Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Xera Plants

“I know that if I ever go looking for my heart's desire, I'll never go any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with.”… Dorothy’s words towards the end of the Wizard of Oz. I was reflecting on them last week when I visited Xera Plants (wholesale nursery) here in Oregon. After all I felt a little like Dorothy when I visited San Marcos Growers in California last October. And now, having been granted my wish to visit Xera I realized that the amazing plants I was in awe of at San Marcos were a part of my California dream, not my Portland reality. Xera is my Portland reality, or at least my most perfect reality. I wish I’d kept count and could tell you the ratio of how many times I pick up a plant at a nursery and see the Xera tag. It’s more than 50% for sure…at least 60% and maybe even 70%. These guys grow the cool plants. They’ve been in business for 10 years now, starting out as just a single green house and growing to over 10 (sorry I was to busy looking to stop and count them!).
Am I the only one who finds greenhouses sexy? I’m talking Ally McBeal car-wash sexy. Not that I’ve ever, well you know, in a car wash OR a green house, I’m just saying…they are really sexy, the smell, the heat, the plants. HOT. Sorry…this is a family blog. I digress…the greenhouses at Xera were full of plants that I wanted to take home and plant in my garden.
How many places can you walk in and find a Restio? Not many. Mine died last year and here were several happy Chondropetalum elephantium. Restio’s are cool.
And a Lobelia tupa! I thought this was only a plant of my imagination and here is was in real life!
Plus…this little beauty (liverwort flowers) which wasn’t even for sale but just happy to make its self at home in the pots of plants growing in the warm humid greenhouses. Isn’t it fabulous!?
Looks like little palm trees, no? This one is growing in a pot of Arctostaphylos rudis.
That’s another thing to love about Xera. If you are lusting after an Arctostaphylos or Manzanita chances are Xera is growing the right one for you. They’ve narrowed it down to 10-15 of their best performers. Yes, 10-15…how many can you grow in your garden?

Besides Manzanita Xera also appears to be the local champion of Callistemon! I was a little doubtful when I planted two last spring but they both sailed through the winter with no problems. (Of course they both were Xera plants)...
Look at this Berberis thunbergii! I thought I didn’t like Barberry…but here is one that I’m considering!
I think this beauty is a Sophora microsphylla
And there were many little agaves! Including these…
And these Agave parryi 'Cream Spike'
Agave bracteosa , I think, I couldn’t get close enough for confirmation (an off limits area) but…
This large specimen was growing in their display garden and if I remember correctly Erich from McMenamins mentioned that the ones that overwintered at Kennedy School came from Xera.
There was an Aloe striatula forest…
And look at the leaves on this Argemone Mexicana!
Opuntia ellisiana, a Prickly Pear without the dangerous spines!
And the dangerous Opuntia with the spines…
A small “not for sale” area…all my little fav’s gathered together!
Eryngium agavifolium…look at all their spiky goodness! Pardon me while I get all misty eyed. This was my very first Xera purchase years ago. An amazing plant that EVERY garden needs. Seriously. I’ve got 5 and bought 2 more! (more on my purchases at the end of this long post)Be still my Phormium loving heart…you’ve disappointed me two winters in a row but I still love you so…
Amazing Echeveria…
Eryngium maritimum Miss Willmott's Ghost, you should look up the story behind the name if you are not already familiar with it.
And Echium x wildprettii 'Rocket' – I had planned on gentling harassing them if they weren’t’ growing any Echium, luckily they were.
Epimedium x 'Bandit'…
Little Sempervivum plugs, so cute.
I want to say something about sick plants being rushed to the ER but that would just be stupid, so I won’t.
What I bought…
From upper left... Two Eucomis ‘Sparkling Beauty’ because I’ve only seen signs of life from one of the E. ‘Oakhurst’ in the front garden and I can’t imagine summer without multiple Eucomis blooms!

A Dudleya collomiae, because it looks like a sea creature

Festuca punctoria (hedgehog grass)…with a name like that how could I not?

Agave parryi cream spike, because it’s so damn cute!

Two Eryngium agavifolium, because you can never have to many

An Eryngium yuccafolium, because when you love the agavifolium you have to try the yuccafolium…right?

Glaucium comiculatum…love those leaves!

And two Echium x wildprettii 'Rocket', because I am an Echium addict.

The Xera website is full of fabulous information on their plants, our PNW climate, and a link to their informative, fun and well written blog. Plus there is a list of the 30 retail nurseries where you can buy Xera plants! If you live in the Portland/Seattle area visit one and buy some plants! If you don’t live in the Portland area, well…find a nursery and make it a destination vacation!


  1. I love the Agave parryi cream spike. I can see why that made it home with you. I don't know about greenhouses being sexy, but they are definitely magical. I feel like a kid in a candy shop when I'm in one.

  2. Those look like some great plants. I really like your "sea creature" :)

  3. I so enjoy reading about your plant enthusiasms. I've always thought I'd be happy to swap all my "danger garden" plants for the amazing woodlanders and woody shrubs you can grow in the PNW...and all that rain! Now I'm too much of an old dog. I'll be sure to let you know if my Lobelia tupa blooms this year. And thanks for the hot tip on the eryngos. There's a particularly steamy greenhouse locally too...

  4. Ohhhhh... how did you score a visit to a wholesale nursery? Did you just ask? Yes, sexy greenhouseness abounded there for sure. Good scores. Love the spineless opuntia, there's a de-toothed, non-dangerous plant I could love, it looks so cute and a bit silly! Lucky to have lots of Xera plants up here, so I'm amazed to hear they only serve 30 nurseries. And growing, I bet! Great post.

  5. Yeah, what she said! I'm green with envy that you wangled this visit to Xera. And that they let you buy plants! I'm pretty amazed you didn't come home with a few manzanitas, too. It's just Disneyland for gardeners there!

    And I just might think about planting my a. bracteosa in the ground after seeing that one in the display garden...it's getting so big it might not fit well in the house next winter.

  6. AnonymousMay 11, 2010

    I'm missing something, Loree. It's a wholesale nursery but you were able to buy?

    Sexy? I'm not sure I would call it that but damn if there isn't an adrenaline rush whenever I see a hoop house with a gazillion plants lined up looking pretty.

    I've tried Lobelia tupa twice and lost it. I keep forgetting to ask my friend Carol if she lost her BIG plant. [Mine never had a chance to get big.]

    I did grow this Sophora for three years but lost it this last winter. I haven't had the heart to throw it out its twisted skeleton.

    Not that I'm GLAD, but I take comfort in the fact that your Eucomis didn't make it either.

    Love the re-purposed gurney. It deserves a good joke I think.

  7. I can't visit a place like this until they invent a pair of glasses that only lets me fall in love with plants that can survive our crazy climate.

  8. I keep meaning to see if I can order a columbine from them that I purchased a few years back and then promptly let die. It was called "Dead Spider" and I loved it! It was grey in color, and with its nodding head, it did look like a dead spider!

    I also have a hedgehog fescue and I love it!

    Xera is amazing, and I too look at all of their stuff all of the time around Portland. Thanks for posting all of the pictures of their plants!

  9. Patricia C, Portland ORMay 12, 2010

    I'm all ADD just looking at the pictures. Can't imagine being there in real life--but I hope to be one of these days. Can't wait for AZ-esque.

    And I happen to know as of 5/13, IKEA still has the little lanterns posted by Nestmaker...

  10. It seems that you and I are often in the same places at (barely) different times. Maybe I'll start wearing a name tag just in case we are in the same place and the SAME time! Well...I do have some new LILYVILLA GARDENS tee shirts...keep your eyes peeled!

  11. I am so envious! I never thought about visiting Portland, but now I may have to reconsider... Yes, that little agave is so cute. Also like your other purchases, all very architectural.

  12. Laura, actually now I am kind of wondering why I only got one of that agave! Hindsight.

    Sylvana, it's so cool! I'm glad I got it...I kind of don't want it to bloom.

    Denise, "plant enthusiasms"...well put, do get a little enthusiastic at times. Hopefully not too much. Swap your dangerous plants!? Isn't it funny that we always want what we don't have?

    Karen, it's all in who you know. Turns out I met someone who is friends with one of the Xera owners. You should get one of the spine-less opuntia! I heard they send a truck up to Seattle weekly so it's not surprising you see a lot of their tags.

    MulchMaid, I think you should plant it. I watched the one at Kennedy School not even bat an eye last winter. Of course it's all about the drainage. I seriously thought about another Manzanita but at the time couldn't come up with a spot to put another!

    Grace, I know! I wasn't going to ask, I felt so lucky to be allowed to just visit but when they offered well, you know. I remembered that you had lost a Lobelia tupa and that did figure in my passing it by. I am a little leery of planting the new Eucomus...what if I disturb the old ones just about to wake up?!

    Les, keep those glasses away from me!

    Ficurinia, hi! Thanks for stopping by danger garden! 'Dead Spider'...what a great name!

    Patricia, being there in "real-life" was heaven! I was at IKEA on 5/11 and couldn't find a single hanging lantern...

    Lauren, I would have loved to bump into you there! I see they have a link to you on their site so I figured you must do business with them, it makes sense since you design with the cool plants and they grow them. I do hope to meet you someday! I'm finally a member of the HPSO maybe one day at one of their events. I'll look for the LILYVILLA GARDENS t-shirt!

    Nicole, I keep trying to post your comment but blogspot (the platform) isn't letting it show up! If you are ever here in Portland you would definitely need to plan a trip to Xera!

  13. (Nicole...it's there finally, your comment, that was weird!)

  14. What a visit! I'll be stalking the Xera restios. I've seen a couple in local nurseries, they must be the source. I want big happy ones like I saw in the SF botanical garden, or I'll go broke trying.

  15. AnonymousJune 04, 2010

    That Argemone Mexicana looks like something I saw in the park. I keep wondering if the variegation is a natural form...or guerrilla planting.

  16. UW-GreenhouseAssistant.RestBotMSFebruary 07, 2013

    I googled "sexy greenhouse" just for giggles (botanists get bored too...) and found this. Yes. Yes greenhouses ARE sexy in the soapy-spunge carwash, need a cold shower kind of way. Also, so are succulents. Well named.

    Thanks for being a nice search result. :)

    1. And thank you for the fun comment! I've always felt like maybe I went a little too far with this one. Nobody seemed to really get my humor. Glad you enjoyed it!

  17. I hope the people at Xera have seen your writing. As you know from their plant tags, you would be a wonderful addition to their marketing team!

    1. Ha! That's a huge compliment, thank you.


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