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The Educational Journey of a Plantsman: John Whittlesey

Articles: The Educational Journey of a Plantsman: John Whittlesey

Late summer in a garden designed by John Whittlesey. Photographs by John Whittlesey, except as noted

Good gardeners and plantsmen, just as good gardens, evolve as they mature—putting down deeper roots, becoming richer in their diversity and complexity.

John Whittlesey, owner of Canyon Creek Nursery and Design in Oroville, California, is an exceptional plantsman. A naturalist in his youth, he grew into an apprentice nurseryman, and founded a specialty mail-order nursery of international renown. In 1986, Whittlesey wrote, typed, and direct-mailed his first sixteen-page Canyon Creek Nursery (CCN) catalogue filled with hard-to-find cottage garden plants. Its cover was illustrated with simple line drawings of a violet, a dianthus, and a geranium, drawn by his artist/educator wife Susan.

John Whittlesey with Rigel. Author’s photograph

When the final catalogue was mailed in 2004, the nursery and its owner had matured from a focus on growing plants for different climates around the country to a greater sensitivity to design and environme...

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