Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they produce and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.
By Sarah West
Petal Heads, a West Linn based nursery owned and operated by Dave and Annilese Doolittle, has been selling at local area farmers’ markets and garden fairs since they launched their backyard business in 2008. Both come from horticultural backgrounds—Dave currently works as the Director of Marketing at Terra Nova Nurseries, a local nursery with international notoriety for their distinctive breeding work (you may have one of their Heuchera or Echinacea introductions in your own garden), and Annilese earned a degree in horticulture from the University of Illinois.
Growing up in Illinois, Annilese got a taste for entrepreneurial plant propagation, potting up sports from her mother’s Hosta garden that she sold at her local farmers’ market. A move to Oregon and marriage to a fellow plant-enthusiast later, Annilese is still sharing her passion for the plants she loves, and propagating them in the driveway of their home in West Linn.
I visited recently for one of their weekend open houses. Though Petal Heads does not keep regular hours, they do host occasional sales, an opportunity to browse and buy from their entire plant collection. (Visit their website, portlandpetalheads.com, or email them at email@example.com for information on upcoming sales.)
As true plant collectors, Dave and Annilese have an infectious enthusiasm for the unique and unusual. I found their nursery (like their stall at the market) stocked with a pleasing mix of the familiar and the exotic. Two blooming flats of Sisyrinchium (blue-eyed grass)—one of the top-sellers at the market, according to Annilese—were the anomaly. Most of the plant varieties on display had only a handful of representatives, making for a highly diverse and doted-after assortment.
Dave’s work at Terra Nova gives him the opportunity to learn about plants, such as the work of Eugene-based Hellebore breeder Marietta O’Byrne. Her recent series of double-flowered Hellebores add new color and zest to the winter garden, and rank among Dave and Annilese’s personal favorites.
Terra Nova’s Heucheras are also well represented in Petal Heads’ collection. The rainbow of foliage colors on offer can liven up shady spots, adding a refreshing pop of burgundy, lime green or peach to the undergrowth.
Interesting foliage plants permeated the nursery, including Mayapples, Epimediums, a gorgeous black-leaved Bugbane, white-veined niger Hellebores, holly ferns and Hostas, to name a few, all illustrating that a garden without showcase flowers can be as varied and interesting as its blooming counterpart.
Just before I left the nursery, Annilese brought out the official mascot, Frondteena, Belgian hare with fine features and coloring as rich as one of the Heucheras on display. It is Frondteena’s profile that they used to create their logo image. Alice followed a white rabbit into Wonderland; Frondteena beckons curious gardeners to Petal Heads’ wonderland of new and unusual plants.