It’s alive…IT’S ALIVE!

I can’t help but notice in my quest for Native Northwest Plant material that if I CAN find it in a standard nursery, then usually there isn’t very much of it–and it’s often rather expensive.  It has to come from somewhere…but where? 

Prior to the Native Plant Society’s sale, I would have thought native plant lovers a cultural subset as foreign to me as people who care about the difference between a Furry and a Plushie, or people who drive with the hood on their sweatshirt up:  not weird, just…erm… different.  Then I realized I was one (a native plant lover, not one of the other things).  And just as that epiphany came over me, I had another bit of insight:  there are Native Plant Nerds, like me, who give up a Saturday morning to shop for those plants, and then there are the Native Plant Growers: the nerds behind the nerds.  In my mind they work in crisp white coats and protective eyewear, working in sterile garage nurseries and clean-room-style backyard greenhouses, with painstakingly collected seeds, tip cuttings and rooting hormone, or air-layering plants in their test garden-slash-laboratories.   Whether or not they are truly mad scientist-types or just guys and gals who like to grow plants makes no difference to me; I’m going to keep my mental image, and feel confident that if there is a congregation of Native Plant Lovers, then there has to be a Priesthood of Native Plant Propagators.   I want to become one…at least a little bit.

The plants that cover most of my property had to come from somewhere; they did not all just lay dormant in the clear-cut earth, nor did anyone plant them (apart from the Mitigation Plants and the 150 or so I have planted since then).   How does ‘nature’ do it? Because if Nature can do it, so can I…and more importantly,  I can cut out the middleman and their $10 -$15 per seedling in a gallon pot.  Using the magic of the

Finally, a day off from the match factory! My daughter uses her superior dexterity to plant some tiny seeds.

interwebs I found Inside Passage Seeds  and ordered seeds for Salal, Kinnikinnik, and Cascade Oregon Grape.  These are the foundation plants, the workhorses of my second-growth forest.

Armed with my seeds, some soil, some nursery trays, and enough knowledge (push seed into dirt, water, and wait)* to either magically succeed or to waste $50 on failure, I will have my daughter and her dainty fingers assist me in the planting.  A 50% germination rate will give me a fifty or so seedlings of each plant to set out in when they are ready–at an expense comparable to five starts in 1-gallon pots.  It’s worth a try.  Perhaps some years from now

Flounder DNA spliced with tomatoes? Nope. The Native Plant Nursery on a sunny stump. No trees were harmed for this operation.

I’ll be in my garage, lab coat on, hybridizing a Noble Fir to grow GMO corn instead of cones–a Christmas tree to feed the songbirds through the winter, and I will be the High Priest of Plants.

*A nice fellow from the Washington Native Plant Society told me that Salal is dependent on mycorrhizal symbiosis–a relationship with a sort of fibrous proto-mushroom that lives underground among the plant’s roots and helps it to absorb nutrients.  I will find a place in my forest with a nice patch of Salal and mix a few handfuls of that soil into my planting mix.  Can’t hurt.  Whatever seeds don’t fit into my planting trays will be direct sown in the fall, just to try another method.

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11 Responses to It’s alive…IT’S ALIVE!

  1. Pingback: OK…It’s NOT alive. | A Thistle in My Sensitive Area

  2. Deirdre in Seattle says:

    If you want any of the native star flower, they are taking over my yard. I’d be happy to share it with you.

    • calvincaley says:

      Trientalis borealis ssp. latifolia (I had to look it up, don’t go thinking I am some sort of Native plant or Latin savant)? That you said it is ‘taking over’ makes me shy of it. My ongoing project has a number of facets, few of which work in concert. Among these is the financial and legal responsiblity for a certain number (289, to be exact) of native plants. This is not really compatible with the thin resources of water and friable/fertile soil. Because I want what I want where I want it, I sometimes play ‘hand of god’ with those things that, while ‘native,’ or ‘common,’ tend to behave thuggishly or hog scarce resources. Bracken fern is ‘native,’ but is a water hog and may make the soil toxic. Gone as soon as I see it. Cleavers smother plants. Bye bye. Crisp sandwort sucks up the water and attracts rabbits, and Crane’s bill, while established in this region for decades, is an invasive (and smells funny). There is one hundred and thirteen foofillion salmonberry shrubs all around me, but I don’t want pokey running canes all over, so all the bird-started seedlings go. Of course, being the hand of god has its own hubristic rewards: take out the bracken and add a few hundred tender young plants, and you have a Mountain Beaver problem, for instance. It is funny, and perhaps ironic, that the original Mitigation Planner did NOT choose aggressively spreading plants (as you can read elsewhere, she chose mostly wetland ‘scrub,’ planted well upslope from the swamp in the heavy glacial till that is the general floor of my clearing). 289 Selections of Oxalis oregana, Starflower, Bunchberry, Salal, along with the selective elimination of velvet, quack, and crabgrass, and this project–and my blog–wouldn’t exist. I planted one 4″ pot of Oregon oxalis, now I have a 5×5 foot mat of it (I don’t really like it, either. Looks too weedy, but it stays because it is kind of hemmed into a valley of tree roots). When I get to years four and five, I will probably focus on Native perennials and wildflowers…or if the Mountain Beavers keep at it, and I can’t get rid of them, you might hear back from me for some free rapid spreaders!

      • Deirdre in Seattle says:

        I think there are a number of native plants that are tough because they have to survive our crappy soil and bone dry summers. You put them in a garden situation, and they go to town. They wouldn’t act the same back in their original environment. When you’re ready, I have fringe cup (Tellima grandiflora) seeding itself everywhere, too.

        There’s a reason that hardy geranium is called “Stinking Robert”.

  3. calvincaley says:

    Agreed. Most folks believe we have it so easy, they don’t know the nine months of soggy, three months of desert dynamic (On Garden Rant a year ago, there was a huge hue and cry over the Bloedel Reserve running their sprinklers while a spring mist was falling. Most of the rainfall we get from June through September doesn’t make it past the surface water cycle–made me want to scream). I actually just got back from Sky, no dice on the red vine maple until fall. That’s ok–my plant-o-rexia is kind of out of control anyhoo, and my clayey soil turning to chalk. Wow, Sky! I haven’t been there for three years, since I stopped buying plants for my previous garden in advance of moving. They have really Swansonized themselves, and then some. I didn’t really look at their pricing, though, to see if that was Swansonized also. They have an excellent Native plant section, as retail nurseries go–I was impressed. My hot plant value tip is that place with the rain barrels at about 170th and Aurora. They have very many shrubs and trees, usually including the Native Subalpine fir, Yellow cedar, Red cedar, and Mountain hemlock I favor, the owner is knowledgable and nice, and the pricing reflects the no massive shade house, no piano player or string quartet overheads. I haven’t been there since fall, I know there has been a lot of construction up there so I hope it is still there. Careful, I just may take you up on plant divisions and transplants!

    • Deirdre in Seattle says:

      It’s still there. I keep meaning to stop by there, but I tend to avoid Aurora if i can help it. I’m the queen of the “scenic routes”.

      • calvincaley says:

        Hmmm…I am trying to think of the good thing about Aurora but I can’t. I am glad to know that Rain Barrel Parking Lot Nursery is still a going concern though. If you use only schnickleways, you can turn onto Aurora at 155th and only have to be on it for 15 or so blighted blocks…then stop at Central Market afterward and buy one delicious everything from all over the world in one stop. Sigh. Central Market…I miss you so.

      • Deirdre in Seattle says:

        At least they’ve stopped tearing Aurora up (for now). That’s an improvement in and of itself.

      • calvincaley says:

        Ok, so it isn’t a GOOD thing, but a mitigating thing: at least when that area was completely torn up it gave a reason for the otherwise-inexplicable slowdown from 40 mph to a 5 mile-an-hour crawl between 155th and 185th. I am glad they are done with construction, I was so worried that one of those hookers was going to suffer a terrible turned ankle.

  4. Pingback: Berry delicious | A Thistle in My Sensitive Area

  5. Pingback: This has been a story, and I have been the hero of it | A Thistle in My Sensitive Area

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