Tuesday, September 4, 2018

A day at Monrovia...

Never one to turn down the offer of a "behind the scenes" nursery tour, I found myself in Dayton, Oregon — at the offices and growing grounds of Monrovia — bright and early on the morning of August 21st...

Joining me for the day's activities were Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne (of Northwest Garden Nursery, sorry I got your eyes closed Marietta) and photographer Doreen Wynja — the creative trio behind the new book A Tapestry Garden from Timber Press. Later Amy Campion and Grace Hensley showed up, along with a few people I didn't know.

The marketing department at Monrovia must have a blast coming up with big promotional materials.

One of my favorites — which is in my own garden — Camouflage™ Variegated Japanese Aralia
(Fatsia japonica 'Variegata').

It was interesting timing to run across this beauty, Podocarpus elongatus ‘Monmal’ (Icee Blue). I had just read a "Form and Foliage" blog post on blue plants the night before my visit and swooned over it there. Sadly it's only hardy to Zone 9.

All that was missing from this scene was the barkeep.

Time to tour the display EXPO, nice of them to pull all the spiky plants up close for me to look over.

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora 'Desert Rose'

Hesperaloe parviflora 'Brakelights'

Agave ferdinand-regis, gone all puppy...
Opunita basilaris hyb. 'Baby Rita'

Agave parryi
Sedum tetractinum 'Coral Reef'

If the colors in these photos look a little off, it's because our tour took place on one of our smokey days, when the sky was heavy and everything filtered. I tried to correct them but there's still an odd tint.

Were you fooled? This odd billboard mansion was a backdrop for their conifer and topiary display.

I need a nice brick ranch-style home where I can release my inner topiary artist.

So many vines!

Clematis Boulevard® Ninon™ /Clematis 'Evipo052' (ya, try remembering that name) looks a little like a mutant florida var. sieboldiana. I love it.

The tropics...

Bougainvillea 'MonSam' (oh that this beauty was hardy here!)...

I wish there had been time to explore the entire campus, but alas our day was full — not to mention the high that day was 94, and the smoke filled air was oppressive.

After a stroll around the display EXPO we then listened to Jonathan Pedersen, VP of Business Development, talk about some of the new "hot" plants for 2019. At this point a group of nursery owners and buyers joined up with our group (or maybe we joined up with theirs), it was interesting to hear what they were excited about.

Later — after a great photography talk by Doreen Wynja (all those gorgeous photos you see on Monrovia plant tags and on their website are her work) and a nice box lunch — it was time to listen to Dan Hinkley talk about some of his favorites, from his collection with Monrovia.

He had us all — or at least those of us who were willing — taste a leaf from the Drimys lanceolata 'Mountain Pepper'... quite tasty and spicy!

And he pointed out the subtle, but luscious, variegation on the Plumshine Anise (Illicium anisatum 'HinPurlf'). I swoon...

After Dan's talk we went on a little tour of the growing grounds...

Including the greenhouse where plants that have been tissue cultured are grown on.

Fear not, those of you who have been searching for Agave 'Blue Glow'...

There are a lot of them on the way.

And lots of that gorgeous Fatsia too.

Baby Yucca gloriosa 'Bright Star'

I wish we could have seen it in action, this machine prunes plants!

And this one dispenses soil into pots and then drills a perfectly sized hole, into which the employees transplant plants ready to be potted up.

All ready to go back into the field! Note the soil mountains in the background. They grind up any plants that are unsaleable and compost them, they're then worked into the soil mixture. Pretty nifty eh?

Our day ended here, but we were sent away with few plants to grow on. I brought home a Drimys lanceolata for my own garden (pretty excited about that one), and a couple of Grace N' Grit™ Red Shrub Roses which have already found a home in my neighbor's garden. Beautifying the neighbor's place, thanks Monrovia!

Weather Diary, Sept 3: Hi 79, Low 57/ Precip 0

All material © 2009-2018 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. That looks like an interesting, if hot and smoky (and perhaps uncomfortable), day! I'm already seeing an influx of little Agave 'Blue Glows' in the nurseries. I wondered what was up.

    1. For the longest time it was really hard to find 'Blue Glow'...good to know that's already changing.

  2. Fun stuff! So what is "hot" for 2019?

    Sorry to hear you had smoke. A box of N-95 masks (the ones to use for smoke) has become a mandatory item to keep on hand here.

    1. It's becoming a requirement in this household, too. I'm tired of smoky summers.

    2. I guess I need to get serious about masks, my lungs will thank me, so much smoke two summers in a row...

      As for what's hot, sadly most of what was talked about held zero appeal for me, so I didn't track it. There were a lot of Hydrangeas!

  3. Definitely a tour I wouldn't have passed up! About how many acres do they have? I've always wondered.

    1. I'm sure we were told, but numbers just fall right through my memory. I do know there are five different growing operations, this is just one of them.

  4. That tour looks like fun (or at least that it would've been without the smoky air). For some reason, I never realized that Monrovia had operations in so many locations and in states other than California too. I always thought they operated out of the city of Monrovia - as it turns even their home office isn't there but in Azusa. The Oregon location looks the flashiest, though.

    1. It was quite remarkable, yes, flashy even. OF course I have nothing to compare it to, never having visited the other locations.

  5. I love that Podocarpus. I know it's not hardy, but it grows well in a container! Now, about that Fatsia. It's real cultivar name is 'Murakumo Nishiki', not 'Variegata'. The real 'Variegata' has irregular white margins, not green-on-green variegation. I don't know why, but Monrovia has trouble with cultivar names if they don't have a patent to refer to.

    1. 'Murakumo Nishiki' huh? Good to know. The name 'Camouflage' has always kinda bothered me, so I've stuck with 'Variegata'. I just looked up the real 'Variegata' and yuck. Not a plant I would want in my garden.

  6. A great behind the scenes tour! Sounds like a fun, if smokey, day!

  7. Enjoyed the tour - especially liked seeing the Agave 'blue glow'. I often wonder when I spot a Monrovia 1+ gal Agave at a big box store just how old they are and how much effort was involved in raising them ...

    1. Interestingly (maybe obviously) I didn't see any Agaves larger than the ones pictured. There were many hoop houses we didn't go in, so if they're growing succulents here in Oregon they must be doing it under cover.

  8. Hi, Ive been following your blog for years and i work for Monrovia, so i was excited to read this post. One of my first jobs at our Oregon nursery was getting to work in the tissue culture lab - it was sooo cool! Thanks for visiting and highlighting all the hard work that Monrovia craftsmen put into growing our plants!

  9. AnonymousMay 16, 2019

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    I have bookmarked it for later!


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