A Winter Road Trip, Part 1

Heuchera, greenhouse

A sea of heucheras in one of the greenhouses.

Today’s post is a simple travelogue for those of us weary of the endless snow blanketing our landscapes these days.

I’m about to head to northern California for a few days to visit my son. (That will be Part 2 of the Winter Road Trip series, hopefully). But in early February – before Snowmaggedon Parts 1 & 2 – two colleagues and I trekked up to central Pennsylvania to visit a new (to us) wholesale supplier. The company we visited has been around for 20 years growing wholesale bedding plants and perennials. They work primarily with independent retail nurseries (as opposed to the “big box” guys) to provide plants that are a little more unique, to help their customers set themselves apart.

Our landscape design firm is moderate in size, and we specialize in residential landscape design, installation and maintenance. As one of the in-house designers I’m always interested in seeing what might be coming up on the event horizon, and the photographer in me decided to take along the trusty Canon G11 just in case. On both counts, I was glad we made the trip.

Most of our tour time was spent in some of the many, MANY greenhouses at this particular site, one of several owned by the company.

We began by visiting three or four unheated hoop houses filled with different varieties of hellebores, one of my favorite plants. Luckily for us, there were any number of them in bloom, and out came my camera. Since their blooms droop down, I had to look hard (and get into some contorted positions) to be able to capture the blooms, but it was worth it.

Helleborus orientalis, Quality Greenhouses & Perennial FarmThis was probably my favorite shot, because the shape of the petals looked so unusual. Our tour guide said it was a “straight species hellebore” rather than a particular cultivar. In recent years various plant breeders have undertaken to develop special strains of hellebores, bred to produce particular colors of flowers, or double blossoms, but this little beauty just shines on her own.

These pink ones were also favorites.

Helleborus orientalis

Pale pink hellebores can brighten up a winter day.

My friends finally dragged me away from the hellebores and we went on to see what else was being sheltered in the greenhouses. Turns out the company is also experimenting with some one-gallon “woodies” (woody plants, trees and shrubs) to see how they will do. The other designer who had come along and I were taken with an upright version of Russian arborvitae (Microbiota decussata ‘Jacobsen’), which we immediately envisioned as a great potential addition for container plantings in shady spots.

A new upright version of Russian arborvitae being grown in one-gallon pots in a greenhouse

This shrub has ferny-looking coniferous foliage that turns bronzy in winter. (In the landscape, the species is great as a groundcover, especially in deer-infested areas in zones 3-7 as it isn’t very tasty to our four-legged friends.)

Elsewhere, we saw Acorus ‘Ogon’ with a cool-looking moss (Selaginella, I think);

Acorus 'Ogon'

and what seemed like acres of tagged four-inch pots of varieties of spreading groundcovers, tolerant of modest foot traffic, that were being grown on.

The 'Jeepers Creepers' line of plants being grown in four-inch pots, seemingly to infinity.

Amidst that sea of green and white, I came across one of the ‘Jeepers Creepers” pots with a bloom rising above the tag. Voila – ‘Pink Pussy Toes’! A tiny but oh so welcome bloom in the wintry landscape, reminding me that – eventually – spring will come.

Jeepers Creepers 'Pink Pussy Toes'

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6 Comments on “A Winter Road Trip, Part 1”


  1. Melissa, the wavy edge on that white helleborus makes me crazy with desire, I hope you bought it!
    Have a great time on your trip.
    Deborah

  2. Edith Hope Says:

    Dear Melissa, What an exciting time you seem to have had at this wholesale nursery and what wonderful hellebores. It is always fun seeking out new places and, I imagine, with your work, interesting to see what is new.

  3. gardeningasylum Says:

    What a dream of a field trip! I’m amazed by all the new heucheras coming out, and pink pussy toes is a cutie! Enjoy your travels šŸ™‚

  4. kseverny Says:

    this is wonderful photography


  5. What a fun trip to see all that grows in commercial greenhouses. I love the photo of the white hellebore with the green center. We can’t grow them here in the desert, so I enjoy seeing photos of them from fellow garden bloggers.

  6. Diana Says:

    I just came upon your blog via Blotanical. Lovely Hellebore photos!


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