As the signs of autumn set in on the Olympic Peninsula, vivid changes arise in the natural environment that signal the turning towards a cozier season. No one observes these changes as keenly as David Allen.
“I see the geese flying overhead, scrub-jays coming in and taking acorns off the oak trees, squirrels getting to the filbert nuts, and all these little towhees diving in and out of dense thickets of shrubs,” Allen says.
“To see those things, how they look over the course of the day, how they appear through the seasons, witnessing the life in and amongst them, all of that makes me feel really good.”
Allen is the owner of Shore Road Nursery, a nursery at the Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market that specializes in providing native plants to the Olympic Peninsula for landscaping and restoration.
“Our plants are propagated from our local collections of seeds and cuttings from the Olympic Peninsula,” Allen says. “We do that to maintain the genetic integrity of the plant populations. The local genetics provide the best fit for the plants to grow here. They’re the most ecologically adapted.”
Allen shares that a native plant is classified by its ability to grow naturally by itself and its introduction to the locality by its own accord, unaided by people.
“These plants date back to a time before European people came here and facilitated the widespread introduction of foreign plants,” he says.
Allen and his business partner relish the opportunity to pull their sleeves back and get dirty in pursuit of new plants for their collection.
“You might see Christina off in a roadside ditch collecting propagules,” laughs Allen. “That’s very possible.”
Driven by whatever catches his eye as being especially adaptable to landscapes or useful in restoration, plants available from Shore Road Nursery have been sourced from hikes along local trails, forays into nearby woods and from vehicles pulled aside lushly surrounded roadways.
This is the way Allen has always done this work.
“I’ve been outside my whole life teaching about landscape design and restoration work,” he says.
Allen’s history includes work with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and as an environmental consultant. With a degree in botany, and teaching credentials in locational agriculture and life sciences, Allen’s long history of working in ecological restoration revegetation projects began in the 1980s.
His experience led him to work with the National Park Service, growing native plants for the Elwha River Restoration project. After cultivating and planting more than 400,000 plants in the Elwha Valley, Allen retired from the project in 2020.
Now Allen has set sights on establishing a nursery.
“In working for the park, I grew all these plants that people were interested in, but there was no place to buy them,” Allen says.
“The idea now is to provide all of these appropriate, beautiful plants that are highly functional for people’s own spaces.”
Allen says he centers his work on habitat value, which is the importance of habitat conditions sustaining wildlife populations and biological diversity.
“If you drive around and look at the handiwork of man,” he says. “You’ll see that it’s everywhere. If you get in a plane and look out the window, you’ll notice that your hard-pressed to find a place that does not have the heavy imprint of our deeds,” says Allen. “Look at how much space that takes up. It’s very challenging for other life forms to inhabit these areas.”
Planting native species in personal landscapes is something that Allen points to as a simple step towards increasing ecological health.
“Once you establish a dynamic in your yard by putting in the right plants, you can see life come back quickly to a small space,” he says. “It’s very fulfilling. It’s a small thing, but in the collective, if everyone does it, it becomes a big thing!”
Each Saturday, Shore Road Nursery brings a sampling of their full landscaping collection to the market.
“For me, landscaping is parceled with habitat value,” Allen says.
“We bring in things that have both aesthetic appeal and wildlife value in habitats.”
While the impact of planting native plants is hugely beneficial, Allen shares that it’s so simple to introduce his highly adaptable native plants to a home garden or yard that anyone can do it.
“Put the green side up, that’s pretty much all you have to know,” Allen says, laughing. “They really don’t require any special knowledge beyond that.”
Shore Road Nursery is at the Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market every Saturday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. through October.
Visit your community market at Sequim Civic Center Plaza at North Sequim Avenue and West Cedar Street.
Want more market updates? Be sure to tune in every Friday at 4 p.m. to KSQM 91.5 FM for the live radio “Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market Hour.”