Nursery Visit: Xera Plants

Garden bloggers are my friends. I love them, for they encourage plant purchases. It's even better when we can all connect, this time at one of our favorite nurseries, Xera Plants, which is now open for the season! Hooray for us! We descended upon the fine horticulturists Paul Bonine and Greg Shepherd, owners of Xera Plants, a week ago and we had a grand old time. For those of you in Portland, GO! They are open Thursday - Sunday. For those of you not in Portland, please enjoy this virtual shopping tour.

See, if you were in front of these flats of plants, you, too, would pick one up. On the right, Hebe 'Pink Elephant' - on the left, Acaena inermis 'Purpurea'.

OK, here are the bloggers! First up is Ricki (affectionately known as Rickii) from the blog Sprig toTwig. Ricki is my friend and colleague at Joy Creek Nursery. 

Left to right: Evan of The Practical Plant Geek, Loree of Danger Garden, Heather of Just a Girl with a Hammer, Greg, co-owner of Xera, and Amy of The World's Best Gardening Blog. 

Jane of Mulch Maid busting a move!

Patricia of Plant Lust and on the right with the glasses is Anna of Flutter and Hum. Anna is also my friend and colleague at Joy Creek Nursery.

Alan, Amy and Heather again.

In the shade area, many choice perennials are available. 

A wider shot of the nursery. If you're not familiar with Xera Plants, it is a wholesale nursery providing the nursery industry in our area with climate-adapted, super-cool plants. They opened this small retail location several years ago. Everything sold they grow. They know their stuff. That's Paul (co-owner) in the center talking to Vanessa. 

A few sun lovers. Even though this nursery is not huge, there are excellent and overwhelming choices for the Pacific Northwest. Paul and Greg have vetted many plants for our region, brought unknown, cool genera to the forefront of garden thinking in the area, and cultivate and grow their own selections of choice specimens. In other words, just about anything I buy from them will thrive in my garden setting (with the right soil and light and water, of course).

 A gorgeous Arctostaphylos x 'Austin Griffiths' in a container.

In the garden beds behind the shade section. 

Luzula sylvatica 'Marginata' 

From their website: This is the most common form of this tough and good looking woodland sedge. The wide curving leaves are finely lined in yellow on the margins. It give this useful plant extra dimension. To 18″ across and forming multiple rosettes. In spring 1′ spikes carrying showy tan flowers create a haze. Rich to average well drained soil with consistent summer moisture. Full sun (with regular summer water) to quite dense shade. Useful evergreen for winter containers. Excellent winter appearance. Long lived, easy to grow. Takes very dry shade when established.

 Brachyglottis greyi

From their website: Excellent grey leaved evergreen low shrub for hot and sunny sites. To 3′ x 4′. Foliage is grey on the top of the rounded leaves with a distinct white undersides. In summer clusters of brilliant yellow daisies are showy and provide excellent contrast. Best in poor to average well drained soils – accepts clay soils with little summer water. Very drought tolerant. Best in the mildest gardens. Dry hillsides, shrub borders, hot aspects. Little to light summer water. Good deer resistance. Cold hardy to about 10ºF or a little lower if soil is strictly un-amended and summer water is sparse- neglect leads to a hardier plant in the long run. New Zealand. Excellent performance at the oregon coast.

One I've used a lot, Festuca rubra 'Patrick's Point'

From their website: A west coast native grass that ranges from British Columbia to Southern California- usually near the beach. This form is exceptionally blue and so pretty as a year round evergreen presence. To 9″ tall and spreading at a measured rate by stolons slowly expanding the plant to several feet wide. Forms an incredibly dense cover and weeds will seldom compete with this climate adapted grass. In late summer and not profuse 8″ stems hold gray floral spikes. This is along lived, easy to grow grass that does not die out in the center or poop out after a few years. In fact it would make an admirable lawn substitute. This form is from Humboldt, County in CA and was named for the small town where Greg lived as a child- so we had to grow it. And damn it turned out to be a fine, evergreen, native grass. Full sun to light shade and little to no summer water once established. Not fussy about soil and not a rambunctious thug unless soil is overly enriched- instead give it oxygenated average soil.  Excellent among drought adapted shrubs and especially nice interplanted with Pacific Coast Iris. Fine dense foliage is bright blue in summer turning to more of a greenish hue during the cooler months. Excellent winter appearance. High deer resistance. Oregon native plant.

Although in a container and not for sale, this Callistemon caught my eye. They grow many fantastic varieties of the genus. 

Agave bracteosa 

From their website: Far and away the easiest Agave to cultivate in our climate and the handsome contorted sage green leaves are free of a deadly spike at the tip. Don’t be fooled, though. The leaves are lined in fine serrations that can cause a cut if you rub your person against them. To 3′ tall and as wide for very well-drained soils in full sun to very light shade. Amend the soil with pumice to sharpen drainage if needed. Ideally adapted to slopes. Good dimensions as a large focal point in a rock garden or clustered into clumps in the gravel bed. Accepts the highest reflected heat. Light summer water speeds growth.

A handsome container on the holding table with sedum, a Myrica californica and others.

Osmanthus 'Jim Porter' - what a great leaf shape! 

 Beautiful color on this climber which looks to be a Trachelospermum - perhaps 'Ogon'.

Container with Sedum palmeri spillng out.

More sun lovers.

Eucalyptus pauciflora ssp. niphophila

From their website: Snow gum is a wonderful cold hardy tree for the Pacific Northwest. Lance shaped gray foliage is pendant and handsome year round. This rapidly growing tree thrives in full sun and virtually any soil save for boggy conditions. In just a few years it develops amazing python mottled bark in tones of gray/tan/olive green. The bark sheds in mid-summer and can be a bit messy. Site accordingly. Grows 4′-5′ a year when young. Irrigation just increases this growth rate. Stake only when VERY young then let it form a sturdy trunk on its own. The vast majority of this Snow gum will form multiple trunks. Its possible to select one sturdy main trunk when young- pay close attention as they grow very fast. To 30′ tall and half as wide in 10 years.  Snow gums have a weird habit of growing horizontally before reaching upwards. This is natural. Handles ice and snow no problem. Cold hardy to brief dips to 0ºF. Mountains of Australia. White fluffy flowers in clusters in winter. Avoid all shade.

New to me, a Kunzea mulleri as pointed out by Patricia of Plant Lust. Cool plant!

From their website:  Yellow Mountain Kunzea is a rare alpine shrub from the very highest and coldest mountains and frosty valleys in the Australian Alps. A very fine textured low shrub with tiny gray leaves that most closely resemble an Erica. To 1′ x 3′ spreading in full sun and rich soil with regular summer irrigation. Bloom is a swarm of starry, stamen laden light yellow flowers. They can obscure the foliage in late spring. Not the easiest plant to establish and virtually unheard of in the United States. A little patience and some diligent water and you are good to go. Perfectly hardy to cold west of the Cascades. A beautiful member of the myrtle family that we are excited to have for sale. Moderate deer resistance.

See what I mean about finding and cultivating cool plants?

Eucalyptus perriniarna

From their website: Spinning wheel gum is one of the prettiest of the cold hardier Eucalyptus. Named for its striking blue/gray perfoliate round foliage as a juvenile. In time as the foliage morphs to adulthood each new leaf becomes longer and more pendulous. A small tree in our climate to 18′ tall with a widely spreading crown. Fast growing tree, especially in youth. It may be damaged in our coldest winters- losing branches or even freezing to the ground if temperatures drop below about 8ºF. Re-growth which will be juvenile is rapid in spring and it can recover its full height in just two or three seasons. Damage occurs about once every 7 years- and slightly more often in rural settings. Best in the warmest possible part of the garden- and not for cold gardens or subfreezing wind prone sites. Excellent, highly aromatic cut foliage. White flowers line the stems like small sea anemones in winter. In time it develops a strongly weeping habit.

 A Fatsia japonica, perhaps 'Murakamo Nishiki'  in a permanent bed by the shade area.

 Pinus sabiniana, a beautiful native pine tree.

From their website: Gray Pine or Foothill Pine native almost exclusively to the mountains of California- but there are several outlying native populations in Jackson, County Oregon so we can claim it as our own as well.  Known as the tree that casts no shade, its almost completely true as the long gray needles allow almost all light through. Large pine tree with gray foliage- usually forks about 1/2 way up into two main trunks, these are buttressed to support the huge cones which can weigh 5lbs or more.  Excellent performance in the Willamette Valley where many are seen around old farm houses and older neighborhoods. Perfectly hardy to cold in our climate and incredibly drought adapted. In fact it shuns all irrigation and is ideal for hot dry locations. Grows very fast in youth, settles down a little with age. Its ultimate height is around 35′-45′ in our climate. A smokey, silvery, shadeless skyline tree. Oregon native plant.

 Great natives selection, too.

 A variety of colorful shade lovers here!

Peeking into the check-out area and office.

Brilliant bathroom sign. I agree, Paul and Greg. 

A sign in the sky! We all adore Xera Plants - they offer such healthy, wonderful, and some unusual plants that have added so much to our collective gardening experience. Paul and Greg and the staff are incredibly knowledgeable and happen to be super cool people who are sharing their passion with the world. They are our friends. Thank you.

My haul this day (kind of slim for me, but it's early yet!): A Sedum sediforme, Heliantheum 'Hanfield Brilliant' (cool orange flowers!), Heuchera cylindricum, an Oregon native (and another great plant I had in the old garden), Erica terminalis or tree heather and finally for Facilities Manager a Eucalyptus p. ssp. niphophila. That one is because FM loves Australia and eucalyptus. I asked several friends which eucalyptus I should get and they all said "THIS ONE". So be it.

Thank you ALL bloggers and plants people for a glorious day out to talk among friends. As one of my blogging friends (who oddly, I don't have a photo of - Susan who helps with the Xera website and is an amazing website person - just saying) said, it was a life-affirming day. I agree, Susan.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for visiting, reading and commenting. We the gardeners need to stick together! Happy gardening one and all.


  1. Cool! I drive by there all the time; need to stop one of these days. Oh, the eucalyptus - I would love to have a eucalyptus in the yard. Probably don't have enough room, though....

    1. Oh, do go, they are so helpful and have wonderful plants for both shade and sun. You might have room for a eucalyptus - talk to them about the more petite species.

  2. Yay you bought that Erica terminalis, I really wanted it but dammit I'm out of room! This was such a good day, exactly what I needed after January.

    1. Yes, I did. Out of room...funny - I am too but people don't believe me! Such a great day, thanks for organizing and yes, it was definitely what we all needed after a crummy January. Better times ahead for us all.

  3. A good time had by all. Thx for recapturing so well. We should make Nursery Rumbles a regular thing. Cheers

    1. Thank you, Patricia! It was lovely to see you! Nursery Rumbles..I love it.

  4. I'm so jealous for your get-togethers, inpromptu or planned. I miss the kind of plant community you have--and I miss nurseries like Xera. There's nothing like it down here in the Sacramento Valley, not even in the Bay Area. You're so lucky!!!

    But at least posts like yours allow me to hang out with you vicariously.

    1. Ah, Gerhard, that's too bad you have nothing like it. Darn. Well, you were with us in spirit and you are one of us. Just a little longer of a drive to the nursery ;)

  5. Looks like it was a great day for plants and friends. You are so very lucky to have local nurseries propagating/carrying such cool plants. A great way too move into Spring.

    1. It was fantastic, we are SO very lucky. I mean I don't think we fully understand how lucky we are. Support your local nurseries, I say! And indeed, a great way to move into spring, I agree.

  6. I think what I most admire about your Oregon nurseries and garden centers, even more than the wide selection of cool plants, is that yours seem to have an ample number of knowledgeable staff on hand to provide input and answer questions. As the independent garden centers I used to frequent have steadily disappeared here, that resource has largely evaporated.

    1. We do have so many knowledgeable plant people, it's how I learned, for sure. I think I'd be in a world of hurt if I hadn't had such incredible guidance over the years.

      It's discouraging to hear your garden centers are disappearing, I wish more people would support the small guys.

  7. thanks so much for documenting this! Next best thing to being there with all of you. This is a phenomenal nursery tucked into a bustling neighborhood -- we stopped at that nearby food court after our visit -- that truly happens only in the PNW!

    1. Aw, wouldn't that be grand if you could come up and spend the day plant shopping together? I'm glad you got to experience it, food carts and all. It is so Portland.

      As it so happens, we all went around the corner not to a food cart, but to a mezcaleria - Mexican restaurant and feasted. Good stuff. Plants and food and friends. Cheers!

  8. What a fun day. I love the texture of the Erica and that eucalyptus a beauty for sure. I think it's the same species as one I see in a garden in Corvallis. Every time I drive past it, I swoon. :) So many cool plants and PEOPLE.

    1. Fun day for sure, you should join us sometime! Re: the erica - Swoon indeed! I can't wait to see it fill out! So many people have commented on what a cool plant it is.

  9. Anonymous2:35 PM PST

    Such a fun day and a real treat to relive it here. thanks for all you do!

    1. Aw, thank YOU gorgeous Rickii! :) So much fun hanging out with you on a day off together. You're a good navigator ;)

  10. That was such a wonderful day! I really needed to spend some time with "my" people. As always, it did my weary soul a lot of good. I bet that Erica will look smashing in your fabulous garden. Such a pettable plant! And I love the bathroom sign - spot on!

  11. Wonderful nurseries, early gardening and great garden blogging friends. I am green with envy! xoxogail


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