Nestled in a forest at the base of Wagner Creek Road just outside Talent, Plant Oregon nursery is a living monument to the resilient power of nature — and the staying power of local family business.
When Walter and Geraldine Bish purchased the site in 1954, it was dominated by a broad expanse of alfalfa and sparsely populated by native trees and plants. The Bishes built their home gradually, adding only what they could afford and paying close attention to their natural landscape.
Their children, Nancy, Angie and Daniel, learned early on to be stewards of their natural environment and to trust that time would yield good results. Weekends would find the family planting trees, pruning the orchard and tending to their vegetable garden.
Formally begun by Daniel Bish in 1976, the nursery is now co-owned by his mother, Geraldine (or Dene, as she prefers to be called), and his son, David.
"When we bought this place, there were no trees, except along the creek and one in the far corner. It was all blackberries and wild roses," says Dene Bish. "We planted a lot of them, but the trees are primarily Dan's work. We wanted to be sure they grew, so we had Dan plant 'em. He's got 10 green fingers, I think."
"We really like creating forests out of pastures or big open spaces," says Daniel Bish. "Mother Nature can come back so strong, even after destruction — if you just plant trees and let them grow."
Plant Oregon offers thousands of native trees and shrubs, which fill the surrounding hillside with an ever-shifting canopy as father and son place, dig, water and feed the many varieties of their leafy flock. While the family's primary business is growing plants, they also sell homemade compost by the truckload, and Daniel Bish, a licensed landscape contractor and seasoned horticulturist, specializes in habitat restoration and natural landscaping.
Basing their plant selections on more than aesthetics, the Bishes lean toward plants that can eventually grow to be self-sufficient. "Planting things that provide a benefit to the wildlife, and that are filling a niche and affecting their surroundings to make a whole, is really important," says David Bish.
The Bishes take care to blend newcomers seamlessly into their surrounding habitat, planting what can thrive long-term without constant irrigation.
"Once established, the trees can shade their root zone and be left on their own," says Daniel Bish. "They won't require as much in the way of natural resources when they can create and sustain their own ecosystem."
"We recently excavated a plateau on our property by digging into a hill," says Wagner Creek newcomer Marcy Graham. "We were able to create a little shelf with southern exposure where we hope to plant fruit trees. My husband, Mac, was a professional gardener for the Phil Pilsbury estate in Minneapolis, but that doesn't qualify us to know what is needed in this particular case. Dan and his crew are really a unique match in terms of knowing what plants are needed."
David Bish has become an increasingly integral part of the business over the years, his father says.
"Dave has just been an incredible contribution and has really pulled it all together. We got to this certain point where the business seemed to need something else, and we decided to reward Dave's hard work and long hours with a third of the business. He has just made it blossom with all that fresh, young energy — and with an artist's touch."
"It's such a good source for unique, local plants for restoration, in addition to ornamentation," says Mac Graham. "There were several plants that we were really interested in, like the Siskiyou cypress, which is local to just this small range and is really endangered because of forest fires.
"There were a couple of local gooseberries that were really big, with these gorgeous fuschia flowers. And there was a Pacific yew, apparently the only species of yew that is nontoxic and is actually used by the American Medical Association for cancer therapy. To be able to find a guy like Dan who is knowledgeable about specifically what is well-suited to the region is such a gift. And he lives in the neighborhood — how could you get more local than that?"
For more information, contact Plant Oregon at 541-535-3531 or see www.plantoregon.com.