Islanders rally around Maury plant nursery

Colvos Creek Nursery owner Mike Lee stands among greenhouses destroyed by snow and rain. - Amelia Heagerty/staff photo
Colvos Creek Nursery owner Mike Lee stands among greenhouses destroyed by snow and rain.
— image credit: Amelia Heagerty/staff photo

On Friday morning, a dozen Islanders gathered at Colvos Creek Nursery on Point Robinson Road. Friends, neighbors, strangers, gardeners, customers — they all came to the woodsy farm on a knoll to help nursery owner Mike Lee deconstruct his three greenhouses.

Ruined by December’s inclement weather, each greenhouse had collapsed under the weight of snow and rain the day after Christmas.

Wearing coveralls, hats and muck boots, some of the volunteers hauled long strips of steel or wood beams, while others worked to separate the greenhouses’ plastic covering from its wooden supports.

The trio of structures protect up to 54,000 plants when full, and at least one of the three was packed when the roof caved in. It was full of small native and drought-resistant plants raised by Lee, a respected authority on local botany.

But today, those plants lie exposed to the elements, some toppled over and all exposed to the blustery weather recently.

“It’s kind of urgent,” Lee said. “We have to do this now. Even a light frost would be tough after what they’ve been through.”

Amazingly, he hasn’t lost any of his plants to the weather. Since the greenhouses were destroyed, the temperatures haven’t dropped below freezing, Lee said. However, replacing the plastic, wood and steel for the three structures will cost around $9,000, he said.

Customers are rallying around the nursery owner, pre-purchasing plants and buying gift certificates to spend at the nursery later. Several people commented Friday that Lee is knowledgeable and friendly and sometimes has hard-to-find plants they can’t get anywhere else.

“Our Island nurseries are great because they know our Island — what will grow here, what can’t,” said Sally Fox, a neighbor and customer of the nursery. “So it’s really good to help keep our nursery going.”

Lee said he’s only got enough to purchase one of the greenhouses’ components, but hopes purchases by customers and from his winter sale will bring in enough for the other greenhouses. Colvos Creek Nursery will hold a sale at the end of this month or the beginning of February, he said.

“We have enough to build one right away, and the others with luck,” Lee said with a smile.

He added that he’s ordering greenhouses with roofs that peak this time, rather than the arcing design that failed this winter.

Fox organized many of the volunteers who showed up Friday ready to work. She sent e-mails to Vashon’s Master Gardeners, members of the Vashon Garden Club and supporters of the Vashon Allied Arts Garden Tour, many of whom replied enthusiastically they’d do what they could to help.

“Mike has served so many people with plants that are native to the area,” said Fox, the president of the Garden Club. “There’s not a lot of cushion for local nurseries, so when disaster strikes — economy, weather — it’s a big blow.”

Lee joined in the greenhouse deconstruction, clearly happy to have so many hands on the job.

“It’s so Vashon,” he said of the upwelling of community support. “I’m not surprised. This is kind of the way it is around here, people helping each other.”

As Islanders and gardeners Anna Martinsen and Jaralene Spring worked meticulously to separate plastic from wooden beams, Carol Zablinski joined in. Though she didn’t know the two friends, the three worked together as though they’d gardened side by side. Chatting, hammering and pulling nails, they steadily moved their way down the long wooden beam before hauling it off to the scrap wood pile a few yards away.

Islanders Melinda Calhoun and Cindy Fleck-Fisher didn’t know about Friday’s work party, though they knew the nursery had sustained damage in December.

“Driving by, I thought, ‘Oh no, my favorite nursery,’” Calhoun said.

Both women shop at the nursery, she said, and as they drove by Friday morning, decided to pull over to see how they could help.

“We thought we’d be moving plants into something still standing, but it looks like that won’t be possible,” Fleck-Fisher said.

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