Working at Secret Garden Growers Nursery (and a few of my favorite plants)


My job at Secret Garden Growers began back in March of 2019. Since then, I’ve been there part-time year-round for 3+ years. My relationship with the plants began years before that though. I’ve long been purchasing beautiful and well-grown plants from Pat at local sales. I just killed them off and on. Hey, it’s what we do in order to learn and as we keep moving things around.

Some hibiscus “bones” last week. I love watching this view change throughout the year. It’s definitely a four-season garden.

Long before I worked out there in Canby, I looked up the nursery location on a map. I thought it was strange I’d never driven out there because I grew up in Milwaukie and I love to drive around Clackamas County. Back then I lived in my allergy bubble though here at home, and while I DID shop a lot, I tended to buy most of my plants at plant sales. So it took a few years to get me out there.

Boy was it worth it!

I think that was the summer before I started to work there. Evan went with me.

So many beauties just waiting to go home with you.

While my job title there is propagatrix, I pretty much do lots of production work too and keep track of plant health. This means lots of primping to keep things uniform, nice, and clean. We primp those plants so often we get to know them well. Most folks don’t realize it, but so much labor goes into beautifully grown plants in containers. It’s part of what makes the experience so fun, but it’s difficult and tedious work. Luckily I can listen to music and move my hips about or listen to audiobooks. There’s nothing quite like a beautiful flat of plants. Wow! Yummy stuff!

So the rest of this post will just have some pretty photos of some plants that I really like—at least this week. In the captions you’ll find descriptions from the catalog. Just click on the caption and it will take you to the catalog. This is not something I normally do but we have a new site. (Captions are all written by Pat and the photos are mine.)

I cannot promise that these items are even available currently, but I’m happy to show off some of the plants that we grow.

Saxifraga x arendsii ‘Rocco Red’. Not currently available online this is one we have a few of at the nursery.
Eccremocarpus scaber. Looks like we don’t have this color available right now, but we have others.

Hope you enjoyed “shopping” with me. I should have written more about each plant but as they’re added to my garden over time I’ll be better about doing so.

Hope you noticed the gesneriads too. You must have known I’d add them too.

Working at Secret Garden Growers


Last March I started working part-time at Secret Garden Growers in Canby, Oregon. In addition to my job at Cistus Nursery this has meant that I’ve been working roughly 3-4 days a week but oftentimes it wasn’t nearly that much. For me, a middle-aged woman living with some serious chronic health issues, this was not only a huge hurdle to overcome, but it has been rewarding too. I’d call it an incredible opportunity.

To cover the 12 months I’ve made a collage of monthly photos below. I’m missing tons of great plants, and for some reason I didn’t find a pic I liked of the third dog, and the eldest, Gaia. (I missed the chickens too but I don’t see them nearly as often as the ducks, dogs, and cats.)

Like Cistus Nursery,  it’s a bit of a drive from where I live, but in the opposite direction. Located in Clackamas County, it’s very near to where I grew up and I very much enjoy my drives there although like Sauvie Island, it’s not easy to find a quick lunch. I get tired of packing my food, but over the last year, I’ve worked out ways of making it all work.

At the nursery I mostly propagate. I divide things, pot things up, and sometimes I do cuttings or sow seeds. During the busy months, I’ve helped with retail and weeded plenty. Like all nursery work, it’s important for everyone to chip in when and where they can.

I enjoy propagation work and I keep a nice clean space. To me it’s the writer’s version of the possibility of a blank page, dreaming of what will grow out of it. “Making the plants” as I call it, is more about the process than any vision I have but as I work, I consider the roots, how the plants grow, what I might do with them, and how I have seen them used.

My Virgo mind likes to analyze as I work with the plants and I take mental notes.

It also likes to rock to the beat to keep things from getting too serious. That’s a nice thing about working in a greenhouse. It means alone time with tunes blaring. I use my work time to stretch, to move, to help my hip out. Over the last year, my hip has continued to slowly improve but it’s been slow progress. But it’s progress!!!

As I write this now I’m nursing another manual traction that was done on my hip by the physical therapist and I continue planning to be able to stand and contribute to my life—and the lives of others. I mean that because I know that the plants I help to make help everyone else to make their own lives and private and public spaces more beautiful and that makes me happy. I know gardening doesn’t always seem that important to everyone, but I know for a fact it’s therapeutic to many of us in many ways.

Secret Garden Growers does mail-order too so be sure to check out the current inventory. (We have a lot of gesneriads!) Pat Thompson—the nursery owner who is additionally a great source for information—will also be up in Seattle this month in the Cascade Nursery Trail booth at the NW Flower & Garden Festival. Be sure to stop in and say “Hello” to her!

(If you have any questions about any of the images below feel free to ask me below in a comment. )