“Part 2: State Of The Industry Series. We asked about growing produce, using biocontrols and mergers and aquisitions. Here’s what you had to say.”

If you have read my previous newsletter’s you are well aware that I participate in WSNLA. Well at the WSNLA convention last weekend, I was asked to present a 5 minute forecast on what the future holds for our industry. What a can of worms!

Carrots on soil

The article above reflects very well what I attempted to get across to my audience:

Food food food! If my wife wants a food garden then it is an official trend. My lovely wife gets all her news from US Weekly magazine and TMZ so if she wants to grow food then we can know that it’s a huge trend that has hit the mass market.

Bio controls: I’m sold. Last year was the first year that I introduced biological controls in my greenhouse. I learned a few lessons along the way and have more to learn but briefly, ladybugs work… extremely well. Predatory mites are efficient when applied at proper rates. More is better when it comes to using these little carnivores.

Mergers and acquisitions:  I spent 5 hours in meetings hashing out whether or not to merge 2 strong industry organizations. WALP and WSNLA once were one organization that split due to social differences. It now appears that reviewing mission statements and goals of each organization that we share similar goals and are working to be friends again. I think this is a step in the right direction that we should unite in challenging times and work together instead of against each other. Stay tuned for more details on that one!


Credit Card Reader

The Square:

This little box makes little guys like me perform like giants. For 2.75% fee per swipe this connects to your smart phone and allows you to accept credit cards anywhere you go. The fee may seem high but it is cheaper then some alternatives. I had another swiper before that was only a 1.45% swipe fee but I also had a monthly fee whether or not I used the darn thing.

I can also tell you that when I have been at public plant sales people tend to spend mores when they can use a card. A Five dollar sale can quickly turn into a 20 if you can accept plastic. The cube is free, you should have one.

Click here to learn more:


Alpine Snowbells is a lovely plant with an amazing flower! The delicate bell-shaped bloom pops out in very early spring, before any other plant I have in production. That is the sign that it’s time to get to work! This year’s crop will be read to ship in February and will be for sale at a few select vendors at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle, WA on February 8th-12th. Look for my snowbells there! Here are all the stats on the pretty little snowbells:


Scientific NameSoldanella alpine

Common Name– Alpine Snowbells

Description– Small mounding plant from European Alps

Foliage– Rounded leaves like miniature lily pads on short stems

Flowers– Usually, two flowers bloom on single-stalked stem. Flowers are trumpet-like with fringed petals, arriving in early spring.

Exposure– Part shade

Soil– Moist humus

Foot Traffic– Not recommended

Growth Rate– Slow

Height– 2”-3”

Spread– Mounds continuously enlarge at slow rate. It may self-sow.

Uses/Attributes– Interesting specimen for shady rockeries or beneath evergreen shrubs.

Cold Hardiness– Zone 5



Because we all live in the land of ferns, new and more interesting ferns are sought after and coveted by many gardeners and landscaper professionals. The common native ferns are well-known and already well-used. It seems that everyone has a Sword Fern in their landscape, whether it’s intentional or not. The main reason that Sword Ferns are so popular is because they are evergreen. Evergreen ferns are great for our northwest gardens, especially in the darker and wetter months when everything else is looking a little beat on and brown.


Enter the Alaska Fern (Polystichum setiferum ‘Divisilobum’). This attractive evergreen fern grows quite large, with fronds up to 4 feet long. It’s not crazy big, like a Sword Fern, but it grows to a very manageable size. The Alaska Fern also claims to be deer resistant, but I don’t think that any one plant can really claim this. Stupid deer eat everything.

My favorite characteristic about Alaska Fern is that it produces its own fern “babies”! Down the center of each frond, small little nodes will turn into “baby” ferns which can then be “divided” into more ferns. If you are reading a plant blog like this then you probably know that ferns normally regrow through spores on the underside of the frond. The Alaska Fern is one of few ferns that can actually be propagated by division, hence the name ‘Divisilobum’. Pretty incredible!


Buyer’s warning: beware of ferns that are labeled “Alaska Fern”; some are actually Soft Shield Ferns. The best way to differentiate between them is to look for the nodes down the center of the frond. If they are absent, it is most likely a variety of Soft Shield fern that is not the true dividable Alaska Fern. To ensure you are buying the incredible dividing fern, look for the Sunbreak name on the tag in the plant at your local Seattle Garden Center. Try one of these beauties today!


Bolax is the ultimate low-maintenance, hearty ground cover. This plant is really remarkable in its simple beauty and indestructibility! Back in my youth, I often played football on astro-turf, everyone’s favorite fake grass. Bolax is a live plant that feels and looks like astro-turf. This plant is just as bullet proof as its plastic cousin, too! Bolax can take the severe punishment of high foot traffic but keeps it deep green color well and produces tons of small yellow flowers in the summer.

Bolax requires good drainage, fitting for in between pavers or rock gardens. Keep this plant in the full sun and it will stay dense and compact. This is not a fast grower so when planting, keep them inside 18” on center. I have never had a problem with hardiness with this plant- it is well-suited to our climate. I have left 4” pots of it outside, ignored and abused by all forms of weather and it still survives. Are you looking for a super low maintenance ground cover for the full exposed area of your garden? Bolax is your answer!

Find out more about Bolax and other ground covers by visiting my online catalog!

Out of all the ground cover that I grow (which is close to one hundred different varieties), this one is my favorites. I love this plant because of its efficiency and durability as a ground cover.

Fragaria chiloensis (Sand Strawberry) is a Pacific Northwest native ground cover that will tolerate almost any conditions. I find that it thrives on slopes facing the ocean and requires very little attention once established. The leaves are a glossy deep green that will bloom with white flowers in the summer months. Unlike traditional strawberries, this one bears no fruit. This helps is keeping away unwanted wildlife that would normally nibble at it.

Sand strawberry spreads with above-ground runners that root into the ground. I would recommend not planting them any closer than 12” on center, which is still very close. This is not a plant to be contained. The runners will go everywhere. They can be easily controlled with a line trimmer or pulled up by hand with ease due to its shallow root system.

This plant can be walked, stomped and occasionally driven on. It is not for in between pavers but areas in the yard that are rarely accessed. I planted mine along my driveway where soil conditions were poor and they have grown fantastically.

I work with plants all day and while I have an affinity for them, tending them at home how I want to spend my free time. Sand strawberry has been the answer to a low-maintenance garden!

We put two new ferns into production this year in an attempt to expand the evergreen varieties we carry. This year we chose Dryopteris tokyoensis (Tokyo Wood Fern) and Dryopteris dilata ‘Jimmy Dyce’ (Jimmy Dyce Wood Fern). Trying to descibe them on paper is tough. They are both a green fern, but once up close and in person, these two are pretty unique from each other and from other evergreen ferns.

Tokyo Wood Fern

Tokyo Wood Fern


Dryopteris tokyoensis (Tokyo Wood Fern) grows very upright with narrow fronds that are rounded. It grows quickly but only to a mature height of 36”. Tokyo Wood fern, if you can imagine, comes from Japan. It’s a shade lover, like most ferns, that needs well drained soil but not dry. It is also hardy to zone 4, very suitable for the Pacific Northwest. However I would be careful about to much moisture in the winter months causing root rot.









Jimmy Dyce Wood Fern

Jimmy Dyce Wood Fern

Dryopteris dilata ‘Jimmy Dyce’ (Jimmy Dyce Wood Fern) also has another name Dryopteris austriaca. This is a short stocky fern (like a gnome) that stays at at a height between 12 and 24”. Much like the habitat of a gnome, this wood fern likes to live in acidic woodland soil. It easily adapts to new surroundings has a wrinkled texture. This also is hardy to zone 4.










Thanks to Casa Flora for the photos!

Contact me today to order these beautiful, hardy ferns!

The nice thing about ground cover is that there are multiple applications for it in a garden: edging and borders, between stepping stones, or erosion control. After the location has been decided, the next questions are what type of groundcover to use and how many. Today we are going to address the “how many” question.

How many groundcovers to plant is determined by the patience of the owner of the garden. If the desire is an instant landscape (not recommended) then the answer is a lot. If you can appreciate watching plants grow and mature over time, you can use  fewer plants and save a couple nickels.

As a general rule of thumb in large plantings I would not plant any ground cover closer than 12” on center. Twelve inches on center is one plant per square foot. This can get very expensive very quick. Most all ground cover planted at twelve inches will fill in very easily in 1-2 growing seasons. Larger plant sizes like a 1 gallon sized plant can be planted at 24-36 inches.

For small areas like in between stepping stones I recommend low mat-forming ground cover. The mat-forming ground cover can be divided into smaller plants to fit awkward spaces and shapes. Spacing is not crucial for this application, just be sure to get plants in to all of the spaces between stones.

Ground cover also works well as weed control, once established. After the initial planting is done, the bare spaces between the plants are susceptible to weeds and weed seeds. Diligent maintenance is important for a weed-free planting. If that sounds like too much work, try a product called Preen. Preen is a pre-emergent weed control, preventing weed seeds from germinating and will not harm the plants you want in your garden.

Lastly, not all ground covers are created equally. Some are much faster growers than others. Avoid the fast growers in borders and edges. Keep in mind that ground cover does exactly that. I suggest starting with a small planting and make sure that you understand what the plant will do before going whole hog and being unhappy with the outcome.

When thinking of the Pacific Northwest, rain is usually the first thing people think of. But, the image that pops into my brain is moss hanging off of trees in a dense jungle of moisture and green. I also immediately think of a book I read as a child, Where the Red Fern Grows. I didn’t know what a fern was when I read the book but stomping through our many hiking trails I think the Northwest is where they were that fern would grow.


Now I have never seen a “Red Fern” in Washington but I have seen some other very cool varieties. One in particular that I see frequently is Blechnum spicant (Deer Fern). It is smaller than a sword fern but still evergreen. The fronds on them are more rounded than a sword fern. It will grow to about 24 inches in the shade, well-watered, or a bit smaller when grown in light sun. I love seeing a giant sword fern… in the wild, but for a garden where space is limited and native plants are your preference, Deer Fern is a perfect fit.


Dad and daughter (Charlee) show off unique Northwest Ferns grown by Sunbreak Nursery

Dad and daughter (Charlee) show off unique Northwest Ferns grown by Sunbreak Nursery


Adiantum pedatum (Maidenhair Fern) is another Northwest Native that grows along coastal regions, especially. It is very delicate as it grows on thin black stems to about 12” before the canopy opens up. Moist soil is preferred, as long as it drains well. It is deciduous so you won’t see any foliage in the winter but once the temperature rises in spring, the new fiddle heads will start to push out in a soft pink color. Protect Maidenhair from high winds, due to its delicate stems.


Polypodium polypody (Leathery Leaf Fern): I did not know this was a native fern until about six months into working this fern into production. This fern has a waxy texture and grows on bluffs along the coastlines and oceanside forests. It took almost a year to get it to a full size in a quart sized container. But once mature, it was worth the wait. There are other polypodium varieties but this one grows much more compact and keeps it color much better.


Ferns are cool. We are fortunate enough to live in a place where they grow prolifically all around us. Take advantage of the uniqueness that our region offers us! Ferns (especially the native varieties) easily acclimate to most gardens and survive our harsh winters. They have been doing it much longer than we have. Remember that ferns that are hardy here prefer the shade. Some will grow in sunnier conditions but, like a true Northwesterner, filtered light would be best.







My favorite question that I get from people when shopping for ground cover is “But is it invasive?” My response no matter what type of ground cover is “Why yes in fact it is.” Invasive is the definition of ground cover, it’s in the name; to cover the ground. While most ground covers are not actually invasive there are a couple to watch out for. These brutish ground covers, if planted in the wrong place, can and will take over and become difficult to eradicate.

One such plant like this is Oxalis oregana (Redwood Sorrel). This is a Pacific Northwest native with clover shaped leaves and either white or pink flowers. It grows with underground rhizomes and easily spreads with no discrimination. It is a gorgeous woodland ground cover and should be planted in such an area. Grandma’s cute flower bed that is perfectly designed is NOT the place.

Redwood Sorrel

Redwood Sorrel is for people who have large forested areas that want to dress it up a bit. The best thing about this plant is that you can stick it in the ground, water it in and walk away. In no time you will have a lush carpet of clover shaped leaves and beautiful flowers spring through summer. Plus, for the crunchier population, it is a true native plant and does actually belong here.

So is Redwood Sorrel a beauty or beast? I say both. Location is the key to success with any plant. If this is in the proper location, a woody area where it can spread out, it is a beauty. If you think the cute plant in a 4” pot should be in your uniform flower bed, it will quickly become a beast.