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What species do you want to see @ an online permie nursery? +what qualities?

 
Michael Longfield
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Howdy,

I'm a year into developing my online permaculture nursery.  I thought I'd get some feedback from the permaculture community.  What qualities do you look for in a good online permaculture nursery?  What species do you want to see in stock?  What species do you have a hard time sourcing that you wish were more available?

Thanks so much!

 
Chris Holcombe
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I'd say okios tree crops is a good example to follow. They stock a bunch of leguminous trees and their prices are good.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Michael Longfield wrote:What qualities do you look for in a good online permaculture nursery? 


All the plant material is grown in my valley, and has been for several generations or more.

Michael Longfield wrote:What species do you want to see in stock?


Species that can be expected to thrive in my valley and/or  the immediately adjacent valleys that are colder/warmer.

Michael Longfield wrote:What species do you have a hard time sourcing that you wish were more available?


I pretty much want species from the dry areas of central Asia. I don't have much interest in natives.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
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I would like to see an extensive offering of leguminous trees, bushes, etc. along with perennials that are drought and cold tolerant.  A lot of the stuff that was developed in the old Soviet Union would be great... 
 
Carma Nykanen
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I have given some thought to a permies nursery.

This isn't quite what you are asking but perhaps it's of interest.

I'd like to see a 'guild' being offered for sale. 

As part of the 'buy a guild' it could be offered per zone, or have a 'pick one of all of these options that will do well in your zone' for each of the seven layers.

Into berries and fruit... here is a guild for you!  Wanting perennial veggies with a bit of herbs and nuts?  How about a chicken feed bonanza guild, this one's for you!

Fodder for the livestock?  You see....?

There seems to be so much mystery in what you can put together and why.  As part of the 'sit back and observe' a person can learn a lot from something that is more likely to work.....

With this interactive web site/catalog permies nursery it could end up being a major educational tool.  Likely introducing many to what Permaculture can be about.

just some thoughts...
 
David Livingston
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Stuff I cannot get else where
Like Medlars like new Russian cultivars of Quince you can eat off the tree , like cold hardy pomigranets , cold hardy avocardos
I would also like it to be in europe please
 
Nicole Alderman
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I tend to order from nurseries where the price is affordable and I can get multiple plants that I want at once. If a store only has, say, hardy kiwis, I'm less likely to order from them than one that has arrowhead, hardy kiwis, pawpaws, ground nuts, sweet cicily, fruit tress (both rare and common), Good King Henry, seakale, perennial onions, tea plants, watercress, szechuan peppers, yacon, and/or other edible perennials.

When I'm looking for a plant, I always search through the rest of the nursery to see what other edibles they have that I've been looking for. If they have something I've had on my list for a while, I'll probably buy it then. There's a LOT of plants that I've just been waiting for a good deal to buy, because I simply don't have money. I tend to invest in 1-5 new perennial species per year, as that's all I have the money for. Last year I got camas, lingonberry, bunchberry, service berry, and arrowhead. The first four were all ordered from the same place. I really just needed the camas, but they had the other plants, too, so I bought those as well. I also research any other interesting plants that they sell that I don't know about, and if it seems good, I might buy it, too.

Being a relatively beginner gardener, I much prefer small plants over seeds or cuttings. I want something that I know I will most likely not accidentally kill (or be unable to start growing), but also isn't such a large plants that I'll have to spend $30 on it rather than $10. I simply don't have a lot of money, and while I definitely understand selling plants to make a profit, I just can't afford them. But, if you've got some of the other plants on my list, or something really cool, I might be able to persuade my husband and myself to buy them that year, rather than a few years later.

As for climate/growing conditions, I look for things that will survive in zones colder than mine (zone 8a), as well as things that can tolerate wet feet, can tolerate shade, and are generally hard to kill and fast to multiply/produce. If it's native to my area, I'm also more likely to buy it. And, it has to be edible, because I can't afford companion plants that I can't also eat!

My current list of plants I'm looking/interested in buying are: hardy kiwis, pawpaws, improved ground nut species, sweet cicily, fruit tress (both rare and common. I'd like to start growing pears this year), Good King Henry, seakale, tea, watercress, szechuan peppers, yacon, and/or other edible, interesting perennials. A lot of those plants/varieties I found out about only by searching through nursery catalogs.

Oh! And the more information you can give me on a plant and how to grow it, the better. If I don't know about a plant, but you educate me on how awesome it is, I might just buy it! I spend a lot of time exploring and researching plant catalogs, since I don't have money.
 
Todd Parr
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Like others, I want nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs and anything edible that is cold hardy.  I would like to see seeds offered if you can stock things other than typical seeds that I can find everywhere.  I would like to see things stocked that may be considered a nuisance some places, but that permies like.  Things like common comfrey and autumn olive.

From a business aspect, please, please have a well functioning search feature and an easy, intuitive web page.  If you don't, I will probably never visit your site a second time.  I'm not an unsophisticated web user; I have been in IT my entire adult life.  If I have trouble navigating a website or finding what I want, I can only imagine how much trouble people have that aren't working on computers all day.  I am always surprised at sites that don't have very simple things that most people need.  If I'm searching for trees, shrubs, and plants, isn't it common sense that I would like to be able to look at everything you have for zone 4 and colder?  It doesn't seem like much to ask.
 
Chris Holcombe
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I really like the "buy a guild idea"!
 
Nicole Alderman
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Todd Parr wrote:
From a business aspect, please, please have a well functioning search feature and an easy, intuitive web page.  If you don't, I will probably never visit your site a second time.  I'm not an unsophisticated web user; I have been in IT my entire adult life.  If I have trouble navigating a website or finding what I want, I can only imagine how much trouble people have that aren't working on computers all day.  I am always surprised at sites that don't have very simple things that most people need.  If I'm searching for trees, shrubs, and plants, isn't it common sense that I would like to be able to look at everything you have for zone 4 and colder?  It doesn't seem like much to ask.


Very much this! I once ran across an online nursery that only had a catalog...there was no subsection for "edible plants" or even "trees" or "shrubs," let alone shade/sun, or zone. And, everything was by it's latin name, with no pictures. To find out if they had anything I wanted, I had to click through the entire index of plants, page by page and then open up every plant that looked mildly interesting. It was atrocious! Their prices were good, and they had an extensive list of plants. But, I wasn't able to easily navigate, and ended up not buying anything.

If you sell edible and non edible plants, please at least have a section titled "edible plants" so I don't have to weed through all the plants in your catalog to find the ones useful to me!
 
David Hernick
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Michael, it looks like you are in southern Illinois.  Ground Plum Milk Vetch is very hard to get as a small plants and it is hard to propagate.  Prairie moon has seed. https://www.prairiemoon.com/seeds/wildflowers-forbs/astragalus-crassicarpus-ground-plum.html

Toona sinensis is another one that is hard to find, especially at a reasonable price.

Ramps

Lespedeza capitata, roundhead bushclover & sericea lespedeza (which can help control parasites in sheep an goats)

Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus - the seeds are tiny and you cant find the plants




 
Michael Longfield
Posts: 70
Location: Southern IL zone 6B
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Thanks so much for these great replies!  I will consider them all when designing my nursery. 

I too have similar frustrations and desires when it comes to online nurseries.  For example, all the online seed companies that I had to painstackingly search all their alphabetical sections trying to compile their entire list of perennial vegetables.  If only they had a "perennial vegetable section".

So far I'm propagating...
woody crops: chestnut, hazelnut, antonovka apple, black locust, osage orange, siberian pea shrub, sea buckthorn berries
tubers: chinese wild yam, groundnut, jerusalem artichokes, chinese artichokes
seed crops: sea kale, caucasian mountain spinach

+others I'm probably forgetting.

This fall I'm propagating selected chestnut varieties from the research and development done by university of Missouri, selected hazelnuts
+peaches, quince, stone fruit, autumn olive, persimmon, eucommia, red bud, pear root stock, hardy kiwi, hawthorn, juneberry, gooseberry, currants

I'm working on having very detailed info pages on each plant, which is something I'm often surprised is missing from online nurseries.  I want lots of detail, as well as a quick reference summary.  I'm also trying to make the plants as affordable as possible, and giving bulk discounts.

Thanks so much yall! Keep it comming if you can.  I'm building this to serve this community! 
 
Michael Longfield
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In the future I want to offer lots of selected genetics of plants that are more cold hardy than is normal, and lots of exotic perennial vegetables.  I love the guild idea, and being able to search plants by hardiness zone and uses. 

I also bought the domain permaculturenutrition.com.  I want to spread the message of perennial nutrition from my nursery, and have lots of nutritional information on plants.  And give ideas on how you can design a food ecosystem that will supply a balanced diet. 
 
John Weiland
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I hope you are able to make a go of this idea, Michael, it would be  good resource for many not only starting their own permie living situation but as a general nursery of unusual offerings.

There is one approach I would consider, although it may make more work than you are interested in taking on.  Let's take a hypothetical case of someone wanting to purchase hazelnut stock from you.  In one vision of your nursery, you might have on hand bare root or potted nursery stock or also offer seeds of these exact same varieties.  However, an additional offering might be the same species of hazelnut sold as a "Mixed origin" brown bag of starter seed....seed that has been sent to you from, or collected by you at, many different locations.  The reasoning here is something to which almost all nurseries will be attuned:  Their offerings are adapted for the location in which they were grown.  If, for certain items, you were to offer the "brown bag special" of seeds collected from many different locations, then the buyer would have to be aware of this up front, but be purchasing such an item on the odd chance that there is a better performer among the seed lot for his/her location.  It would seem to me that this would be more important for perennials, as once you have something growing, you don't want to find out years later that some aspect of fruit/nut frost tolerance or flowering date is not compatible with a buyers's location.   A lot of the public germplasm releases to seed companies are often of this "mixed brown bag"  type, since anything selected at, say, Southern Illinois University would not be expected to perform well in the high desert plains.  The idea is to send the brown bag collection of seed with higher than normal genetic diversity and let the receiver re-select the best performers out of that pool.

Again, not really a cost-effective avenue for all of the stock, but for some perennial items that are very sensitive to location, I can see where this would be a unique advantage for your nursery.
 
Eric Powell
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Winged Sumac and Basswood:  Both are good later-season nectar sources for honeybees and not easy to find for sale from my research.
 
Janne Lassila
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This is a great idea!
For me, the most important thing would be availability: only a handful of nurseries send to Europe. Please search ways and associates to make this easy!  And taking into account old and new Russian/Soviet varieties, I tend to agree, get them! We have them in Finland (surprise surprise), but for you across the pond they might be very desirable...as is many things there that I crave.
Hardiness zone search is one factor, but it is not universal to have your hardiness zones. How about adding temperature also to the search ? Zone5/ something Celsius/Something Fahrenheit.
I agree also that try things not many others have. And be wary and interested if someone has a new cultivar/landrace to try for yourself. I'd rather buy something that is really cold hardy and produces small but good fruit, than to one that SHOULD bear big fruit....but dies back every winter.
Also, take free volunteer workforce now and then from permies enthusiasts that want to learn about propagating etc.
 
Michael Longfield
Posts: 70
Location: Southern IL zone 6B
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Now to search through the internet and my network of contacts to find all these super awesome, cold-hardy, and resilient genetics!   Anyone can contact me if they have any special tree/shrub/perennial seed that they want to trade or sell.

I just got into contact with two people who used to be commercial wild persimmon harvesters.  So they know lots of special genetics from my bio-region, some with drastically different characteristics, and all great producers.  Persimmons are ripe here in southern IL.  Preparing to plant!
 
Melody KirkWagner
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Most of what I think about it has been covered, but I thought I'd add some comments. +1 for the guild suggestions, price points, and lots of variety. Free or low shipping rates are a plus. Harder to pull off with plants than seeds, though. I always prefer seeds if they'll come to fruition by the second season.

It's the perennial veggies for my area that I have so much trouble finding - I'm in the pacific northwest of the US. They other thing is that I'm in a suburban yard. It seems like most permie nurseries are focused on people who want to create a major farm/orchard.

Unusual crops. We're lucky here in that we have a couple of nurseries that sell unusual crops, but with no particular interest in what the virtues are of the variety they chose. I wrote to one asking what variety of yacon they carry and didn't even get an answer. So instead, I discovered Cultivarious and ordered from there. Expensive, but he clearly knows what he's doing and cares about his customers.

I'd like to buy my whole wish list in one place. Here are some of things I haven't found or just haven't pulled the trigger on because I don't trust the local supply or, you know, didn't win the lottery:
Perennial greens of any sort
Profusion sorrel
weeping mulberry
Cornelian cherry
june berry
Caucasian
hardy kiwi
Chinese yams
toothwort
miners lettuce
sea kale - I got roots - I think that's a better idea than seed because it's hard to germinate
gooseberry - the , sweet, near thornless varieties are hard to find
Goumi
aconite or chinese aconite
chinese balsam
Campanulaceae ampanulaceae - edible
peruvian ground cherries
toona sinuses Flamingo (chinese cedar)
Alpine Strawberry ‘Pineapple Crush’ and ‘Yellow Wonder’ and Minonette
Epimendium
Allegheny chinquapin
NOOTKA ROSE (Rosa nutkana)
Agretti ‘Roscana’

That was my first wish list
I already got Yacon, Oca and Sea Kale, but I'm interested in the other Peruvian (or any!) root crops - esp. crosne

Then there's:
Land cress
Lamb's Lettuce
Edible - and flavorful - hostas
Same for ferns
ramps if they aren't wild-collected
any kind of perennial allium
cinnamon vine
lab lab
Unusual varieties of perennial flowers - especially edible ones
Perpetual spinach
Rhubarb
Perennial ornamentals welcome, too
A selection of seed potatoes, onions and mushroom spawn couldn't hurt.

Obviously you can only do a subset of all the things we all wish for. I think it's a challenging business - the shipping is beyond your control - but we all love a place that has what we want at prices we can afford. Good luck!
 
Pearl Sutton
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Neat replies so far! Most of what I was going to say has been said. Definitely the varieties that are hard to find, definitely a good searchable website, definitely all the information you can offer, definitely the brown bag specials of seed stock. I don't know the word, maybe it's been said, cuttings I can root myself., I can grow things, I just can't find starts. The more unusual fruits interest me more than "normal" ones, and of the "normal" ones the sturdier, tougher varieties that produce a few less of not as cute fruit, but that aren't fragile plants that need coddling. Oh, and flavor that is a FLAVOR not just SUGAR!!

One thing I'd like is organically grown. I hate getting a plant and there's balls of some kind of chemical fertilizer in the pot, makes me scream "AUGH! Don't contaminate my soil!!! I put so much work into it!!"

Love the idea of a guild at a time, I wouldn't be your target market there, but that's excellent marketing for other folks, and I'd love reading what you are selling as a guild. A weird marketing idea possibly worth considering is a thing like some of the nurseries do, they sell from several growers. If you are doing well, consider selling things from others of us who can grow stuff easily and add it to your offerings. I don't care to run a website like that, but I might love to sell off some excess propagation. I do the "do 50 and see how many make it" bit and when 45 make it, and I have space for 6, would be great to know there's someone I could send the others to.

Looking forward to seeing what you do!!
 
Tyrr Vangeel
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David Livingston wrote:Stuff I cannot get else where
...
I would also like it to be in europe please


Friend of mine is growing some good stuff in Belgium. He is always looking for new species/breeds but is off course also looking for frost resistance. He also can send in the EU by mail.

http://www.denoudekastanje.be/
you can reach him on facebook too or by e-mail: denoudekastanje@outlook.be (French should be oké I think).

This year's test for me was sweet patato and yacon. Don't know for next year yet --> looking for good ideas!
 
Richard Kastanie
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This is exciting, a permaculture-oriented nursery in a similar climate to me. I also like Oikos a lot, but they're stuff is hit and miss in our hotter climates. If you had both the diverse seedling selections liek Oikos does and also certain grafted varieties, that would be great, kind of like a cross between Oikos and Hidden Springs Nursery, which I also like a lot. I'd be especially interested if it was focused on things that you have positive personal experiences with on your site. Everyone's site is different, of course, but I'd rather buy from a place like Oikos or Hidden Springs that sells stuff they've had personal experience with raising under organic/permaculture conditions than some place that sells varieties not personally tested just to broaden their offerings (I have this frustration with Baker Creek Seeds, despite just being an hour away from me they're very hit and miss in terms of what actually works in the Ozarks.)

American x Asian hybrid persimmons, including Rosseyanka and Nikita's gift, would be something in particular I'd like to see. I have a Rosseyanka here that's producing for the first time this year, it's been fully winter hardy, no damage even in the unusually cold winter of 2013/14 that killed all the pure Asian persimmons that I was experimenting with. And persimmons are so trouble-free when compared with apples, peaches, and many other of our common fruits.

I'd love to see hazelnuts that produce in our climates, if you can find any, the information I've gathered in This Thread indicates that many of the nothern strains may not produce well or reliably south of a certain point.

And you've already mentioned chestnuts, but I'll mention them again, as they have so much potential. I've just been harvesting some very large chestnuts from trees planted in 2010 and 2011, a couple of Dunstans from Florida and some from Michigan have done quite well, and I'm saving seed to grow more trees, many of them will be crosses of the Florida and Michigan ones, as there's so much potential to select chestnuts best adapted to different regions.
 
Richard Kastanie
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Location: Missouri Ozarks
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Another idea is Yaupon Holly, if you can find any that is cold hardy enough for you. I have one planted here that's just been in the ground since the spring, it's grown great over the summer, but the real test is whether it can survive the winter. The one I got is from North Florida because that's the only mail order nursery source that I could find, I wish I found some from a colder area. I've seen it growing wild in the Ouachitas in west central Arkansas, which isn't too much different in the winter from where I'm at. So, if the Florida plant fails I may try starting some from seed even though it sounds like the seeds are pretty hard to germinate.

FOr those that don't know, Yaupon is closely related to Yerba Mate, and makes a similar tea (including the caffeine). And, despite having the scientific name Ilex vomitoria, it doesn't actually induce vomiting. It got that reputation from being used in a native ceremony that also included vomiting, but the plant is no more likely to cause vomiting that yerba mate.

Anyway, despite it being a common plant in much of the south, it isn't available from many mail-order places. If it does survive the winter, it's a good candidate for assisted migration. Planting species from a bit further south (or lower elevations in mountainous areas) is likely to be a good strategy in this age of climate change.
 
Michael Longfield
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Location: Southern IL zone 6B
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Thanks again for all the input. 

I am working on getting my hands on Ilex vomitoria as well as Camellia sinensis (common tea). 

I love love persimmons..harvested some yesterday. 
 
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