I was a Seed Seller once… And I will sell seeds again!!!

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Just about a year ago I closed the Etsy shop where I’d sold seeds for just over a decade. Nearly 1/4 of a million views on my products (mostly seeds), just over 3,500 orders, and so much work—almost all on my own. (I must confess though that many friends helped by growing seeds and passing them on to me to sell. Organizing this kind of thing is complicated to say the least, but I love being a seed grower.)

Felix going through my old seed shop cabinet. This is what’s left of what once was a very full space from whence I shipped so many packets of seeds.

The shop started when I could barely move, and I wanted to feel like I could do something with my life energy, and now, well, it’s difficult to believe all that I’ve learned and accomplished. Best of all, I’ve met so many wonderful people along the way. I’ve had a family of mentors and it just warms my heart in a special way during the coldest months of the year. Maybe because this is when so many of us rest, and talk to one another about seeds? We order seeds, and those of us who work with seeds, get to be the busy little garden trolls that we are using our magic to bring plants to life. I can’t imagine living any other way.

At the end of November I was struggling a bit. I was going from job to home, to other job to home, writing up talks, planning events, and I felt like I was slacking on the leadership of our local Gesneriad Society chapter. So there I was in my car after work one night. It was dark and cold. I was freezing, and part of me felt dark. I’m the happiest cynic you’ll ever meet and I’m always filled to the brim with my own unique blend of hope and love which I carefully guard. I recall feeling very unlike myself. It was a combination of being unsettled and simultaneously uncomfortable about it.

I just felt like I’d been spinning my wheels and I wasn’t sure what the point of it all really was anymore.

So I turned the Jeep on, cranked up the heat, blasted some music, and looked to my iPhone for some kind of contact with the outside world. I hoped that my overpriced device would be my oracle when I needed one so badly…

That’s when I found this message in my mailbox…

And just like that, I awkwardly sucked in a long deep breath and then exhaled and nearly choked a bit as I giggled. I’m forever the serendipitist. Leave it to my superstitious nature and belief in chance encounters. I needed that message so badly at just that moment.

I drove home smiling and life has continued on. I decided that when it was time, I’d get back to my Spiffy Seeds site that I’d started working on during the summer when it was hot and smoky outside.

Yes, “Never give up on seeds.”

A classroom door at the OSU Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture in Corvallis, Oregon. I think the message here “spoke” to me a bit lol.

Shortly after that grounding moment, I was at Oregon State University giving a presentation about houseplants. It was an emotional day for me. Though it’s not far from Portland, I don’t go there often. It’s where I would have studied botany and/or horticulture if I’d stayed on the track I’d wanted to be on. My life changed, I switched from a BS to a BA.

A graduate degree in horticulture is not in the cards now, but it is tempting and I am considering a “creative” option. I just don’t know if that’s a good choice since I’m feeling old and tired—but I may just get inspired for such a task.

Let’s just say that the seed has been planted, and now we wait to see if it’s a dud or not.

My childhood horticulture mentor back in maybe 1990 not too long before he passed away. A graduate of OSU, Linus Pauling was both his classmate and sometimes his instructor. We spoke frequently about seeds and plant science. He really helped my interest in the natural world grow.

Either way, I made it to OSU to speak to the Hort Club. It was fun to see several friends during my overnight trip, and to make a few new ones. Again, plant people are so much fun.

My childhood mentor would have been proud and it was quite a milestone for me. I look forward to visiting OSU again in the future while continuing to build connections there.

A little slice of seedling life. I can’t recall just how many flats of primrose seedlings I’ve potted up over the last nearly 4 years out in Canby, but it’s a lot! I get so excited when I see them for sale in the retail area, or being prepared to be mailed out to mail-order customers.

So this is the soft launch of a site with very little for sale right now other than gift certificates. I will continue to build up Spiffy Seeds and I look forward to growing with friends again in the year ahead. This means sometimes I will come to you to collect things, other times, you may send me sealed bags of things, or else you’ll be writing to me about seeds you may have and are wondering if I can sell them. There are a lot of things that I won’t be interested in at all. With so many large growers and wholesale providers, I have to be careful about what I think folks might buy because it’s already out there and I want to be keeping things in cultivation for my own reasons. I don’t want to sell the usual seeds.

Also, funds from this effort, as well as the newly installed Tip Jar can be used from my trips. I don’t work for large nurseries that pay to send me places. I both lose work AND pay out of pocket when I don’t go to work so I think it will be fun to focus all funds towards my “continuing education” trips. Based on my experiences, this, combined with my consulting work, and saving up from my nursery jobs should turn out to be quite helpful.

Then again, I may be a deluded dreamer, but I think you could call me worse.

I had wanted to make my life easier next year, to rest more, to take care of myself, but the heart knows what it wants.

Monthly Top 10 Plants at Campiello Maurizio (August 2022)

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Ok, let’s do a plant post! I’m writing posts more often, so I should have started monthly posts like this back in January, but I didn’t, so I will now. It’s not like I don’t have enough plants, I think many just have not looked nice enough but I’m over that. The garden has looked pretty nice all summer other than my piles of unplanted things.

But that’s a whole other post…

Acanthus mollis ‘Hollard’s Gold’. This baby is parked on a little island in my back garden. I purchased it at Xera Plants at least a year or two ago.

1.) Acanthus mollis ‘Hollard’s Gold’

I kind of avoided Acanthus for fear of it eating the back garden, but then I was talked into this golden from since it’s allegedly not as vigorous. Well, so far, it’s been very well behaved and that flower stalk has lasted for months. It just won’t stop and it makes for a lovely display. I’m even ok with it spreading a bit more. There is only a small walkway behind it and I am tired of the weedy low Dicentra cultivar that’s been there. I blooms, looks great, and then it’s ratty and fried for the rest of the summer.

Aspidistra elatior ‘Asahi’. I planted this plant last year and it’s not yet fully established in the north walkway border.

2.) Aspidistra elatior ‘Asahi’

When I first started working at Secret Garden Growers I divided some of these plants. What settled into the pots was quickly sold, and there were no more left for me to purchase. When I divided some more, that second time I made sure to grab one for myself. While this doesn’t look like much, blame the gardener in this case, and not the plant. I kind of let this one get gobbled up by some weeds all of last summer so it’s only now really coming into its own. I was thrilled to see this white tip emerge just recently. (And yes, I will apply some Sluggo soon.

Columnea schiedeana. This is one of my gesneriads that’s really been putting on a show this summer. It hangs above my hammock in the living willow arbor.

3.) Columnea schiedeana

Gesneriads can take years to grow out from small starts. As they grow, you need to take addition cuttings to add to their containers just to bulk them up a bit. Little by little this work will pay off for you, but it requires a great deal of patience and skill. At any point, it’s not unusual for one of these to croak on you. In this climate, keeping them happy enough for this long takes some finesse so seeing this plant in full bloom right now makes all of the fussing worth it. I think this one came from a member of our Gesneriad Society chapter, Mt Hood Gesneriad Society.

Darlingtonia californica with other hardy carnivorous plants. These plants are in a plant bog planter on the south side of my house.

4.) Darlingtonia californica

While this little patch of Darlingtonia doesn’t look like a lot, they are the newest babies that have grown off of my older little colony. I started with one purchased colony from Sarracenia Northwest and then as second group came along when I was able to grow some from seed. Of all of the hardy carnivorous plants, these are my favorite.

It breaks my heart though to have seen poaching of them in Southern Oregon in the wild this last year. It’s one of my favorite native plants and I hope that you can see why. Please, if you want one, purchase them only from growers who are growing crops in cultivation. It’s my hope that eventually, I’ll be able to sell a few, but with this being of low priority, don’t expect those to be available from me anytime soon.

Lobelia tupa-orange. This is one that I was waiting for after having seen in in the garden at Heronswood. It can be purchased from Dan Hinkley’s Windcliff if you’re able to get to that location. They don’t do mail order.

5.) Lobelia tupa – orange

Well, this should look more orange I think. I haven’t had the time to compare it to the photos I have from Heronswood, but I will be patient with it. While it is not as red as the straight species, I don’t think that this division (what I can only assume it is) is as orange as the ones I saw when I fell in love with it there. This plant needs room and sunshine. I’ve sort of allotted it a nice spot in the garden. Even if the color is mediocre, I am sure that I will forgive the meh factor. This is a great species plant no matter what and I might just accept it. I have waited so long to have it here, it is a relief to see it in bloom.

Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Cistus Silvers’. Still in a container, this plant will get it’s own special location soon.

6.) Mahonia eurybrachteata ‘Cistus Silvers’

Well, here we finally have a lovely plant from Cistus Nursery that was grown by me. Seeds are sown at work by me (after I clean the berries) and only the best seedlings are selected out from the nursery crops. Our parent plants are planted in the garden. Sean is of course in charge of making all of the best selections but it’s a process I’ve most certainly learned from over the years.

This last year I’ve been better about planting my “babies” out in my own garden, and this was a plant I just knew I had to have at home.

Nicotiana sylvestris. I call this Nicotiana sylvestris ‘Badunkadunk’ but that is not its technical name. It is basically a reseeding annual.

7.) Nicotiana sylvestris

Not sure where the original seeds came from for this plant, but it’s been in my garden for years now. I just let it pour out seeds each year and it is enough for me to pick a few to keep once they germinate in the spring. Nicotiana always makes me think of Grandma Virginia. I keep talking about her own reseeding patch of the jasmine tobacco (Nicotiana alata), but I’ve not yet been able to establish a patch of it. But this, well, it has its spot on the south side of the house.

It’s part of the white theme I have to give off a bit of the whitecaps allusion. It’s the only theme I sort of keep in the garden. This area is part of the Venetian area so of course I need to have a theme to tie all of the garden areas together here. (The back garden is about my childhood and being in my raft beneath the native willows over the creek.)

Phygelius ‘Snow Queen’.

8.) Phygelius Croftway™ Snow Queen PP18366 or Phygelius ‘Crosnoque’

Whatever the name (see above), this Phygelius is a beauty. It’s also planted in the south side garden along with the Nicotiana sylvesteris. It’s my whitecap plant that blooms almost all summer long, and the gondola (hammock) is behind it.

This plant is very low maintenance. I need to water it and chop it back to keep it fresh, but that’s how some perennials need to be treated and that’s it. Freshening up with a nice chop is also how we make so many plants in containers look good. Not all plants need a nice chop at all, but it is a thing and I tent to enjoy it more now than ever.

It’s just that cherry on top of it all I guess when the plants grow back nicely filled in with fresh foliage.

Pittosporum divaricatum. This shrub is in my front garden, the most xeric portion of the property.

9.) Pittosporum divaricatum

Many years ago I had my first Open Garden with The Hardy Plant Society of Oregon. I had not been working at Cistus Nursery for very long, and I had not been strong for long after two rather invasive surgeries, so friends stepped in to help me. Sean and my former coworker John from Cistus suggested this Pittosporum divaricatum and I’m really glad that they did. It’s a beauty.

With so many great foliage plants at Cistus, I’m sad sometimes that I’ve not planted more of the unusual ones that we have to offer. I keep trying to add more of them, but if only I’d planted them all back when I started all of this I’d be so much happier now with how things look.

If you’re just starting out and want a great garden, and not just a good one, make sure to add some absolutely stunning foliage plants. These will be the bones of your garden throughout the year and you can use clippings from them in arrangements too. I love that I can make wreaths from mine.

The fun (and the hard work) never ends!

Punica granatum ‘Nana’. This older large shrub of mine greats folks near the sidewalk. I look forward to its cheerful color each summer.

10.) Punica granatum ‘Nana’

Back in the first days here at this house I ordered seeds for this small shrub. I know now that they are not supposed to be great from seed, and that most are propagated from cuttings, but this one worked out from seed for me. It was great for many years, and then I kind of neglected the front garden, then it was great again, then I neglected it again, but now it is back and it looks great this year. It’s a low water plant but it does better with some regular irrigation. Sadly, this is not the climate for growing pomegranate fruit, so I am not disappointed that I cannot eat lots of its fruit, but this is the climate for growing beautiful ornamental pomegranates so I suggest that you try one if you like them as much as I do. If I had more space, I would plant a larger one. There are several great ornamental cultivars.