Friday, June 10, 2022

Visiting Spokane's Floralia

In times of great sadness it's important to do things that lift your heart up and reinforce the connections that make life worth living. In that spirit Andrew and I took time to visit a dear friend while in Spokane after my dad died. Since we were running a few minutes early and she lives near, we also stopped by Floralia, a "new" Spokane nursery I've been following on Instagram.

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 an 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!

All material © 2009-2022 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. Impressive! I've watched so many independent nurseries close that I've begun to wonder if all we'll have left in the future will be big-box and chain stores. It's good to know that there are some enthusiastic and intrepid plant people out there breaking new ground :)

  2. AnonymousJune 10, 2022

    Wow, I just learned a lot. Like many other folks, yes, I thought Washington state received tons of rain. I had no idea Spokane averaged only 17" of rainfall annually. I was also clueless as to the backstory of Floralia. What a great name.

    Texas Madrones are difficult to grow and the seeds used to be hard to come by. I wish them the very best of luck.

    I so wish we had a nursery in our town that catered to more than the average (boring) plants for this area. Unfortunately, I think boring plants are what most homeowners here want. (That's not to say I don't have some boring average plants in my own garden.)

    What a VERY fun nursery.

    1. It wasn't until one of my brothers moved to Phoenix that I learned many people thought of the entire state of Washington (and the entire PNW) as being a rainforest—you are not alone! And there's nothing wrong with a few boring average plants, I've got several.

  3. I wish Floralia well and hope they are a great success! People do assume that all of Oregon and all of Wa. are green and rainy. Whenever I traveled on business up there with people who had never been they were sometimes a little shocked -I always explained we were about 5 minutes from Idaho.

    1. Nothing like seeing it with your own eyes to understand. Travel is good for people.

  4. AnonymousJune 11, 2022

    If folks weren't aware of Floralia's back story and meaning before, they sure know it now, and I love it. (Especially since completing a nine book mystery novel series taking place in the roman empire in 128 AD).
    So, "we're enlisting the help of a talented friend from Portland to take on some of the design aspects": could that friend be you?

    1. Ha, no... I think they need someone who actually lives in Spokane, but thanks for the compliment.

  5. Sipping beer and shopping for plants - two of my favourite activities combined! Also, cool idea for the council to subsidise homeowners to rip out their lawns. We could use that idea here in Adelaide too. I might even suggest it to our local (pro garden) councillor.

  6. Nice to see a new nursery opening up with a different selection of plants. Much as I love nursery-hopping it's more fun when each specializes in a different plant palette.

  7. Well, 17 inches is more than twice what we get in Phoenix. Great the some cactus do grow well there and not rot!

  8. AnonymousJune 15, 2022

    Huh. Did not realize Spokane only got 17"/year. I visited there and it was incredibly breathtakingly green. I hope they have success with their nursery. --hb


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