The Styled Ramblings of Heavy Petal's Bruce Bailey


Where Plants Rock- Bruce Bailey


Bruce Bailey is the owner of Heavy Petal Nursery in Moses Lake, WA, or, as he likes to call it, God’s Country. With majors in art, art history, and history Bruce finds expression in the garden art he creates along with the customers he cultivates through an unconventional selection of gardening products that ensure a unique shopping experience. New varieties and surprising introductions of garden worthy plants, as well as old fashioned and unjustly forgotten favorites are all on display. His boundless energy and dynamic spirit are in evidence in all of his endeavors, whether through painting, his plant selections, garden design, home interiors or speaking at garden shows.

“Bruce Bailey does not let living in zone 5 define his gardening or his life. His adventurous style is evident in every plant he selects, and every garden he designs. When I met Bruce, my first impression was one of boundless energy, and a mind always at work. His careful observations of nature–and nature expressed in gardens–informs his plant choices, and once formed his opinions are not hidden. Bruce’s educational background in art history and design, and he is an accomplished interior designer/decorator in addition to his ability of paint pictures with plants. Even plants for sale in his nursery are presented in a painterly manner.”

Linda Beutler – Author and Curator, Rogerson Clematis Collection

Deborah Silver recently mentioned Bruce in her blog Dirt Simple

Northwest Flower and Garden Show

Heritage Radio Network, We Dig Plants with Carmen Devito & Alice Marcus Krieg


Bruce’s speaking engagements for 2012

Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle, Washington

Portland Yard, Garden, Patio Show, Portland, Oregon

Arkansas Flower and Garden Show in Little Rock, Arkansas

Boise Flower and Garden Show, Boise, Idaho

Other regional speaking engagements are also on the calendar.



A Container Named Desire– Containers, Care, and Combinations

Pump Up VolumeOutstanding Plants for Summer Containers

Painting Your Desert Garden–  Using foliage to bring color into your high desert garden.

Harmonizing Your Home and Your Garden– Color, Balance and Enhancement
New for 2013

Upcycling into Your Garden– Found objects, trash to treasure, and creating follies in your garden.

County Garning as Fashion– Marie Antoinette, Marie Louise of Savoy, Yolande Martine Gabrielle de Polastron, Georgiana Cavendish and the flowers they loved.

Flowers of Downton Abbey – a look at Edwardian gardening

Follow Bruce on twitter @WherePlantsRock

Visit his nursery website

You can contact Bruce Bailey


Daffodils at Garden Home Retreat

It is spring once again and the harbingers of the season are just exposing their bright faces in Arkansas.

This spring I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at the Arkansas Flower and Garden Show. I decided to stay an extra day to explore the beauty of the area and my host was none other than the hospitable gallant, P. Allen Smith.

Allen, as he likes to be called, picked me up at 7:30 in the morning at my hotel. He had just finished filming two segments in the studio and had a full day ahead of him. I was originally scheduled to have dinner with Allen on Friday evening, but filming had gone long into the day for him and his crew. Honestly, I was tired from my day of traveling but I did not want to admit it. Allen was wondering if I would care to come up to his Garden Home Retreat and see the farm and the early daffodils that were just breaking forth.

How could I refuse such and invite?

I quickly answered yes and Saturday morning could not come soon enough. As a gardener I relish spring and the earth awakening. As a designer I had been looking forward to the opportunity to see the layout of the farm, gardens and the interior of house.


Like a ride from “Wind in the Willows”, a half an hour to get to Allen’s home, set amongst the trundling landscape of Moss Mountain, and I arrived. Allen takes pride in welcoming the public into his home. He is very gracious and at ease amongst the padocks, meadows, Southern Shortleaf Pines, and oaks. Of course what caught my eye was the beginning of the daffodils. Now I have heard a couple of numbers, but it is an estimated 275,000 daffodils been planted in the meadow that lies like a carpet in front of the traditional Greek Revival farmhouse.

A glorious morning of sunshine, blue skies and unseasonable warm temperatures made for an impressionistic landscape. One could just smell the honey laden perfume of the myriad of yellow blooms as the day warmed.

I must admit I am very grateful for the time Allen took to show me his lair. Retreat is not just implied, but is modus vivendi overlooking the Arkansas River Valley.

Time does not stand still, but is certainly savored at Allen’s Garden Home Retreat. Daffodil Days will be starting soon. March 9, 16, 23, and 30. I would book sooner than later because of the unexpected warmth.

Thank you Allen and staff. I look forward to the Garden2Blog event in May and experiencing yet another season of Arkansas.

The Place to Bee in Chicago—Lurie Garden


Prairie plants such as
Echinaceas and grasses dominate at Lurie Garden.

Bees are busy and hard at work at one of the best kept
secrets in Chicago. Hidden away in Millennium Park is a quiet
oasis–Lurie Garden. Consisting of 5 acres and tended by one paid
staff person I was impressed by how natural the setting was.
Another great thing about Lurie Garden is that it rests atop the
Millennium Garden parking structure. Yeah, it is also a rooftop
garden! Is that making the most of your space and hiding an eyesore
all at once?

 I met garden writer Helen
Yoest ( and garden photographer
Christopher Tidrick ( at the
symbolic  “Cloud Gate” (Anish Kapoor, 2006).
With its mirror like finish, this  giant sculpture
lays between the vertical and the horizontal; the organic
omphalos refered to by citizens as the “Bean”. On this
glorious August morning, sun shining bright, the mood of
the trio was festive and we were hungry to bite into what Chicago
had to offer. Helen looked forward to seeing this piece as she had
never been to chicago and has a penchant for gazing balls. The
‘Bean’ is one big gazing ball that’s for sure. A few pictures
snapped and off we went to the one garden the three of us
wanted to see. What made that sharing more of an event is the
company I got to share it with.

Christopher Tidrick is
always on the lookout for a great garden shot. Screens or
scrims of grass create great layers and afford the photographer
endless possibilities.

Yoest- Spendor in the grasses. Textures of stone, plants, wood and
water were awaiting our discovery. This is one garden Helen did not
want to miss in Chicago.

entering through the armatured hedge the three of us were
amazed at the insular world before us. Textures of stone,
plants, wood and water were awaiting our discovery as we walked
through the small hedge opening, a snicket almost, but I could
be mistaken. Through the hedge we went and momentarily I felt that
we had stepped through the looking-glass. As a big fan of
the natural garden, I could easily glide through meadows and along
the shorelines taking it all in. Lurie Garden is right up my alley
that’s for sure.  Prairie perennials, grasses and great
textural plants from the plains mix well with other plants. OK,

I am describing it as a
jumble, but its more like a series of rolls. Screens or scrims
of grass created great layers while Echinaceas,
Hemerocallis ‘Chicago Apache’
Veronicastrum virginicum and
Eupatorium maculatus
stood tall and proud showing the world their
colors. Calamintha,
Pycnanthemum muticum,
Eryngium yuccifolium,
Amsonia hubrichtii
providing contrast and
interest. Layers and screens, screens and layers. More movement
seems to happen while everything is standing still in this

Just one
August morning is not enough for this garden. It must be visited
several times throughout the seasons. This is a great garden to
study in, have lunch, meet a friend for intimate conversation.
There is an other-worldliness about it. NO place in Chicago feels
like this.

A visitor to Lurie Garden will be
treated to not only a slow quiet pace, but a feast. The bees
certainly are. The bees in Lurie Garden don’t pay visitors any
attention. They are far too busy gleaning what they can and
collecting up what they need to survive the winter. Busy, busy,
busy bees. This is sort of ironic to me. The bees are much like the
humans who work around or outside the garden. I am not talking
the park employees, but those working in downtown Chicago. Outside
the shouldering hedges is a busy area of downtown. Thousands of
people are working and doing their thing so they can survive as

American Beauties

Adaptation is a rule, and a lesson, that almost every gardener must learn. Where to plant, what to plant there, zoning, and watering are all thing that a gardener must keep in mind when purchasing a plant.

Native plants–native to your area or to the North American continent– can be so rewarding with minimal effort. The same holds even more true with plants that are native to the plain states.

European garden designer Piet Oudolf capitalizes on just those qualities that are so natural to the plant.

American gardeners, always in search of value and savings=maximum bang for the dollar, are discovering the qualities of native plants.
Rewarding the gardener with growth and blossom native flowers such as monarda, eupatorium, echinaceas, rudbeckias, and asters add color and texture to any landscape. Even my favorite hibiscus moscheutos are great, showy native plants. These flowers can be easily complimented with native shrubs such as hydrangea quercifolia, viburnum trilobum, and physocarpus.

Producers such as American Beauties really help a small retailer like myself locate and source a lot of the native plants.
I don’t know about you, but I am learning what my time is worth. North Creek Nurseries and American Beauties help me to find plant that my customers love.


Hot for Hibiscus 2011!

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The Hot for Hibiscus event is something that has grown slowly here at Heavy Petal Nursery. This is not the first year I have held this event– it has become an annual thing.

Last year I had a couple of friends come help, the weather was cool and I was forcing the hibiscus to bloom in the greenhouse. We had to haul them all out of the greenhouse the morning of the event, but what a show when the blooms started to open! This year I don’t have that problem, though it is cool again. Odd weather.  This year I also have a few friends I have invited to come vend. One of my friends specializes in ferns, and the other is an expert in clematis. I have also invited a few artisans.

Please enjoy a few of the pictures I have assembled into a slide show at the bottom of the page.

Hardy hibiscus, Hibiscus moscheutos, commonly refered to as swamp mallow, rose mallow, or sea hollyhock are showy perennials for any garden. I will remind everyone again I am in USDA zone 5.

Hibiscus m. are late to awaken, usually rising from the ground when it becomes warm (about the time you plant tomatoes) and then they grow with the heat. Dependable bloomers, plants tend to start blooming in my area (zone 5) in late July and keep going till the first heavy frost. Feed them heavily when they start to come up. Slow release fertilizer is fine, manure tea is great as it is there for those hungry awakening roots. You can pinch them back if you want to keep them to size. This also promotes side shoots which equal more branching and more blossoms. I try to dead head my plants to keep them clean and keep them blooming.

In the past I have been raising about 600 hardy hibiscus plants yearly. This year I am raising around one thousand and have about 250 seedlings that I am working with. Yes, a small breeding program—something new for me, but an adventure none the less.

Now I get asked questions all the time like—do they spread?

The answer is not really. They have a central base root and each year produce more canes off this center. They are not going to be invasive, misbehave, or takeover.

Where do I plant one of these hibiscus in my garden?

Well, they are a tall perennial—so back of the border. I have seen them easily reach six feet. I suggest planting them in a hot spot in your garden, or an area that receives a lot of sun. Please don’t put them someplace where they are kept cool and shady.

How much water do they need?

Well, I am in the desert so I would say keep the soil moist. I would say that anywhere with most perennials, but they also have a fantastic root system and could go through short periods of drought if they had to. I have seen a garden that the people moving and put their house up for sale. The person tending the house neglected most things, but the not the lawn. Shrubs and perennials looked dry, but the hibiscus still bloomed. Not the same way as if they were well-tended, but they did bloom.

Customers come up to me and start to talk about the hibiscus they purchased the previous year. Cringing as I am expecting the worse, they proceed with their tale, but it tends to be the opposite. One woman started in on me that her hibiscus was too big for the spot, had already gotten taller than the fence and was pushing other perennials aside. What should she do? I suggested moving the perennials and buying a few more hibiscus. That is exactly what she did and is very happy about it.

Hardy hibiscus are not plants for those who are meek gardeners or weak at heart. They are lusty plants. People see them at my booth at the local farmers market—

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flowers become objects of desire. Reds leer out at passers-by, pinks sparkle, mauve and plums seduce.  The flowers are commonly refered to as dinner plates because of their rounded shape and size, but there are several varieties that are lobed like the classic hibiscus we all think of.

I only sell one white variety—Blue Danube II. It is clean, and clear, has no red ‘eye’ and the foliage has a slightly different tint that comes off as blue next to the white plate size blossoms.

Foliage is also another thing to look at when purchasing your hardy hibiscus.

I recall as a child that the only foliage I really saw was a green leaf that reminded me of a Tilia (little leaf linden) but some of the foliage may just more interesting than the flowers themselves. Kopper King and Plum Crazy were a couple of the first I grew with colored foliage. Kopper King has maple-like leaves and the white blossoms with red veins and ‘eye’ just pop on these plants. Plum Crazy is double named. The foliage is plum tinted but so are the flowers—plum with a deep plum eye. Summer Storm with the leaves ranging from maroon to black-purple with clear cotton candy pink blossoms with a red ‘eye’.  Fireball, a smoky red bloomer with burgundy blushes to the foliage. The foliage can be quite lovely in the mixed border before the blossoms ever appear.

In the United States these plants are widely grown from Massachusetts to Michigan, southwards to Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. In southern states Hibiscus coccineus is more common being the native swamp mallow found in tidal marshes.

On the west side of the Rockies I have seen them in Boise and here in the Pacific Northwest. I remember seeing them in central California as a kid too. To me they are a great ‘Steam Punk’ Garden plant. They pay homage to the Victorian gardens of the late 19th Century but are definitely contemporary as well. Hardy hibiscus fit my aesthetic.

Enjoy and Happy Gardening!

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Catching Up! Life Is a Dervish If You Are WIlling To Spin For It.

Alright, where to start?

I spoke to my first large crowd. I was told there was about 350 people who attended my presentation/talk on containers. It was a triple feature and had a movie theme which adds a touch of entertainment—A Container Named Desire, Plant on a Hot Tin Roof, The Plant Menagerie (True Confessions of a Plantaholic). It was great and I thank those who let me beg and borrow images. The Inland Empire Gardeners are a great group and if you are approached to speak at one of their meetings you really should not hesitate.

Spokane Garden Expo was the weekend after Mother’s Day and its a one day show with a lot of bang. Number two garden show in the State of Washington. They say 25,000 people attend it on the one day it is held. Yes, a one day show—300 vendors and people ready to shop! Where was their tweet-up?

My greenhouse has been filled to the gills and is almost to the point of puking plants! I am serious. I turn around and I have another 500 bare-root or plugs delivered? What am I doing besides planting it all and watering them? Oh yeah, I know what I am doing. I am endeavoring to take care of all my container clients and make sure all of them are happy. Easier said than done—the weather has just warmed up.

Its been a cool and wet spring and the weeds have taken over around the nursery. I am on the defense there and will be mowing, burning, torching and doing what I can to get a hold of my sales yard again. Being in the country is charming and all, but the weeds have minds of their own.

This week I am getting the garden planted. It’s a must. I will be writing a couple more posts and feeling more myself than like“The United States of Tara” that’s for sure.

I have recently purchased for myself a few more antique roses and am currently endeavoring to do my own containers. I don’t have much of a social life.

Work, garden, Farmers Market—my mother (for those of you who know about the situation)—these things don’t leave much time for a social life.

So a short list of what to look in the coming couple weeks.

Antique Roses and why I think you should grow them.

Planting out my garden.

Container madness—or how I became mad?

What is this F’ed up sedum?


So out into the garden I go!

Sweet, Sweet Peas


Lathyrus odoratus Matucana

I have never really thought about sweet peas much untill a couple of years ago. A friend had me arrange flowers for her future daughter-in-law’s wedding party and me being the type of wing it person I am decided since I had to travel across the state to do this I would buy the flowers at the local Farmers Market.

There were two vendors hat sold flowers at the Market that day. Lilies were in season. The bride was using an assortment of pinks so Stargazer lilies were perfect for flower arrangements on the altar. Then I started to look around at what else I could use. Zinnias, snapdragon, larkspur/Delphinium and sweet peas.

I stumbled upon this small flower that was sweetly fragrant, a bit of spice and in a broad range of pinks. I could do bridesmaid bouquets easily and still work them into the bridal bouquet. Corsages and boutonieres could have a touch of sweet pea as well. I could work them into table arrangements for a looser, informal look. I scored the jackpot and bought two bucket loads.

Last year I decided I would grow a few sweet peas…few my rear end. Before I knew it I had purchased 22 different packs of select cultivars and several different packs of mixed seed. Did I just want them to see what I wanted to use? Was it plant lust? I really don’t know.

What I do know is that I enjoyed bringing in the cut flowers and giving them to friends as well.

Lathyrus odoratus Incense Peach Shades

This year I found myself ordering sweet pea seed without hesitation. Heirloom selections, new color mixes, old-fashioned, and traditional varieties.

So here is my list. I have it pretty well-trimmed down. I also have a ‘theme’ or my artistic eye is just looking at small bouquets of them set around my home. Guess I will just have to wait and find out if my eye and my gut were good judges.

Streamers Mix (

Incense Peach Shades (

Royal Family Navy Blue (

Chatsworth (for those that know me, you know why I chose this cultivar) (

Black Knight ( and Grandiflora 1898

Painted Lady ( dates back to 1730

Beaujolais ( and Spencer Traditional Wave

Matucana ( Grandiflora 1699

Cupani ( Grandiflora 1695

High Scent ( Modern Spencer Wave

Leamington ( Spencer Traditional Wave

Lathyrus odoratus High Scent

Now the only thing I am going to leave you not knowing is how many packs of each I have in fact did purchase. I don’t need to boast, but I must also admit I did hold back and not buy as many as I would have liked.

I have stumbled along  and come across many sites that feature sweet peas.

I think next year i will be working on a small display of old, old varieties as well as growing them for my home, friends, and own benefit.