Nursery Tour – Little Prince
Located not too far from us in Aurora, Oregon, Little Prince of Oregon is a locally owned and operated wholesale nursery providing top-notch plants to nurseries far and wide for more than 20 years. Their specialties include succulents, groundcovers and and ferns, among many others. An active participant in the horticultural scene, their talented staff regularly showcases their product at plant events, share gardening tips on television and write articles for industry publications.
On a couple of occasions, Mark Leichty, Director of Business Development has even opened his nursery, normally closed to the public, to area garden bloggers. I’ve twice had the pleasure of visiting Little Prince under these auspices, and I’m impressed each time with the care and attention to detail provided to the operation, as well as the quality and selection of material.
When I first visited in 2015, Little Prince had recently overhauled and streamlined their packing and shipping operations. Above is an order of their signature 4” material awaiting processing. Little Prince ships their home-grown product throughout Oregon, Washington and sometimes to California. One of the few nurseries to fare well through the 2008 recession, they have continued to steadily grow their operations. Part of what has made them successful is their downsizing to smaller container sizes and thorough branding, which has afforded them a considerable amount of name recognition at retailers.
Armeria maritima ‘Victor Reiter’
Little Prince of Oregon has its marketing game on point. They have made what might otherwise be a daunting array of plants, from garden staples to collector’s items, accessible by grouping them into easy-to-understand product lines. The Armeria ‘Victor Reiter’ pictured above, for example, is a part of their Foot Traffic Perennial line. Having a background in retail nursery management, I can’t tell you how useful it is to be able to point to a line of plants that I know will meet a customers’ needs. The Foot Traffic line in particular offers dense, low-growing and spreading perennial groundcovers that look good year-round and tolerant being walked on! Depending on your needs, you’ll find selections with attractive blooms (Ajuga), fragrant foliage (Mentha) or that are drought tolerant (Sedum).
Eye-catching flowers of Delosperma ‘Jewel of the Desert Garnet’.
Above is another stunning groundcover that one might not have considered for this climate – ice plant, or Delosperma. Forming a mat of thick, bright green succulent leaves and producing profuse neon-colored, almost daisy-like flowers that bloom for months on end, it is an exceptionally drought-tolerant plant that thrives in hot, sunny conditions and even poor soil. Dwarf varieties like the one pictured above are deer-resistant, non-invasive and make great additions to alpine and rock gardens. A variety of ice plants with differing bloom colors are a part of Little Prince’s Water Miser line.
Red flowering maple, a beautiful Abutilon hybrid.
Although they have specialized in smaller container sizes, and doing so is a large part of what allowed them to weather the economic downturn, Little Prince does offer larger material, like these gallon-size Abutilon, or flowering maple. This is a more uncommon introduction for the Pacific Northwest, but when well-planted it shows considerable cold-hardiness and may even perennialize. The beautiful bell-shaped flowers are attractive to pollinators, and it’s a plant that can add a tropical look to Northwest gardens.
Pacific Northwest natives are likely familiar with, and perhaps even unimpressed by, our forests’ ubiquitous sword and deer ferns. But not only is our moist soil and abundant shade perfect for growing these garden staples, there are plenty of rare and unusual varieties available for the discerning gardener, like the eclectic array of ferns grown by Little Prince. Above, check out the new foliage of the Oriental chain fern, which emerges an almost solid copper color and slowly matures to a glossy yellow-green.
Athyrium niponicum pictum and Phyllitis scolopendrium undulatum.
And how about these striking specimens? On the left is a Japanese painted fern, whose cultivars Little Prince grows a number of. These ferns have stunning, lacy ombre foliage in shades of silver, blue, green and purple, and thrive under the usual moist, low-light conditions. To the right are hart’s tongue ferns, named for their long, tapered leaves’ supposed resemblance to the tongue of the male red deer, or “hart.” Ironically, most ferns are deer-resistant!
Ferns are a great addition to the woodland garden, but those gardeners looking for a new way to use these plants are encouraged to try a stumpery! These unique gardens make use of old tree stumps and root masses as structures on which to grow ferns. They mimic the purpose nurse logs serve in the wild, where young plants, especially ferns, use the nooks and crannies of old logs in which to grow, and thrive on the nutrition of slowly decomposing bark. Because of the high density of different habitats in a small area, stumperies are suited to growing a wide variety of ferns – those that need soggy soil, well-draining soil, are epiphytic, prefer deep shade or dappled light – and are perfect for home gardeners interested in building a fern collection.
The alien-looking flowers and foliage of Grevillea ‘Ivanhoe’
In addition to their standard offerings, Little Prince makes a habit of constantly experimenting – a practice that has contributed to their continued success and is a testament to their status as true plantsmen, passionate about new products and opportunities. In their greenhouses you’ll find unusual material like the grevillea pictured above, an Australian native with fascinating flowers and foliage. More common in warmer climates like California, Pacific Northwest nurseries and home gardeners have begun to experiment with the more hardy hybrids. Excellent low-maintenance shrubs that require little water, love bright sun and are attractive to hummingbirds, they are best planted in a protected area in the garden, or in a pot that allows them to be moved during low temperatures. Once established, larger specimens tend to fare better against our sometimes harsh winter conditions.
Fine-looking specimens of red Sarracenia, or pitcher plants, a carnivorous species.
Another selection Little Prince has experimented with are carnivorous plants, like these Sarracenia, or “pitcher plants” in common parlance. And judging by the uniform habitat and vigor of these specimens, they’ve had success! During my most recent visit I no longer saw these being grown, but such is the nature of an ever-evolving wholesale growing operation – material is trialled, the market is tested and new things are always coming and going.
Hot pink tips on Tillandsia ionantha rubra, one of the more common and stunning air plants.
In keeping with current trends, for example, Little Prince has previously grown and sold popular air plants, or tillandsia, and currently offers ready-to-go glass terrariums for an audience eager to snap them up. As evidenced by these photographs, the nursery is well-organized and the greatest attention is given to growing high-quality material. It’s rare to find greenhouses this immaculate, entirely free of weeds and the piled-up messes of leftover plant tags and pots common around growing facilities.
Photographic evidence of the world-class growing operations at Little Prince of Oregon.
Each time I visit, the nursery has grown. This time last year, they had built an entirely new office building, complete with a full-kitchen and a beautiful view of the property. They have also added additional greenhouses and, recently, a new shipping facility. The Oregon Garden plans to take advantage of our partnership with Little Prince to host a future event in their beautiful space, at which point we hope you’ll join us! And I highly encourage you to seek out their product on your next visit to your local nursery. You won’t go wrong with any of their selections and the bright, informative tags will set you up for success no matter what you choose. A huge thank you to Mark for making his nursery available to me and others on these special occasions, and for all that he’s contributed to the Garden and our local horticultural community as a whole.
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