November 3, 2011 in Washington Voices

Expert shares passion for colorful gardens

Pat Munts
 
If you go

Dan Helms will speak tonight at the monthly meeting of The Inland Empire Gardeners at the Luxury Box Meeting Place, 10512 E. Sprague Ave., Spokane Valley. The talk starts at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

Until just a few years ago plants usually came with leaves in shades of green, yellow and, once in awhile, red. We thought we were in heaven with that many choices. Then along came an amazing plant breeding magician who showed us how very wrong we were.

Dan Heims has been growing unusual plants for more than 35 years, even before he finished his college career at the University of Oregon. Today he is the president and founder of Terra Nova Nurseries and the genius behind the development of the colorful heucheras and heucherellas that took the garden market by storm. Who knew that leaves could come in shades of copper, yellow, bronze, red, pink, gold and one that is very close to black? “I just have a passion for variety and possibilities,” Heims said in a recent interview. “I don’t get bored with them.”

Heims will share his passion and give us a peek at the future of color in the garden when he speaks tonight at the monthly meeting of The Inland Empire Gardeners at the Luxury Box. His talk is titled; “Creating Color: How Terra Nova Turns Ordinary Plants into Superstars.”

Terra Nova Nurseries is at the forefront of many of the recent developments of colorful perennials. For Heims, this means his passion for variety and creating unique plants is only limited by what his sophisticated breeding program and a lot of persistence can generate. “We may start 75,000 seedlings of heuchera and select only five for further work,” he said. “Besides color we also look at the leaf texture, plant size and overall shape of the plant.” Heims’ creations also include the Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ and ‘Mac and Cheese,’ which look the colors of their namesakes, as well as several cultivars of coreopsis, pulmonaria and tiarella. “I like to personalize names to everyday life in general,” he said with his characteristic chuckle.

Heims’ background has taken him from growing exotic plants in college to running his own landscape design and build company before he started Terra Nova. Today he is in high demand all over the world as a speaker, writer and photographer, and his gardens in Canby, Ore., are a mecca for gardeners who want to see the latest trends in color and garden design. Terra Nova’s breeding programs have produced many international gold and silver medal winners and have introduced an astounding 600 new plants to horticulture.

Heims uses his unique blend of knowledge and humor as he speaks around the United States, in Japan, England, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Tasmania, Australia and Canada. His articles, photographs and garden have appeared in USA Today, Forbes, Better Homes & Gardens, Sunset Magazine, and Organic Gardening, to name a few. He has run his own weekly gardening radio show and made numerous appearances on U.S. and British television, including stints with Martha Stewart. He is the author of “The Garden Clerk’s Dictionary,” a humorous look at the life of a garden store clerk, and “Heucheras and Heucherellas,” with Grahame Ware of British Columbia.

Master Gardener Pat Muntscan be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening. com.

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