Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jungle Fever Exotics - There's no place like home.

Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to have so many wonderful nurseries so close to us!

Jungle Fever Exotics, one of my favorites for years now, is only a 10 minute drive from my house. In the 1980's, long before the big tropicalismo craze, way before we had Home Depot and Lowes selling palms, before mainstream nurseries carried brugmansias and musa basjoo, when one had to buy hardy cacti, agaves, and gunnera from specialty catalogues, Jungle Fever owner, Jerry Cearley, was selling special plants, grown in and around his small home, at farmers markets.  After about five years of that, he and his partner Darlene, who makes wonderful artwork for inside or out, opened Jungle Fever.  This place played a major role in introducing cool exotics to our area and continues to carry great new, unusual  plants!  If you're in the area and wonder where to find eucalyptus, a wide variety of bamboo, palms, desert plants, hardy large leaved beauties, and even selected natives, Jungle Fever is the place to look.    Loree from Danger Garden has visited a few times and you can see her beautiful photographs of the place here .   I stopped by recently (o.k. I'm there a lot but this time I remembered my camera) and snapped a few shots of things I found interesting. 

Usually the first thing I notice about the place, having become accustomed to the oasis of palms and bamboos one sees from the street, is the fragrance.  There's almost always an intoxicating scent wafting over the place.  On this trip the perfume of Mt. Etna broom (genista aetnensis) mingled with that of the single creamy yellow climbing roses that ramble through the fence and there were some undertones of citrus and lily.  Tempting as it was to just sit in the parking area and enjoy that olifactory delight, the fever (a.k.a. plant lust)  pulled me through the magic gate. 

Rhodocoma capensis one of which came home with me earlier this year and has nearly filled it's new gallon pot home.

Loquat, citrus and guava hanging out with figs (hiding) and others in the fruiting plants area.
Looking sharp!
  Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor

Look at all those cute pups!  Manzanitas and yucca rostrata in the background.

Agaves and bowling balls, a classic combination originating at Sissinghurst, I believe.

What's that hiding in the background? Could it be?

Yes it is, a dinosaur lurking back there.  Lucky for us, this one's a plant eater.  They can be trained to eat only weeds.  What wonderful biological control!  But seriously, the head can reside in a water feature and is piped so that it can drool into your very own pre-historic swamp.  Add a fogger and you're practically paleozoic.  (Yes I know. Mesozoic, but I liked the alliteration.)

Do you need this?  (Louis)

Or these?

Or more of these?

How about this cute trachycarpus wagnerianus?

Grevellias in the mist

Opuntia basilaris sitting on a cool gunera leaf bench.  Dig the faces in the background!

Nice selection of water plants.

Including this lovely lotus

Phormium and phygelius, a great combination.

Brugmansia 'Miner's Claim' Love that multi-colored foliage!

Love the fragrance of these!

Who doesn't enjoy the clean, sweet scent of citrus blossoms?

 A shy abutilon flirts.

These folks seem to be enjoying their time at the nursery.

Walking through Jungle fever feels like visiting someone's garden except here, if you see something cool, it's not considered bad form to take it home with you.

Is this someone's non-gardening partner sitting patiently holding the wallet? 

Do you get the feeling you're being watched?  Could be this guy.

Might be this jungle cat that recently showed up.  Unlike some of the larger jungle cats one hears about, this one won't eat you.

Customers often say, "I've driven by this place for years and can't believe I haven't stopped before.  This is the coolest place in Tacoma!"

Even the floor inside the greenhouse has a great vibe.

This ceiba speciosa trunk looks spiky and dangerous!  Who might like plants like that?

Jerry has these all wired up and ready to hang in your trees.  He's had them make it through the winter outside in his garden.

 More of Darlene's artistry

Spanish moss for sale inside. 

 Jungle Fever always has a nice selection of carniverous plants. Step into my parlor said the Sarracenia to the fly!

Heading inside to pay, don't forget to check out the houseplant selection.

This cordyline was calling my name.

NOOO! Don't leave yet, make sure you check out Jerrys garden!

This is just a small tour of what is visible from the sidewalk.

 Love this!

This nursery truly is amazing, has a wonderfully funky vibe and always great, unusual plants and statuary!  Another benefit is that it's only a couple of minutes from the Point Defiance Park and Zoo and the Vashon Island Ferry...Hmmm.

One caution:  When you go to this place, you'll most likely catch Jungle Fever yourself.  Fortunately, this is easily cured with a carload or two of plants!  Two words:  GO NOW!


  1. Great photos...things are looking good, and you are so right about the fragrance!

    How did I miss that huge Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor'???? And why didn't I step inside last time I was there? Would have loved to buy some Spanish moss!

    1. Thanks. Camera does all the work.

      It's easy to miss things because there's soo much there! I'm at Jungle Fever every week or two during the summer and I often miss things. Just the other day, I found a plant that I thought was new and it turns out that it had been there for a couple of my visits.

  2. WHAT!!! that is sooo amazing! I simply MUST go. and you are soo right, I would get the butia, the big tree fern (and another one or two for good measure), the wagnerianus, opuntias ... ie pretty much everything! And if they were not watching, I might be digging out those epic pavers in the green house! I want an entire patio done in those! IMAGINE IT!!! mmmmmmm...... Oh and I'm with danger ... the Spanish moss is uber cool and would have to make its way home with me.... if only there were no border issues.

    1. This is a great place and I'm extremely lucky to live so close. Some people save; some invest. I go to Jungle Fever. I'll never be able to retire but I'll have a great collection of plants! Maybe I have a problem. Hello, My name is Peter and I'm a plantaholic...

    2. don't worry, you and me both!!

  3. Wait...there's a greenhouse? I've been there a couple of times, and bought some really cool plants there, but I haven't been inside the greenhouse. I haven't seen his garden either. I definitely need to go back.

    1. It's always time to shop for plants, right! The Antique Sandwich company is right across the street. Coffee? Lunch?

  4. Hi Peter,

    Googled Jungle Fever after reading Loree's post this morning. Of course, I found you right up there at the top of the results. Inspiring. I need to spend an evening just reading thru your past posts. Love your gardening sensibilities--or lack thereof...


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your thoughts.