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


The New Indie Garden Center Owner

Today was very enlightening. Walking around the trade show floor one just never knows what could catch an eye. She was seen. What I had hoped to find and don’t seem to at trade shows.
This girl is an edgy, goth/alternative type, but right on track. Girl? She just turned twenty-nine and today was her birthday.

Approaching her I asked if I could talk to her for a minute and see how she was enjoying the show and what she was looking at.

The conversation was very relaxed- footing was equal and she appreciated my candid and direct questions as much as enjoyed her esprit decor.
Much was learned quickly–she was here with her mother, a veteran of the garden center trade who had worked for someone else the past 20 years. The mother, with her daughters, had decided it was time to take a risk on something they could call their own. Risky indeed in this economy, but a risk worth taking.

Organics, sustainable, natural were words that came from both these women’s lips. They plan to raise and sell their own eggs- the young woman herself was a bee keeper and planned on having honey as something that was sold at the nursery. Chickens were also part of the package…an odd, but very thought out plan was being related to me and how they would do this in a town with a base population of thirty thousand people.

I feel at times very alternative, very not fitting in with the nursery crowd–too indie. I sell plants to people like this bright young woman when I go to shows and lectures in Spokane, Seattle, and Portland. There is an untapped market of brilliant younger people–couple, singles, families–that are educating themselves online. They are becoming the new plant geeks in the garden sphere.
Nothing like meeting a 22 year old peony collector who is plopping down a hundred dollars on an Itoh peony you have at your show booth. You read that correctly, too sweet to make that kind of stuff up.

Be aware of your customer base–it’s not all ladies 45-60. The base is becoming younger, way hipper, and highly savvy. Just because you have read the cover of a book seldom do you know the story at all.

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.


Re-thinking signs around the nursery- qurify!

I have been thinking about this for a while now. I have these signs about plants that people can read but they still want printed information on them. I am not a fan of loads of paper fliers that get faded in the sun or too easily wet when watered.

Along comes a spider–or at least something new in the technology realm. QR codes.

You have seen them popping up on product tags like some jumbled bar code but they hold more information than just a price code.

I am now on a quest. Clients, customers, visitors be warned. BE aware is more like it! I am qurifying all my signs. You will have to use a smart phone if you want to know the price, what the plant is and any other info I have put on the sign. Zone, watering, where to plant–it can all go on there.

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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Coleus—not the shade plant you thought they were.

Coleus are great plants for containers. I cannot resist using them in almost all the summer planting that I do for myself or for clients.

I have had many people come up and ask me what I am planting? Their bright-colored leaves make people curious. When I say they are coleus the reaction I get most often is—”Aren’t those shade pants?”

Well, yes, some are shade plants. The Kong series are shade plants with their huge leaves. They need those huge leaves to capture the filtered light.  But the small-leaved varieties are great sun plants. I live in the desert, we don’t have shade.

When I plant coleus in containers I like to drench the roots. This season I have been drenching them in Haven Brand Moo Poo Tea giving the coleus the best advantage to establish. I would suggest feeding them the tea at least once a month throughout the summer. I am starting to become a big believer of the Moo Poo Tea.

Bright and ‘designer’ in feeling, don’t let the sun frighten you from planting these tough little plants.

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!