Wednesday, August 30, 2023

2023 Farwest Show (I return to be judgmental)

As I mentioned on Monday, I recently attended the Oregon Association of Nurseries Farwest industry trade show, their 50th! 

I wasn't planning to go, but then I got an invite to be a booth judge, and with that came an all-access pass. How could I say no? Here's a look at what I found interesting, and maybe you will too. 

At the Iseli Nursery booth there were several small-leaved plants worth admiring...

Ulmus parvifolia 'Hokkaido'

Ilex crenata 'Dwarf Pagoda' 

Salix boydii (recently tip pruned by the looks of it)

I was there early enough to see several individuals frantically running around with bags of ice to water the plants. I wonder if that's horribly shocking to them? The plants I mean.

The Briggs Nursery booth...

A fun display of the different types of hakonechloa.

I found this signage for sweet fern, Comptonia peregrina, interesting. A groundcover? Really? Around here it is frequently sold with a small trunk, as seen to the left of the sign. Dry soil? No. This plant does not like to go without water! At least not in my garden. I'll revisit this one at the end of the post.

Great Plant Picks! Poor Rick Peterson was minding the booth while his fellow Miller Garden/Great Plant Picks staff Richie Steffen and Del Brummet were out walking the floor (I know because I stopped to talk with them).

The ladies manning the OSU booth were very encouraging and helpful, I stopped and turned back to take their photo and caught this moment of, well, what exactly? They seem puzzled, a little dismayed. 

The Bountiful Farms booth celebrating the Farwest 50th year.

I wanted to dismiss this planted car business, been there done that for YEARS now.

But it was fun, and well done.

Mahonia going for a joy-ride in the backseat, who can't smile at that?

Peaches, again I was drawn to the peaches. This one is Honey Babe Peach, Prunus persica 'Honey Babe'. That shaggy foliage!

And the dark foliage version, Prunus persica 'Bonfire'.

There is always something interesting to admire in the Bamboo Garden booth...

And I usually find some fun vehicle I'd like to load up with plants and drive away in, this year's version looks like it's electric...

These containers look like a woven basket...

But they're lined and solid on the inside, all the better to hold soil.

Smith gardens invited you to stop and plant up a logo mug with a plant.

It was a very enticing offer!

The Cascade Topicals booth was full of great plants.

Oh! Philodendron bipinnatifidum 'Tortum' caught my eye, it's probably no longer cool in the hot houseplant scene, but I don't remember seeing it before now.

Ditto for this little cutie, which I didn't pull out to ID cause I just needed to walk away... (plants aren't generally for sale at the show, but you can sometimes make a deal and come back and pick them up when the show closes on Friday).

Root pouch!

I've been using one of these for several years now, a freebie giveaway at a past Farwest show. They're amazing. Made from a blend of natural fiber and recycled plastic water bottles they really hold up well.

Okay, time to give a peek to the New Varieties Showcase and share my favorites...

Alocasia micholitziana ‘Frydek Variegata’

It still kinda shocks me to see houseplants in the showcase, but it's a definite sign of the times and this one was cool.

Daphne odora ‘Monzulzay’ PP35217

That variegation is fab, I'm not sure if it's really that different from what's already on the market, but pretty it is.

Hibiscus syriacus ‘Rwoods6’ PP30270, CBRAF

Look at that flower!

Ipomoea hybrid Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Mahogany™ PPAF, CPBRAF

Yes another sweet potato vine, but they say it's "significantly improved" and retains its color well in full sun, as well as being mounded rather than trailing (even though it does trail). That multi-colored foliage always gets me.

Finally, here we are with another example of the sweet fern, Comptonia peregrina.

Which is being described here as a shrub, not a groundcover—that I can get behind. Somewhere in the mix I swear I also read that Comptonia peregrina not only did fine with "dry soil" but was drought tolerant, which had me shaking my head because in my garden it needs water, summertime water that is. 

Over the weekend I talked about the Farwest show and this plant in particular with a friend who has lived in more parts of the U.S. than I have. He reminded me that the OAN nurseries are selling to the entire country, not just Oregon. Duh. My dry soil is not everyone's dry soil. We've actually got rain in the forecast this week for the first time since late April/early May. That's basically four months without any real rain. Not something the rest of the country—West Coast neighbors excepted—really has to deal with.

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  1. You can't buy any of those plants?! I understand the purpose of this show but that still seems cruel (even if some side deals are possible). I've also learned that the meaning of "drought tolerant" varies widely and often doesn't fit my expectations. Like the heat-related zone rankings, a drought-tolerance ranking would be helpful. I've been meaning to try one of those fabric containers for dahlia tubers - maybe next year!

    1. It seems odd but really makes sense, as an industry show they're there to spur large orders from nurseries, not sell one-offs to me. Still... I often fine myself stopping at a nursery on the way home from the show! ;)

  2. Well, that's a cool looking show.
    Not being able to purchase plants has its benefits such as avoiding impulse buying. If one plant stick in you head there is the pleasure of chasing it down next year.
    The fabulous variegated Alocasia would stay with me, but since I'm not buying any additional house plants, I'm safe.

    1. I've scored a few great plants in the past, this year I didn't feel the need to try and make a deal—let alone return on Friday to pick it up.

  3. My favorite booth was Cascade Tropicals due to the sheer variety of plants that they had available. I am almost tempted to start conducting research on houseplant diseases. The grower tour was also worthwhile. A great way to see behind the scenes and get a better handle on the size of the nursery industry in Oregon.

    1. Oh! Houseplant disease, I think that would make you a very popular guy! I wonder what growers you visited? I've toured a few over the years. The Monrovia site was probably the most comprehensive and mind-blowing.

    2. Rio Verde Plantas, Fisher Farms, Everde Growers, Blooming Nursery, and Eshraghi Nursery

  4. So who were the big winners? Lots of great plants. The new Alocasia is swoon worthy. Too bad windy and dry aren't it's cup of tea. The tiny leaved Iseli introductions looked fantastic. Imagine growing a tiny elm next to it's larger brother?

    1. As a judge I am sworn to secrecy as to the winners, although I suppose it's probably on their website. I like your elm pairing idea.

  5. I did spy some cactus among all the gorgeous greenery! Ipomoea hybrid Sweet Caroline looks intriguing. The green and black do great here even in our record heat and full sun, as long as watered well. That is one tough plant!

  6. I’ll be interested to follow your journey with Comptonia. I can appreciate your enthusiasm. It’s a wonderful plant but I offer a few words of caution. It took years but it did indeed become a ground covering shrub in my garden and ultimately started coming up in the lawn and through other plants in the bed. I ultimately removed. it. I may try it again in another location now that I know what it’s capable of. Mary Palmer

    1. Wowsa! Thanks for the warning. The first piece I tried came from Evan, and I know it "expanded" a bit in their garden, it died in mine. The second one I tried was a fabulously tall standard, it branched at the top of a long stem. Then my husband dropped a paulownia branch on it and it went from graceful to awkward. Still I kept it, until it just got too dry and petered out. I'm now on my third, planted this spring. I almost lost it when we went away for a week in June and I didn't ask my garden watcher to water it. In the unlikely event that it becomes happy and starts traveling I will have to remove it as my garden is too small for a ground-cover shrub!

    2. My first two attempts failed in dry shade. Can’t remember why I thought that might b a good place to plant them. They lived for awhile but died of the ugliness/shovel.

  7. Poor Philodendron tortum, a species in its own right, victim of some idiot writing labels incorrectly. I do wish there was more integrity in this modern houseplant craze. I see so many names tossed about for the same plants, and it's just getting worse and worse. People will be so confused. Honestly, both shrub and groundcover are valid descriptions for Comptonia. As Mary said, it will spread when happy. And it's one of those many East Coast "drought" tolerant plants. It colonizes dry sandy soil in a summer rainfall climate, which of course means it needs regular water in our dry summers. In my old garden, it gradually declined in the wetter, heavier soils, and was happiest in looser, drier soils, but I watered those areas at least every other week.

    1. Good to know about the heavy wet soil. I may reconsider where I thought of replanting a comptonia. Mine was definitely happiest where I once had it.


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