This week I went to a nursery that was new to me. I have purchased plants from Gossler Farms Nursery (gosslerfarms.com) at various plant sales over the years, but had never been to the actual nursery before. It was paradise. It is located in a quiet open area of the McKenzie River valley, so feels very much a world apart. Primarily a mail-order business, there weren’t many other visitors the day I was there, so I had their immaculate hoop houses crammed with unusual, stunning plants to myself. Family run, it is a large operation considering that they don’t have many hands on deck. I was told by Marj, the matriarch, that all the plants are hand-weeded so they don’t use herbicides. Since I am an inveterate plant-fondler I was happy to hear that. I often wonder, as I plunge my hands into yet another plant, what it has been exposed to in its journey to my garden, and therefore what I am being exposed to as I handle it. I run a strictly organic garden, but I bet most of the plants I get commercially don’t qualify!
For me, entering each plant house at Gossler’s was like walking into a dream. The light is fairly low, and the plants are in somewhat random order so each step reveals another treasure. An Epimedium collection, each prettier than the next, is found in one house, an array of very unusual viburnums in another. A house containing numerous cultivars of Philadelphus was utterly fragrant, the scrupulously clean conditions meant that no mold or fungus odor interrupted the scent of the plants. I found cultivars of the familiar fairy bells, but with deep purple margins to the leaves, and very robust. There were dozens of chartreuse Japanese maples, all clustered together, glowing in the filtered light. All the plants are in beautiful health, and I kept thinking that maybe this was the optimal situation for all of us who love plants. They are protected from the elements, from scorching sun, leaf-tearing hail, all those bugs. Nonetheless, I did select four plants to take home with me: a huge Epimedium ‘Orion’, Itea ‘Henry’s Garnet’, Deutzia ‘Magicien’, and an Omphalodes ‘Cherry Ingram’. They are now banished from their enchanted forest in the hoop house and will have to make their way in my decidedly less plush surroundings!
Gossler’s is only open three days a week, so call before you visit, but add it to your list of attractions in the Willamette Valley. As expected for rare and unusual plants, the prices are on the steep side and, since they are primarily mail-order, the labeling is by plant category, not on each specimen. They have many plants that I have never seen elsewhere. There are numerous additional plants available at the nursery which are not listed in the catalog. And feel free to ask questions, they love to talk about their plants!