Category Archives: General Information

Seed Source Reclassification

Adopting EPA Level III Ecoregions as a better descriptor of seed source and a more relevant arbiter for seed transfer

By Dylan Levy-Boyd and Richard Haard, July 2013

There seems to be general consensus within the restoration community that utilizing genetically fit, locally adapted native plant materials improves the likelihood of planting success (SER 2004). Beyond this agreement, there are wide ranging debates about how to best implement this strategy (Kaye 2002, reprinted in the 2007 Fourth Corner Nurseries catalog). Selecting the most appropriate high quality plant material for a project usually involves finding an acceptable compromise between the best available science and the cost and time required to implement that science. Much of the compromise and debate centers on the seed source(s)[1] of the plant material to be used. This article will touch on the issue of selecting seed sources and cover how Fourth Corner Nurseries is adapting to make selecting appropriate plant material more straightforward. Continue reading

A Brief History of Native Plants

by Todd Jones, Fourth Corner Nurseries

The term “native plant” seems to have entered the lexicon of horticultural speak in a big way over the past few of decades. As a lifelong nurseryman and native plant grower, the question of what is a native plant comes up with great frequency around my office. It seems everyone knows what a native plant is, but we don’t all agree on the same definition.

This seemingly straightforward word “native” creates enough controversy to cause some real confusion. A simple web search will quickly demonstrate the problem, and a good place to start is this Wikipedia definition which states: “Native plant is a term to describe plants endemic (indigenous) or naturalized to a given area in geologic time” (Wikipedia). Continue reading

What We Do

by Richard T. Haard, Ph.D., Propagation Manager, Fourth Corner Nurseries

Fourth Corner Nurseries is a wholesale native plant nursery located on 77 acres in the coastal lowlands of Whatcom County, Washington. Our customers are primarily other wholesale native plant nurseries that rely on our propagation skills. Incorporated in 1982, we have a small self-directed workforce of approximately 15 full-time employees.

We produce two/three million direct-seeded, field-grown, bare-root plants every year, with approximately 500 species from nearly 1500 individual seed sources of trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials and emergents. Typically we direct seed into seedbeds and harvest the plants after one or two years. We began propagating native plants in 1987 as an experimental diversion from our then B&B production of ornamental trees and shrubs. The timing of our startup was coincidental with the developing market for native plants.  What followed became a farming operation to supply an emerging demand for native, bare-root plant material. We sell our plants to other nurseries for resale as potted material and/or directly planted in the natural environment. In our region the bare-root planting window occurs in early spring, late fall and winter. Continue reading

General Information about Ordering and Handling Bare-Root Plants

by Julie Whitacre, Fourth Corner Nurseries

Fourth Corner Nurseries is primarily a bare-root nursery, with a limited selection of northwest native plants in containers. We sell our bare-root plants to many growers who use them in container stock.

Bare-root seedlings are inexpensive and range in size from a few inches to 4 feet tall. Bare-root transplants are from one to six feet tall, and slightly more expensive than seedlings. These typically have a more developed root system, larger caliper and more branching than seedlings (Photo 1, Physocarpus transplant and seedling). Comparing plants of equal size, those in containers are more expensive than bare-root plants (seedlings or transplants) due to growing costs. If price is your primary consideration, bare-root plants can be used, but timing and handling considerations must be factored in. Woody-stemmed bare-root plants are available only during the dormant season. Bare-root trees or shrubs will not work if you are required to plant in October. Appropriate handling is also necessary for plant survival.

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