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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.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Colvos Creek, Ave atque vale

After almost 40 years of finding and propagating a wide variety of rare and unusual plants, Mike Lee  decided to close the doors of Colvos Creek Nursery.  Mike was a pioneer of growing unusual and especially xeric plants in the pacific northwest and had a mail order catalog that was a plant nerd's delight.  If you see huge agaves or tree sized Embothriums in Seattle area gardens, it's likely that Mike's hands separated the pup, pressed the seed to soil or plunged the cutting into pearlite.  Fans of growing callistemon, manzaneta  and grevillea in this area owe Mike a debt of gratitude for promoting their use in our gardens for years!  For more about Colvos Creek, see Ian's excellent post here.

It has been said that like faded photographs in attic boxes, we are all eventually forgotten but the great horticultural contribution of Mike Lee and his nursery is worth remembering!
Thanks to Ian's post, referenced above, I was able to attend the final sale at Colvos Creek.  Prices were amazingly low and the list of plants still available was impressive!  Over the years, I've visited Colvos Creek Nursery in a variety of Vashon Island locations but it wasn't until recently that I learned that Mike lives in Seattle and commuted by ferry  to Vashon Island.  To learn more about the reasons for the closure, look here.
 
Colvos Creek's growing area has always existed on part of someone else's property.  The landowner of the most current location had lots of interesting objects on the grounds including this bicycle fence.

And these cool architectural fragments.

We had some other stops to make on the island so I didn't spend a tremendous amount of time in the shade plant area. 

There were treasures to be found here but I noticed a couple of cool eucalypti on the list and decided to seek them out.

 So off we were led up the road to the sunny area, a bit of a hike but more than worth the walk!
 
A large clearing at the top of the road functioned as the growing area for sun lovers.

So many plants, so little garden space. 



Believe it or not, I only bought four plants.  Ignore the bulging boxes of plants behind my camera bag, they must belong to someone else:)
 
What a treat to be able to see Mike's plants one last time, to take some home, and mostly to chat with Mike.  As he travels up another path, I wish him well, thank him for his contribution, and look forward to hearing what he'll do next!
 
 

24 comments:

  1. Always sad when you hear much loved and established nurseries close, from any of the multitude of reasons. It's great that you managed to visit before the doors fully close.

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    1. There is sadness but also sharing happiness with Mike that he will be free to pursue new adventures!

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  2. There are so few places that sell rare and unusual plants, it's always sad when any of them closes.

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  3. I had heard of Colvos Creek and always planned to stop in there when I was on Vashon, but never got around to it. What a treat that you got some of his plants at his final sale.

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    1. It was sweet to get some plants at the final sale. They will join a few other special ones in my garden from defunct nurseries.

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  4. Another of those treasures that I never got to visit. Thanks for the look at it's final days.

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    1. It was interesting to be in the growing areas, plant list in hand, and see all the treasures.

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  5. Bicycle fence? Interesting.
    What will become of this property? Is it for sale?

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    1. The property is owned by someone else who actually lives there as well; the growing areas were leased to Colvos Creek. The property will remain in the hands of the collector/homeowner.

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  6. I'm glad you were able to give some plants a good home. It's always sad to lose a good nursery (and that happens far too often).

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    1. Many of the great small nurseries are going away! This one had a good run and it's nice that they could leave on a high note.

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  7. This is a nice sendoff, and planting some memories will keep Colvos Creek alive, at least in your garden.

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    1. You're right, it will be fun to look at those plants and think of the nursery that was.

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  8. It sounds like the kind of nursery that is so sorely missing down here in Northern California. I'm glad you were able to go one final time.

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    1. It was a great place and it was fun to see the plants one last time. I wonder if some young plant crazed individuals will take the places of these small propagators?

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  9. It's sad when a nursery closes, but the plants will live on all over the PNW and be it's legacy.
    I wonder what will become of the architectural fragments. I find them very appealing.

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    1. The fragments belong to the landowner and resident on the property so they'll stay there along with his huge collection of interesting stuff!

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  10. Looks like you nabbed one of the eucalypts. I bet this has been a daydream for a lot of us, to own a rare plant nursery, but what an intense way to make a living...if you're clever enough, strong enough, intrepid enough to make a go of it, and it looks like this nursery was able to but wanted to move on and make a change. Bravo to them and you too for attending their closing sale.

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    1. Thirty some years of being clever, strong, and intrepid is probably enough for even the most robust soul. What a gift Mike has given!

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  11. What an interesting nursery, so sad it is closing. I love the pile of architectural fragments

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    1. I so wanted to bring those fragments home!

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  12. Well, just crapola to see a good indie nursery close-especially one I've never visited ! Perishable products take staffing and staffing takes revenue , unfortunately there s only so much audience for these niche operations , even in the PNW. Perhaps they will rise again !

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    1. Business was going well, I just think that the owner wanted to do something else. He'll probably still propagate really cool new plants (some people can't help themselves) but without the pressure of maintaining a huge inventory, it'll probably be even more fun!

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