change, slowly, deeply, going out in a blaze of glory now that it has the floor to itself. The many Hamamelis have already gone up in foliage flame-colors, and are quietly resting. The conifers are coming into their own again, as they stand strong and green still, untouched by autumn’s hand. Mahonia ‘Arthur Menzies’ stands 8’ tall in a niche by the back door, with clusters of  14” stems of small round buds with a promise of opening to long lasting bright yellow flowers before Christmas, brightening the grey days.  And Schizostylus coccinea looks as fresh as ever, in satiny pinks and reds, determined not to quit until a heavy frost knocks them to the ground. 


It has been a good and busy year, with more contacts made with plant collectors world wide, more plants discovered, new trails explored, more seed to grow. The new progagating house is almost ready, giving us much needed space.  And, as always, there are many new and interesting plants to be found in this catalog, some seed grown, some new cultivars, lots of new fresh grafts from conifers that visitors have been long coveting and are only now large enough to start propagating. The seed house is crowded with hundreds of pots filled with the fruit of our expedition to China this fall. Hope and trust, necessary ingredients in any seed growing operation, are also found here, as we tenderly care for them and the promise they hold.    


Many of the plants on this list are in very limited supply, so please list some substitutes. We reserve the right to limit quantities if our supply gets too low.  Also, some of the plants may not be ready in early spring, so early visitors to the nursery should understand that all the plants may not be available until later in the season. And there are many many plants available at the nursery that are not in the catalog. Come see us, if you are in the neighborhood!


The open house schedule last year worked out well, and so we continue. One of our pleasures is spending time with people, and sharing the garden and our new treasures. Although we seem to have less and less time each year, we try our best to remain on a personal basis with our customers.



1995 to 1999 - this page




As 1997 approaches, it feels as if a new era has begun for us. 1996 has been a busy and eventful year, but it is now behind us, and we are filled with enthusiasm and expectations of what the future will bring. 


Diana returned from her eagerly anticipated trip to Yunnan province in SW China. And what an experience it was. Meadows of roscoea and anemones; fields of Stellera chamaejasme var. crysantha, a daphne relative, so abundant there but almost impossible to propagate, very rarely seen in western gardens; hillsides of rodgersia in full bloom; primulas in abundance; masses of dwarf rhododendrons turning the fields into great purple seas; high mountain slopes with dense dark forests of gnarled rhododendrons the size of trees with great white trusses of flowers; Meconopsis pseudointegrifolia with huge satiny yellow flowers, managing to avoid the ravenous appetities of the long haired yaks grazing nearby; exotic terrestrial orchids in great abundance; Arisaema elephas, A. consanguineum and other arisaemas in full decadent bloom; Paris polyphylla, a rare plant related to trillium with whorls of narrow leaves on 3’ stems, with a single flower atop the stem, the skinny elongated green petals spread like a long legged spider, exotic and understated at the same time; intensely blue Corydalis pachysantha,  and so much more ...   We made contact with some wonderful people in China and we will be going back to collect seed. We will keep you informed on our progress.


The American Hosta Society National Convention was a big success.  Bill’s  Hosta ‘Mutant Ninja’ won the Savory Shield award for best seedling or sport seen on a hosta convention garden tour. Some of the hostas from his breeding program are starting to be released this year, and as with any breeding program, the best is yet to come.


We have updated our greenhouses, developed beds for growing out stock plants, and plans are underway for a big new propagating greenhouse. With these others projects behind us we can now concentrate on propagating more of the rare material we have in our collection. We are looking forward to the future.



 As we begin our fifth year of being in the mail order business, we take time to reflect on changes we have seen. Since we began, we have noticed a great increase in the knowledge and sophistication of gardeners everywhere. We sense a strong upsurge of the botanically adventurous, with unbounded flights of plant fantasy, seeking the newest, the best, the wierdest, or the rarest. Even the most botanically inhibited are branching out, wanting to grow and blossom forth with newly discovered floral treasures. Everything is new at some time to each of us, and what may be trite and old hat to a seasoned gardener, is a new found jewel to someone just starting out. It is an adventure with no end. There is a wealth of knowledge to be had and so many people are willing and eager to share their experiences. It is an encouraging trend.  Sharing information, experiences, seeds, and plants is enriching both in a gardening sense and in a personal sense in the relationships we develop. It adds much to the richness of life, and is one of the great benefits of this endeavor.


 We have greatly expanded our collections over the course of this year. Most notable are the conifers, Epimedium, Polygonatum, Disporum, Arisaema, Asarum, Clematis and Helleborus.  We thank all those who have helped us in our search, and we are not through searching yet! One of the greatest pleasures, as a collector of anything knows, is in the hunt, and to be able to add a long sought after treasure to the garden, hopefully being able to offer it to other collectors in the future, is a true delight.


 1994 was also the year of the variegated plant. There are more out there than one would realize. We have found interesting variegates in a weedpatch along the roadside, matted down in a well worn path, under a rock overhang in a mountain meadow, in pots of seedlings on the nursery bench, going unnoticed on the perennial table at the local nursery among a flat of 'normal' plants, on a shady hillside on the way to the national forest, and as variegated offshoots on nursery plants. Once the variegated bug hits full force, it is impossible not to be constantly alert to any deviation from the norm. We know we will be spending a great portion of the coming year looking for variations and variegations. We are always interested to hear from anyone else who has come across something out of the ordinary.  We heartily thank those who have shared their finds with us.


 We are finally settled (though not quite re-organized yet) from our great moving adventure. The garden is filling in, and there are many new and wonderful plants to be seen. Once again, we look forward to doing business with you, and we always welcome visitors to the nursery. As before, we ask that you call first. Due to specialty plant sales, a hectic shipping schedule, and plant hunting trips and hikes, we are not always available to help you.


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