Coenosium Gardens had its official beginning in 1979, but my passion for conifers actually began in 1974. While I was living in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, I met a person who was selling some unusual conifers from a conifer collection that was on property he had purchased. I actually managed to trade a nice fern fossil for five very special conifers and my collection was started.
I travelled during the summers and made regular visits to a number of different collectors. The names form sort of a who's who of the conifer world. In New Jersey I would visit Rudi Kluis and Don and Hazel Smith. On Long Island I spent much time with Joe Reis and Eddie Rezek as well as Joel Spingarn, Alfonso Ossorio and Jim Cross. In Pennsylvania I struck up a close friendship with Layne Ziegenfuss and came to know Greg Williams from Vermont. Interestingly enough, Greg was the original owner of the collection that started me collecting conifers.
I also spent time in various arboreta and got to know Al Fordham at the Arnold Arboretum, Sid Waxman at the University of Connecticutt, Sue Martin at the National Arboretum, and J. C. Raulston at the now J. C. Raulston Arboretum in North Carolina.
These friends were sharing both in plants and knowledge. Coenosium Gardens was started with a philosophy that reflects a synthesis of their attitudes and approaches to life, plants, and other people. I decided early on that everyone should be able to share in the beauty of conifers. Coenosium Gardens had to be an ethical business that provided rare conifers to anyone wanting them.
Of course, Coenosium Gardens was started for a practical reason. I was acquiring rare conifers from many sources. However, when one died, I would have trouble finding a replacement. I decided that I had to learn how to propagate my own conifers and duplicate new additions to my collection. That way, if one plant died, I did not lose it from the collection. I also figured that I could propagate some extra plants and sell them to cover my expenses.
Layne taught me to graft. I built a greenhouse out of 2x4's covered with plastic with a small bucket-a-day coal stove for hot water heat under the benches. I also used a Sears gas heater for backup. That greenhouse served me until Dianne and I decided to move to Oregon.
I made a number of plant friends on the West Coast. Gordon Bentham in British Columbia, Dick Bush in Canby, Oregon, and Jean Iseli in Boring, Oregon were three especially close friends. Jean offered me a position at Iseli Nursery so in 1986 I came west with two semi loads of plants (10,000 in all), and Dianne followed a week later with the furniture.
After ten years of various business and personal ventures Dianne and I found ourselves living in Eatonville, Washington and I returned to teaching science to eighth graders at a local middle school. Our life during that ten years included moving the nursery and collection from Boring, Oregon to Aurora, Oregon to Tacoma, Washington, and finally to Eatonville, Washington. I designed and planted a small arboretum (of two to five acres) in Boring, again in Aurora, and finally in Eatonville.
Our customers often had problems keeping track of our movements, but now we are settled. Our present property of 5+ acres is being landscaped with about three acres of conifer gardens. Our nursery occupies about one half acre and will never be much larger, especially since I am an educator first and a nurseryman second.
This web site reflects my interests in conifers and my dedication to education. Regular visitors to this site will gain an education, and it won't cost a penny. Visitors to this site will also have the opportunity to purchase plants and may sometimes find special bargains only offered through the web.
Coenosium Gardens will be an important site for anyone interested in conifers. It will maintain high standards and present a wealth of information that can be read and understood by the home gardener in addition to presenting material of value to the conifer expert.
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