Welcome to Take 10, our new interview series with great gardeners. We’re starting off with a horticultural dynamo by the name of Dan Heims, President of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc. and introducer of many outstanding cultivars of heucheras, heucherellas, and other exciting perennials. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the man behind the plants.
1. What is the one thing that we’d be surprised to learn about you?
Besides living, breathing, and living horticulture, I play blues harp (harmonica) in a Blues band called KNOW.
2. If you weren’t in the world of gardening, what would you be doing?
Marketing. My dad ran a successful advertising agency in Portland, and I was blessed with his creative genes. My daughter is an advertising copywriter in New York City. My daughter and I were both Communication majors – me in Broadcast communications, she in Journalism. I must say I like marketing/brainstorming as much as I like plants (which I do to obsession).
3. If you could be a plant in another lifetime, what would it be?
A cycad. How cool would it be to be a plant that could say, “I knew dinosaurs…” Not to mention they are ferny-cool, but can cut you if you get too close; they take drought and blazing sun or shade; and they still have way-cool cones.
4. If you could create the perfect plant, what would it be?
I’d create evergreen plants that change color with the seasons. Ones that come in a myriad of leaf colors and flowers and foliage that could be used as cuts. Not everblooming, but maybe sporadic bloom or rebloom. With non-competitive roots, so they could be happy in a container or in the garden. Oh, wait a minute…I already did.
5. What is your favorite place in the world for finding inspiration or how do you go about finding inspiration in your work?
Japan. One small specialty nursery that is 1/10th of a city block but offers 10 varieties of Sciadopitys verticillata in different forms. Such history, such fanatics, such horticulture.
6. What’s the greatest plant expedition you’ve been on?
Japan, Aomori prefecture to Iwakuni (below Hiroshima) – best trip ever!
7. Do you ever go through a dry spell in your work? If you do, how do you get yourself out of the rut? And if not, how do you keep yourself motivated?
No. I am never bored. The internet is the greatest horticultural resource ever. It works like my brain- Oh, this is cool…but what’s that? Ooooh…cool! It’s never-ending. And there is something to be said for the rush of spring that I get from working in the garden.. The plants do communicate with me.
8. What’s the one thing that you don’t do in your garden that a lot of gardeners might find surprising?
I don’t remove moss. I love it!
9. When you’ve died, what do you want to be remembered for in the world of gardening?
I hope to introduce 201 more plants to horticulture (for a total of 801). This will best the marvelous Mr. Luther Burbank by 1. Then I can die in peace (with a lot of happy gardeners enjoying my children).
10. Do you have any other passions in your life besides gardening?
Travel, languages, photography, music, art, reading, love, and really, really good chocolate.