Nursery at Mount Si helps gardeners make the best of an imperfect season

Staff at North Bend’s Nursery at Mount Si include, from left, back row, Grady McDonald, Beto Bueno, Christine Earl and Sarah Winslow; seated, Jose Larios and owner Nels Melgaard.  - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Staff at North Bend’s Nursery at Mount Si include, from left, back row, Grady McDonald, Beto Bueno, Christine Earl and Sarah Winslow; seated, Jose Larios and owner Nels Melgaard.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

The summer sun is hiding its face, but the perennials in Christine Earl’s hands don’t seem to mind the Valley’s confused seasonal weather.

Earl’s boots crunch on the gravel as she moves from yarrow to salvia to bee balm, pointing out the plants that are coming into their big moment, sun or no, at the Nursery at Mount Si.

The extra-long, extra-wet spring and cool, late summer that the Snoqualmie Valley is experiencing in 2011 has been hard on gardeners and on the nursery’s bottom line, but Earl, the Nursery at Mount Si’s manager and head buyer, knows how to make the best of the situation, helping gardeners and homeowners salvage the season and exercise their green thumbs.

“This is a great time to be planting,” she said. “The weather is perfect—not too hot, not too cool.”

Earl’s deer-proof, low-maintenance selections are ready to unveil a blaze of summer petals, blue skies or no.

“This is a butterfly and hummingbird heaven right here,” she said. “They’re looking pretty gosh-darn good right now.”

Nearby, vivid pinks, reds and purples of dahlias, heather and poppies greet visitors as they step out of their cars.

“You still have time to have an amazing amount of color in your yard,” Earl said.

She helps compliment the plants with a hand-picked selection of garden art and furniture, water features, planters, trees and shrubs, all with an eye for helping people enjoy the outdoors and green, growing things.

“We can help you set up a living garden space,” Earl said. “Every bit of it—all the furniture you will need, earth-friendly pesticides, soils.”

Back to basics

Facing its toughest summer yet, the nursery is now going through a big sale in a make-it-or-break-it year.

“We’ve got a lot of inventory that needs to move, based on a sluggish economy and terrible weather,” owner Nels Melgaard said.

Still, the nursery remains focused on getting local gardeners the healthiest plants, best garden know-how and basic, earth-friendly soils and ingredients.

The nursery started out years ago as an organic farm, so it takes the healthy approach very seriously, starting with the soil.

Melgaard emphasizes what’s under all the green trees and thriving plants: rich, living dirt.

“We evolved from a certified organic farm. We didn’t know a lot about chemicals, and we tried to learn as little as possible,” Melgaard said.

All soils at The Nursery at Mount Si are inoculated with life-giving or living materials, such as organic bonemeal, worm castings or old-fashioned manure. Melgaard said every measurement shows that beneficial soils mean healthier plants.

Innovation is good, but Earl also goes with the tried and true: the plants that she knows are going to grow in the Valley’s unique microclimate.

Year-round events

“People always ask, is it too late to plant?” Melgaard said. “We plant year-round.”

With proper soils, nutrients and water, “Plants are going to be better in your garden than the nursery,” he added.

You can plant beets, carrots, radishes, lettuce and spinach from seed, now through fall.

“It’s still a good time to clean up a row and plant,” said Melgaard, who suggests getting the whole family involved in planting a row of seed veggies for the local food bank.

The Nursery at Mount Si can help locals get involved in the community-garden Plant A Row program, and is also involved in other ways. It’s a drop-off spot for local farm-to-table produce, and is also entering its summer entertainment role.

The Nursery at Mount Si is planning several outdoor concerts this summer to benefit local good causes, and provide funds for the nursery’s badly needed elk fence.

On July 29, singer-songwriter Carrie Elkin will kick off its Summer Guest Artist Concert series. More artists and events will follow, including the Grangestock benefit for Sallal Grange on August 5.

There is a suggested $15 donation, but tickets remain pay-what-you-can.

“I’d rather have people come,” Melgaard said. “It’s a unique, wonderful opportunity.”

To Melgaard, the industry will always have its challenges, but the Nursery at Mount Si remains an oasis of beauty in the Valley.

“It’s an iconic place,” he said. “It’s a meeting ground,” where neighbors meet and the community comes together.

“There isn’t a nursery that sits where we sit, with beautiful pastures and happy cows on one side, and a gorgeous mountain on the other,” Earl said. “We have the most incredible view.”

• The Nursery at Mount Si is located at 42328 N.E. 12th St., North Bend; call the nursery at (425) 831-2274 or visit

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