Saturday, March 17, 2012

Edenic nursery: "Far OUT" Reaches Farm

No, Virginia...this is not an extraterrestrial space vehicle but Epimedium grandiflorum in an especially luminous, wine-red of the thousands of treasures grown and sold by Far Reaches Farm, arguably the finest mail order nursery in America today (OK, OK, are hard to beat! but they are gonna give you stiff competition!)...If you have not yet ordered from them, I'd hurry up: they've posted their catalogue on the web for the first time this winter, and it is awesome (and easy...too easy to use). Mind you, it only has a smattering of what they grow at their incredible Port Townsend treasure trove...

Here's one of the jillion Corydalis they offer, this one a hybrid between elata and a flexuosa type that promises to take over your woodland garden with frothy blue for much of spring: get a load of the size of their plants! No puny stuff here! There are umpteen greenhouses full of treasure, each named for some deceased plant collector ("Forrest", "Archibald", etc....I looked around nervously to make sure none were named for me)...

One of their many display gardens: this an extensive woodland garden under lath (no tree roots that way: cool idea). Of course, did I take any pictures the day I arrived and there was no rain? Repeat after me (in proper John Belushi cadence): Nooooooooooooooooowoooooooooooo! So the few pictures I took were in pouring rain (it does rain in Washington State we discovered, even in this area of relative rain shadow)...and a very poor depiction of what must be some of the most colorful perenninal borders and woodland gardens in America. Can't wait to get back summerish to see them!

Here is a special picture taken with my magic camera depicting the ectoplasmic connection between the proprietors of Far Reaches: Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken are both not only first rate plantsmen and gardeners, they are two of the most thoughtful and kind people you shall ever meet, and possess boundless energy, enthusiasm and (best of all) a sense of humor. You must imagine Kelly below the waist wearing a colorful kilt (or something equally outrageous) and you will be close to the mark. Sue shall be wearing the pants. They met on a plant collecting trip to China (can you imagine anything more romantic?) and the magic lingers...

I was there in snowdrop time...too early for much color (although the white of this double Galanthus in their lath garden ain't bad...). Everyone bemoans the loss of great nurseries: Washington State has seen its share of great nurseries that have closed. The Plant Farm in Kirkland (Bob Putnam), Wild Garden in Bothell, Grand Ridge in Issaquah, Mt. Tahoma in Graham and Heronswood in Kingston have all ceased operations as mail order nurseries (I know, I know, there is another Heronswood in Florida or something--and Rick Lupp is still open for sales by appointment). Far Reaches seems to have gathered some of the magic of all of these: no accident since Kelly grew up with all of them, and has gathered their collective manna in their new operation....

Port Townsend ought to be a tourist trap: charming town center, docks, marinas, sea-side charm. The town is full of giant, champion specimen trees and eclectic gardens. There may be a tchotchky store there, but I missed it: it's actually pretty authentic. We stayed at a very pleasant motel with clean appurtenances and great views for $56 a night (which pretty much says it all): Hightail it pronto to Port Townsend and put up there or at the slightly more upscale bed and breakfast at the marina for a few days: go hiking up on the Olympic peninsula and load up with living treasure at America's greatest nursery for perennials, woodlanders and wildflowers (not to mention exotic woody plants and alpines). You will thank me one day for this tip! Come to think of owe me BIG time!


  1. Wonderful post!! My local Quilcene-Brinnon Garden Club ( just had the pleasure of hosting Kelly and Sue for a phenomenal slideshow presentation of their most recent specimen-gathering trip to China! Boy did we enjoy that, the show was great and it's always wonderful to be near those two. They kindly packed a mini "trunk show" of selected plants for our eager club members to pounce on. We Quilcene and Brinnon "Floraholics" are so lucky to be near Far Reaches Farm. Cheers! Bonnie

  2. lOVE, not like this nursery. Funny,knowledgeable owners. The plant descriptions on the tags are a hoot. Have been there twice and plan many more trips!

    Dorathy from Poulsbo

  3. Thanks for posting, Bonnie and Dorothy! I am glad to know I have some fellow admirers of those two amazing gardeners...can't wait to get them out to Colorado.

  4. I've always wanted to visit them...someday! They are super-nice, too. They are regulars at our Spring and Fall plant sales here in Portland...and last year even brought me a few plants that I had inquired nice!


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