Hmmm... xeric plants, in Spokane! There's a lot to say about that...
Which is where I'll turn it over to Wes, one of the owners of Floralia who I had an excellent exchange with. I asked how the folks in Spokane were responding to such a different plant palette from what they're used to seeing. Wes replied: "The reception from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. It's no secret that Spokanites love their irrigation. On average we use 217 gallons per person each day, compared to the country's average of 88 gallons. The bulk of our water use goes toward irrigating lawns and gardens. However, there seems to be real shift taking place and more and more people are taking and interest in xeriscaping. The city has played a very supportive role in changing people's gardening practices by offering Spokanites $.50 per square foot of lawn that they replace with drought tolerant plants."
For those of you who think of Washington state as being all rain all the time, no. Even the "rainy" west side of the state is summer dry, and Spokane averages just 17" of rainfall annually—that's just 3" more than Denver.
Wes added: "It's not just xeriscapers and newcomers who have shown interest in our plants though. Some of our most vocal supporters are lifelong Spokanites who are just excited to have different options and some new plants to try out. We have received a lot of support from the Inland Empire Gardeners, who have been very enthusiastic about our selection."
I was thrilled to learn that Wes, and his co-owner Tim, have Portland ties. Both used to live in Portland and Wes worked at Portland Nursery, Concentrates, the Urban Farm Store, and even had a connection to Buffalo Gardens—a small nursery that was near my home in NE Portland when we first moved here.
Ya, that's Andrew checking out the offerings.
Oh how I would have loved to plant this cactus in my garden in Spokane! Back then there wasn't anything like this on offer and I wouldn't have believed that I could have grown it even if I had seen it.
More plants, and helpful signage.
I asked Wes about the name, Floralia... "We chose the name Floralia as a bit of a cheeky joke. In ancient Rome the Floralia was a rather lascivious festival that took place around the beginning of May. For 6 days the Romans would have drunken orgies, parade around naked and do who-knows-what-else to please Flora, the goddess of plants. The name Floralia sounded enough like an old-fashioned garden center name that we figured most people wouldn't think anything of it, but we knew there'd be a few who would know the history of the name and they'd be in on the joke."
And about future plans for the nursery: "We'd really like to expand our propagation capacity. Most of what we sell isn't readily available from growers in the Northwest, so we'd like to not have to travel all across the country to keep ourselves in stock. We'd also like to be able to trial more rare and unusual plants for our area. We're doing it on a small scale now. Currently we have some Texas madrones we're growing from seed to test out, and have seeds from a couple alpine protea species we're planning to try. We both really like to experiment, which I feel is very much a part of Portland's gardening culture that we've brought to Spokane with us. We've been really surprised by how many plants that "can't grow here" actually seem to be perfectly happy here." Alpine protea species!?! Plant experimentation!?! Things are definitely brewing here at Floralia.
You know anytime I see a sign like that I have to touch, right?
I mean come on! Look at those beautiful spines, they need to be touched.
Cylindropuntia leptocaulis, the desert Christmas cactus
Since these plants aren't what you typically see in Spokane nurseries and garden centers I wondered if Floralia customers ask about garden design help. Wes says: "There is currently a huge demand for garden consultation and design, so much so that most of the landscapers and designers we've spoken to aren't taking on new clients, and some have 1-2 year waiting lists. It wasn't part of our plan to offer design services, but we get so many requests that we've decided to start offering these services on a trial basis. We're still working out our structure and rates, but we're enlisting the help of a talented friend from Portland to take on some of the design aspects that Tim and I don't have time to handle personally."
It seemed like a nice bit of synergy that there's a brewery (Bellwether Brewery) next door—I even saw a couple of shoppers sipping beer while they looked at plants. How very Portland, I felt right at home back in Spokane! It's also worth noting that during this time of many "smaller" specialty nurseries closing (Joy Creek for example) there are nurseries like Floralia opening. This is a good thing, a very good thing. I can't wait to return!
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