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Garden talk: High Hand Nursery spotlights whimsey

By: Jane Rounsaville
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With surreal plants, sky-scraping designer metal palm trees and playful sculpted critters at every turn, High Hand Nursery is the Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of garden centers. Welcome to a gardener’s bronze world of fantasy and nostalgia. A place where dragons fight, frogs wear top hats or crowns, where old-fashioned garbed kids ride tortoises and climb stairways to nowhere. Or scenes of simple, quiet moments frozen in time, like reading, napping, or daydreaming — the way garden life was meant to be. “We have some beautiful grasses that are a little bit more unusual than what most people carry,” nursery manager Lyn Bristol said recently. “Plus we have a great variety of perennials that we grow ourselves. We always try to pick something unusual about them, whether it is the color or the shape.” The nursery focuses on native plants. “We try to carry products and plants that will thrive in our area and will pay homage to the Sierra foothills, rather than trying to create a tropical paradise,” Bristol said. “We carry a large assortment of Japanese maples. We also have conifers, pines and spruces, and things like that, that are a little different than what most nurseries carry.” There are also dwarf pines as well as other plants and trees suitable for smaller gardens. The full-service nursery employs about 30 people, including landscapers, designers, consultants, an expert sales staff and ironwork artisans. “Every employee at High Hand does everything from working in the mud to handling the most fragile imported glass,” marketing director Michele Parry said. “No one gets out of hard work.” That includes nursery owner Scott Paris. “I am involved daily, and I am onsite as needed,” he said. “I basically spend my day supporting everybody who works here, in whatever way they need to be supported.” The Loomis nursery is on a 100-year-old property in that was once a thriving fruit-packing business. Paris has owned the property for about five years. “We took over the building in 2003,” he said. “It was a vacant property, so we started it from scratch.” The building was once filled with stacks of wooden crates of fresh Placer-grown fruit ready to be shipped throughout the world. The original machinery, conveyor belts and scale are still there, but now the space is filled with row upon row of large, colorful glazed planters and strawberry pots, and rustic pottery in earthy browns and greens. Paris travels to China each year, and personally selects the pottery, as well as the bronze garden sculptures and fountains, he said. High Hand’s event center and cafe are scheduled to open in October, complete with two outdoor ovens and a menu featuring fresh vegetables grown at the nursery. “We are putting in a full vegetable garden in the back, to not only provide the restaurant with fresh vegetables, but also to support the curriculum that we’re introducing to different school districts,” Paris said. This time of year, he loves to watch local families picking berries in High Hand’s strawberry patch. A self-taught nurseryman, Paris has been a landscape contractor for 20 years. “This is definitely a passion-based career,” he said. “And it is a lot of fun to create things that people will enjoy.” High Hand Nursery is located at 3750 Taylor Road in Loomis, phone (916) 652-2065.