Retail Garden Center Conversations: Felco Pruners


18-year-old Felco pruners wrapped with bike tape. These belonged to an young man I met recently at a retail garden center  in Portland and they’d been given to him by his former boss at his last job. Warmed my heart a bit…

Some people who know me might actually say I’m a friendly person. I think that like many who prefer to spend their time alone though, I have a selective kind of friendliness. Honestly, I think I’m friendly by accident.

Sometimes at retail garden centers I talk to the cashiers, while other times I try to get out as quickly as possible because I’m feeling anti-social and just want to go home. So often my feet are killing me because I’ve been slowly looking at every single plant and my brain is mush as I try to remember what I’ve seen. If there is a line behind me, well I don’t want to hold them up either. I just want to get in and out just like the next gardener.

Alright, so I get stuck in my head a lot. I like wandering around in there.

What’s bad though is when I’m there in my head, standing at a checkout counter, and then I absentmindedly open my mouth and randomly say something out loud and the cashier hears me. These utterances have nothing to do with communication. Typically I’m just trying to remember something so I repeat it out loud.

A few weeks ago I was buying last minute plants for my birthday party and was standing at the cashier when I turned to look at a wall display and for some reason I said “Felco” out loud since there were so many of them all displayed in one place. I then slowly turned back to look at the young man helping me and I blushed because suddenly I felt self-conscious about having exposed my own personal preference through my own unique form of retail garden center Tourette’s.

Without looking up he said, “I swear by my Felco pruners too. We all have our favorites.”

How he knew I loved mine, I don’t know, but he’d actually understood me.

Then he paused a moment, looked up, and noted no one was waiting behind me. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the Felco pruners seen in the photo above. He smiled awkwardly and said I seemed friendly and he asked if I wanted to hear about his pruners.

I told him I was a garden blogger we both had a great laugh. I continued with, “Of course! Tell me their story but you know I’m going to write about this!” He readily agreed saying that he thought it would be great for me to write about an old worn in pair of pruners.

Who writes about that kind of thing, especially when the tool belongs to a complete stranger?

The Felco pruners had been a gift from his former employer, a great mentor to him, an Oregon nurseryman, and they’re 18-years-old. He’d added the bike tape to them since the grip had worn out on one side and we both agreed that the tape added character. Besides, in a place like Portlandia it just seemed that much more fitting with all the cyclists here. When I asked if he cleaned them a lot he told me they look so polished since they live in his pocket and the fabric is always polishing the metal.

We both continued laughing and enjoyed that uncomfortable feeling of just having bonded with a complete stranger during a random moment which took place during a mundane daily task. We were finally interrupted when an elderly woman came in and asked where she could find a fruit picker. We both looked at her, he told her where they were, and then I grabbed my tray of plants and promised him I’d write a little piece about his Felco pruners as I headed toward the door.

As I drove home I thought a lot about why I’d been touched so deeply by such a silly thing.

I was in awe of the love he felt for his Felco pruners. I silently vowed to clean up my own pair and to treat them better in the future. Pockets of rust had appeared on them last winter when during the nascent period of my divorce I’d neglected them and had forgotten to put them away so they were exposed to the elements a bit. I actually had felt guilty about this but I forgave myself for my absent-mindedness.

So, which tool can’t you live without?

The Country Store and Gardens and Beall Greenhouses on Vashon Island, Washingtion

Due to my island lallygagging on Thursday we were only able to make it to two plant places on Vashon Island before we had to go sit in line to await our ferry to West Seattle. This was fine with me though because I was happily on island time.
Before leaving for Vashon, a gardening friend of mine in Portland let me know she wanted a plant from Colvos Creek Nursery and that I could find it at The Country Store and Gardens so that was a priority for us to pick up for her. (FYI: It was a Garrya elliptica and it is perfect.)
I was surprised that I’d never been to The Country Store and Gardens before, but back when I used to visit frequently, I was only a teen and not yet a gardener. For years I wanted to be a writer and back then I was studying and reading much more than I do now.

The Colvos Creek Nursery sales area is located right next to the parking area. It is stocked regularly and if you call ahead, they can make sure to have what you are looking for from their catalog available to purchase at this retail site. It is the only place on the island where you can purchase their plants. (If you have not seen their catalog, I highly suggest you click the link at the end of this post. It is like the Christmas toy catalog for plant nerds.)

Additionally, The Country Store and Gardens has its own rambling nursery and plant area, but it is not for those who like everything to be glossy, pretty and organized. For some, like myself, it might bring back memories of their childhood and some may want to linger all afternoon. It is a nursery, but it reminds me more of what I like to call now: Plant Labor-itories. There are tons of rectangular beds with some plants planted, while others are in pots. You could dig through them for ages and ages and you’d feel like some kind of plant explorer discovering something very special and new.
My mentor Mr Palm had a huge garden that looked a lot like this and it made me so happy to see one again.
Someone planted a lot of very special plants that were seriously enjoyable to find here and there.
Ulmus x hollandica ‘Jacqueline Hillier’.
Tree Mallow, Lavatera maritima.
Tree Mallow, Lavatera maritima. 
Not sure which plant this one is but it was so pretty planted beside some grape vines.  
Double pink Anemone.
Double pink Anemone.

Inside The Country Store, if felt like stepping back a bit in time, but not completely. In a way, it felt appropriate to the location since Vashon really was rural not too long ago.

Seed racks in the store.  
Gardening tools on display.
In my last post I promised you overgrown and abandoned greenhouses, and I wasn’t kidding. These have looked like this ever since I started enjoying the island, but I wasn’t truly struck by them until I learned more about the history of the Beall Greenhouses.

At the end of this post you will find a link to a page I found online so I won’t tell you everything, but this facility once housed not only one of the largest rose producers in the country, but it also supplied folks all over the world with orchids.

This is what the 25 acre growing facility looks like today.

It is difficult to imagine this is where rare orchids from England were shipped to for safekeeping during World War II, but they did live here for a spell.

We had to dash off to catch the ferry, so DIG Floral & Garden had to wait until the next day, but I was happy because I knew that if we had to drop off some sample wines before my husband’s pouring that evening in Capitol Hill, I would be rewarded in Seattle with some more plant shopping. While waiting for the ferry, I saw this sign, and although it made me sad, I loved the typography with the many different languages of our diverse West Coast. It amazes me sometimes and it makes me sad that I no longer teach ESL to immigrants and refugees.

While my husband went off to grab some food, I watched as this African father and his daughter learned about kayaks from a man who’d driven his down to the dock behind a riding lawnmower. The kayaker noticed their curiosity immediately and I stood nearby them as he showed them how the whole operation worked. I learned that the pair had just come over to the island for the day and were planning on taking the bus around before returning to Seattle. For five minutes the kayaker gave them the complete tour and answered all of their questions. He then invited them down to the water to show them how to get into a kayak and we all watched him as he paddled away.

Just then someone’s car radio blasted old 1990s Nirvana music and the moment broke apart a bit in my mind. My husband ran back to our car with some Mexican takeout and we drove onto the ferry.

The Country Store and Gardens Vashon Island, WA
Colvos Creek Nursery and Landscape Design Vashon Island, WA
Beall Greenhouses Vashon Island, WA