Fall Native Plant Sale and Celebration at New Location

2013FallSale pumpkinsThis year’s Fall Native Plant Sale and Celebration will be held October 5 at 7744 35th Ave. NE Seattle, WA.  This is the location of Hunter Farms Christmas Tree lot between 77th and 80th Streets.  They will be selling pumpkins in the front and the Fall Sale will be behind.

  • Huge selection of native plants,  seeds and bulbs
  • Plenty of free parking
  • Rain garden plants
  • Propagation information
  • Expert help with your questions and plant selections
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Spring Sale Plant lists now available. Click on “Species List”

The most current Spring Sale Plant lists now available.  Click on “Species List”

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Plant of the Month: Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus)

Plant of the Month: Devil’s Club Oplopanax horridusIMG_0474
By Janka Hobbs

“Because it is such a fearsome plant in the path of the out-of-doorsman, the decided ornamental value of this plant is often overlooked. It merits a place in the garden, in a moist spot, where it can be seen but not necessarily encountered. The fruits are especially attractive” C. Hitchcock, A Cronquist, et al. Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest, Vol.3

Devils club is another iconic Northwest damp forest species, with a range from Southern Alaska to Southern Oregon, and East just into into Montana. It also occurs in a disjunct population on several islands in Lake Superior. Here in the Puget Sound Lowlands, I tend to encounter it on seepy hillsides: shade, damp, and decent drainage.

Oplopanax, a member of the Aralaceae, is related to Panax (ginseng). There are also two species of Oplopanax native to Asia, which were once considered subspecies of O. horridus.  Oplopanax is a highly esteemed medicinal throughout its range, having multiple uses in both Native American and Asian medicine. Nancy Turner states that there are “13-15 separate etymons for it in more than 25 different languages,” showing the plant’s importance to many different cultures.

Perhaps because of its spiny nature and medicinal strength, devil’s club was credited with protective properties, and used for purification and spiritual cleansing.

It was also used to treat rhumatism, as a dermatological aid (including wound care), digestive upset, and tuberculosis. Some diabetics taking the extract have been able to maintain their health without resorting to insulin injections. An extract of Oplopanax japonicus is used in a cough suppressant. The lightweight wood was also made into fishing lures.

The young stalks can reportedly be steamed and eaten; Bears are reported to fancy the berries.


Turner, Nancy “Traditional Use of Devil’s Club (

Oplopanax horridus; Araliaceae) by Native Peoples in Western North America” in Journal of Ethnobiology v.1-2, 1981-1982

C. Hitchcock, A Cronquist, et al. Vascular Plants of the Pacific Northwest, Vol. 3, 1961


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Orchard Mason Bees

Mason Bee

Mason Bee

Orchard Mason Bees

I just picked up my rented orchard mason bees, Osmia Lignaria, for the season.  These native bees do not sting and look very little like bees.  However, they are great pollinators doing their job from about now until early June.

I have to admit to being lazy, I don’t want the bother of having to remove the new bee cocoons from the tubes, clean them and store them in the refrigerator until next spring.  They need to be taken in about the beginning of June so they don’t get parasitized by wasps.

At the Spring Native Plant Sale and celebration we will be having a bee expert talk about these little native bees.  If you have a lot of things in bloom in the spring (trees and shrubs count) you may want to consider raising these bees.

Imagesimple box and tubes

simple box and tubes

Maybe you’ve heard, “The pollination crisis is upon us. Honey bees are not doing well.”  It’s a fact. Did you know that you can improve the plight of the pollinators by using your own back yard?  Consider the ways to ease the crisis and help your own garden by raising bees in your yard. You need to place your bees in the sun but also protect them from rain.

There are many styles of bee nesting material from paper tubes in a quart milk carton to sophisticated nesting blocks and houses.

Drilled nest box

Drilled nest box

The bee house left is not easy to remove the cocoons and clean. Some bee suppliers do NOT recommend wood blocks with drilled holes. This is because your bees will fail within a few years due to pest buildup.

Below you see paper nesting tubes placed in an empty oatmeal box which is then placed in a empty milk carton.  Milk cartons are good because they are waterproof.

milk carton bee box

milk carton bee box

Commercially purchased bee houses and nesting materials are also available.  The houses with paper tubes are easy to use and clean because you just open the paper tubes and clean the bees and then put them into clean tubes in the spring.  You can tell if the bees have laid nests in the tubes because the end of the tubes will be plugged with mud.

In selecting a bee system it is important to consider how easy it will be to remove the bees and clean the nest for next year

Nest box and split wood nesting material

Nest box and split wood nesting material

Wood trays are an excellent nesting material.  Wood is their natural habitat and it pulls moisture from wet pollen masses. The trays come apart for easy bee removal and cleaning.

You can buy mason bees on line although it may be too late for this season.


cleaned bee cacoons

Below you can see cleaned bee cocoons ready for winter storage in a refrigerator.

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Ways to Get Free or Low Cost Native Plants


bare rootWe  of course would like you to buy plants from our spring and fall sales but there are also ways you can get low cost or free plants with a little bit of your time and effort.  If you have big projects this can really reduce costs.

Bare Root Sales (low cost)

The best low cost source is your county Conservation District bare root sales.  These sales usually start in December or January with plants generally available in early March.  The advantage of bare roots is that they are inexpensive  and easy to transport.  This is especially helpful if you are planting on hillsides.  You don’t have to haul pots up or down hillsides.  The disadvantage is they need to be planted as soon as possible.  Also the bare root plants are frequently sold in bundles.  Roots dry out very quickly. According to Lawyer Nursery Inc. in Olympia, the bare roots should be soaked a minimum or 4-6 hours before planting.  If possible continue to soak the roots while planting.  Plant should be transplanted within 24 to 48 hours or receiving them.  The most difficult to successfully transplant are broadleaf evergreen (Arctostaphylos, Mahonia, Gaultheria, long needle pines and others).  Lawyer Nursery recommends clipping off most leaves prior to planting to reduce desiccation for broadleaf evergreens.

(See http://www.lawyernursery.com/bareroot_nursery_stock_handling_guide.asp for the whole guide.)

County Salvages (free)

Several counties have native plant salvage programs where the county receives permission to salvage an area with volunteers before the area is cleared for building.  In King County one salvages for the county from 9-12 in the morning and then, if you salvaged in the morning, you can salvage for yourself from 12-2.  They may also offer special days to those who have salvaged for the county to come and just salvage for them selves.  These plants are completely free except for your effort.  There are usually some knowledgeable people around who can help you with what native plants to salvage.  Again it is very important to not let the roots dry out and to pot them up or replant them as soon as possible.  Taking some native soil and adding it to the planting soil adds native microrrhyzae which improves transplant survival.

FernsFerns are exceedingly easy to salvage.  When you salvage ferns there are frequently more than one crown in a larger fern.  The ferns can be divided by cutting (sawing) them apart between the crowns to get even more plants.  Salvaged ferns may not look very good until their second year in the ground but usually have many more roots and therefore bigger than purchased ferns.

If you have large ferns on your own property, you can divide them as described above to create more ferns too.

Conservation District Nurseries (free)

If your county has a Conservation District Nursery you may be able to volunteer and receive credits which then can be traded for plants.  King Conservation District gives $10.00 worth of plant material for each hour you volunteer in the nursery.  The selected native species are usually available in the early spring.

Plant Survival

It is also very important to plant correctly and in the right conditions for the plant (sun/shade, wet/dry, according to the plant’s needs).  OK, we all have tried to push the envelope but we usually end up with dead plants. The original soil stem/root boundary should be maintained (roots should not be above the level of the soil nor the stem/trunk any deeper than it was originally growing).  Also the roots should be spread out in the planting spot not curved back up on themselves.  It is better to prune a few roots than plant incorrectly.  After planting, the plants should be mulched with 4”- 6” of wood chips.  Keep the mulch about 3”away from woody stems.  The best mulch is free.  You can request arborists to deliver wood chips to you.  The minimum is usually about 5 cubic yards.  The chips keep weeds from growing and retain the soil moisture.  They also help water to permeate the soil rather than running off and keep soil pores open.


It is important to water for the first summer or two or plant mortality can be high.  Most years you do not need to start watering until after the rains stop.  Watering deeply is better than shallow watering.  Check the moisture in the soil before you water.

If the plants have been planted in the right conditions, they will probably not need additional watering in after the second summer.  In general remember the first year planted they sleep, the second year they creep  and the third year they leap.

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Leaves, Bare Soil, Slopes and Birds

Bare soil, especially in winter, is not good for the environment.  So many people, to make

Salal ground cover in flower

Salal ground cover in flower

their yard “neat,” rake up or blow all the leaves  or conifer needles from their soil, leaving it bare. Rarely in nature will you find bare soil.  When the soil is bare, and it rains, the raindrops close up the pores in the soil it absorbs water.  Next that water, sheeting off of the bare soil, causes our streams to become flashy (quick, high volume, peak flows rather than gradual flow increase).  In a forest, very little water flows across the surface of the ground.  I bet you didn’t know your leaves help reduce surface water runoff.

Pacific coast iris

Pacific coast iris

If the leaves are left in place, they provide a protective mulch for the soil, and they break down and return their nutrients back into the soil.

Leaves are also important for our native birds.  Ground birds scratch in the leaves for small critters to eat.  And yes, they do scatter the leaves about, but then I like seeing the birds and I buy less bird seed.

Why waste your time, energy and money removing something that provides benefit to the environment?  I do remove the leaves from my walkways, decks and driveway but then

I usually scatter the leaves in the woods.  Note:  I did not say to make big, heavy, soggy, wet piles of them.  Occasionally, I even put them in the yard waste bins to be picked up.

If you rake or blow leaves, don’t dump them onto growing green plants, the dead leaves will smother the plants.  A lot of our native ground covers, such as piggy-back plant, ferns, salal, kinnickinnik, heuchera, irises and low Oregon grape, stay green in the winter.  You can mulch these plants with leaves but don’t bury them.

The top of steep slopes are another place not to pile up heavy wet leaves (and other garden debris).  The weight of leaves and/or debris at the top of a slope, can cause the slope to fail and slide down the hill.  Not a good thing for may reasons.

OK, so why do we want to leave the leaves (and needles) on bare soil?

  • the leaves protect the soil from the rain, allowing the rain to be more readily absorbed
  • they help reduce storm water flow off of your property
  • their nutrients are returned to the soil as they break down


    Centipede, yum!

  • energy, time and money are saved by not raking or blowing them away
  • they provide a hiding place for small critters that birds like to scratch for and eat
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New Location for 2013 Spring Plant Sale & Celebration!

The 2013 Spring Plant Sale will be on Mercer Island in Mercerdale Park.  It has very easy access from I90 plus plenty of parking in the Farmer’s Insurance parking structure just down the block.

Save the date, Saturday, May 11th (the day before Mothers’ Day) for this unbeatable sale at its great new location.

There is easy access to restrooms, a children’s play park, children’s activities, coffee and lunch at Mercer Island restaurants and coffee shops.  Come and spend the day!

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Thanks to all who helped and purchased plants

Thank you to our WNPS members, who helped with the Fall Bulb, Seed, and Plant Sale. Also a special thanks to all those who purchased plants, bulbs, and seeds.  The income from this and the spring sale give us the funds to carry out our mission.

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