Monday, August 29, 2011

The year of the Conifer…Farwest 2011

So 2011 was “The Year of the Conifer” at the Farwest Nursery Industry Tradeshow here in Portland. Yawn. They might as well have subtitled it “danger gardener, don’t bother!” What is that you say? Keep an open mind? Don’t let your childhood in Eastern Washington (aka Conifer Heaven) cloud your little gardening mind? You might even see a cactus conifer? What? Wait…you’re right! Actually I saw this fun (they actually called it a Saguaro!) juniper after I’d made my way past several other conifers, many of which I liked (cough)…yes you read that correctly. What’s happening to me!? Blue Phitzer Juniper Pom Pom…I would happily incorporate this into my garden, although it would be much better if I lived in the ranch style home of my dreams, and someone came to prune it every four months, free of charge. I believe this is a Blue Atlas Cedar…and I love it. Also love the Pinus parviflora 'Blue Angel.' Cryptomeria japonica 'Cristata'…this one could come home with me, anytime. These twisty Conifers even made me smile. But as I walked past this Angel Falls White Pine I expected it to reach out and grab me. Maybe I’ve watched the Wizard of Oz too many times but that tree looked positively alive. Okay, time to move on, there is more to this show than the Conifers! I’m loving this Prunus persica ‘Bonfire’ Ornamental Peach…dwarf cultivar, hardy to zone 5. Yes please, I’ll take two. I love me some tall Bamboo! Did I tell you that I finally bought an Edgeworthia? Mine’s an E. chrysantha because I do love big leaves, this one is an Edgeworthia papyrifer (leaves are smaller). I like the bare lower stems as shown on this specimen. I felt myself getting all worked up when I walked past this display. Here we go again…those are NOT cactus, and you should know better. Turns out they did. One flat was labeled ‘succulents’ in small print and the other ‘cactus,’ they just refer to the collection as the Cactus Collection. Glad I kept my big mouth shut.

Little Prince of Oregon is a label I’ve been seeing more and more of. I’ll be buying more and more too if they are offering agaves! Ah the Monrovia booth…time to gawk at the Schefflera offerings! Nope, not a single Schefflera in sight, what gives? (it wasn’t until later that I wondered…are they finding these plants aren’t as hardy as previously thought? Are they cutting back on the marketing because the plants are dying? Had I thought of this when I was there I would have asked!). So what were they showcasing at Monrovia? Agaves, Yuccas and Kalanchoe… Oh ya! And Acacia pravissima! Okay obviously they aren’t too worried about hardiness. They also had one of my new lust worthy favorites (since I discovered it in Seattle at Molbak’s and Swansons), Stachyurus salicifolia or Willlow Leaf Stachyurus. Love the leaves, no doubt would love the catkins even more. Luckily I bought a small one last time I was at Cistus; it’s in a container until I can decide where to plant it.

Time for the New Varieties showcase, where growers showcase their new introductions and you can vote on your favorites. My pictures from this area were pathetic, so I scanned the cards of my four favorite plants…Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass, the previously mentioned Stachyurus salicifolia or Willlow Leaf Stachyurus Cha Cha Cordyline and Silver Shadow Astelia I’m sure the grower could explain what’s “new” about this Cordyline and Astelia but as far as I’m concerned they are beautiful, but the same old heartbreakers…meaning not hardy here in Portland. Did you notice that the cards say zone 8? And that’s theoretically what zone we are here, however chatting with a OAN (Oregon Association of Nurseries, they put on the show) employee she said “were not zone 8 anymore”…that’s the first time someone has put into words what I’ve been fearing. Damn winter.

While we’re on the “not hardy here” subject I might as well include a few pictures of the Proven Winners display. Pretty... Edibles are definitely still a trend, this Burpee display focuses on their nutritional value. It was nice to see a big booth dedicated to just aquatic plants (Oregon Aquatics, Inc.) And every one of their plants was gorgeous! One of my favorite nurseries, Rare Plant Research, also had a booth at the show. This sign made me laugh…look down in the corner “The SUNTORY Collection” I will never be able to see the word Suntory and hear any voice other than Bill Murray’s (“it’s Suntory time”) Okay it’s time I mention the unavoidable, this year’s show felt like a bit of a downer. The nursery industry (like so many) seems to be holding its breath wondering when things will turn around. A sign of the times for me (perhaps not rightfully so but it was my perception) was the increased number of booths like this… My question is does this stuff sell when plants aren’t? Why? And who’s buying planters like these? (okay cheap shot, I’m sure some people love them but not me). What about some accessories for the landscaping of your McMansion? There were a couple of accessories vendors that caught my eye, in a good way. First was Gina Nash of Experienced Materials. Remember the fun orange carrot entry gate in the garden I posted about last week? She’s the one who made it. She also makes these striking lights. And if you live in the Portland area and will be attending the Fall HPSO plant sale she’ll be there! I also loved these metal frames for planting up with succulents, from Art Matters. Personally I would enjoy them a little more densely planted, so you can’t see the opening. Had I decided to return on Saturday and buy a couple of plants from show vendors (like I did last year), I would have hit this booth and tried to talk them out of a couple of their display models. So that’s it….another year, another Farwest Show. Maybe next year will be “the big things are turning around” year? One can hope. In the mean time I thank the OAN for putting on the show!


  1. Fantastic post, Loree, fair and honest. You are a wonderful spokesperson for the nursery industry.

  2. What?!? No take home loot? :)

    I want some of those metal frames too. I wonder if I can make something similar over here. Hahaha. I have so many to-do projects for the garden. By the time I get to them, the frames may already be available locally.

  3. I like habitual conifers - they make great backgrounds for interesting plants, as well as good mulch in the shade garden!

  4. My favorite New Variety was also the 'Blonde Ambition' Blue Grama Grass: you just gotta love that marketing name. The 'Silver Shadow' Astelia was great, too - I think I haven't really appreciated Astelia in the past. I also like the Hooker's Wintergreen with its blue berries.

    As for the conifers, I cruised through the display only to discover a surprise, Podocarpus salignus (conifer?) hanging with the pines and firs. I didn't realize it was zone 8, (the OLD zone 8, mind you) so it's now a must-have for the new covered back patio!

  5. What a comprehensive review and photologue of the show, I feel like I've attended myself :) Some really gorgeous plants, and I want that cristate conifer too!!

    Same here, not keen on the half face pots...

  6. I love 'Blonde Ambition', I remember seeing it as a HGC introduction this year...and actually saw them for sale at a nursery a few weeks ago...super cool! Now I just need to find room for it...eek!

    I like other people's gardens ;-)

  7. Thank you Denise, I wonder if they feel the same? :)

    Bom, nothing! Amazing no?

    DD, "mulch in the shade garden" you just reminded me of hours and hours spent raking pine needles in my youth. Ugh.

    MulchMaid, looking forward to a report on the progress there around Longview Ranch!

    Mark and Gaz, glad to know I'm in good company with those pots!

    scott, oh no! Running out of room? Winter always seems to free up a little space for me.


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Comment moderation is on (because you know: spam), I will approve and post your comment as soon as possible!