Sam, the Maple Lady I am, and I welcome you to Eastfork Nursery. Eastfork Nursery is a family partnership between my husband Dave and myself. We found our piece of Paradise on 13 acres in La Center, Washington in 1984 and started Eastfork Nursery the next year. The vision began when we first arrived in June 1984. During the first summer we were clearing our land of uglies – weeds, plus wild blackberries, thistles, and nettles when I began to visualize the landscape with maple trees, specifically Japanese Maples [JMs] planted in and around our large specimen oaks and firs. I didn’t want to cut down one tree – I wanted to add to the nature around me.
I found out that the number of JMs I wanted would cost more than I could afford. So, I got a wholesale nursery license to save on money and buy them at a wholesale price. Well, I wanted dozens of JMs and they still were too costly, as my new job in Vancouver, WA was entry level. The next thing I know Dave is putting up a small 20’x 50′ Quonset style greenhouse for me and together we named the nursery – Eastfork because we live on the East Fork of the Lewis River in Southwest Washington State. My husband Dave is my maintenance guru and greenhouse builder and I am the maple grower, pruner, potting soil mixer, re-potter and pot mover – you get the idea.
The first JMs I grew were common cultivars found everywhere in the Pacific NW. Then I met Talon Buchholz the owner of a wholesale nursery in Oregon. With his help and guidance my knowledge and understanding of JMs went up a thousand percent. Talon introduced me to exciting new cultivars and soon Eastfork Nursery was the go-to-website for hard to find and rare specialty JMs.
Because in 1985 I had a full-time desk job I was open by appointment only on weekends or early evenings during the summer. Then in 2006 I retired from my day job and created my own website and began shipping JMs all over the country. I guarantee my maples will arrive in good condition or I will refund the customer’s money or replace the maple. Necessity made me a ‘Master Packer’ and my customers appreciate the effort. I am still open by appointment and there is nothing more rewarding than walking with my customers and friends around our property and sharing my knowledge and reason for planting a specific maple in a specific location.
Over the past 30 years my inventory has evolved and I now sell more than 100 different cultivars and most of them are rare or hard to find at local retail nurseries and garden centers. With the internet comes competition and I have seen the number of online sellers expand from only a handful in 2006 to dozens in 2019. My niche’ is growing rare and unusual JMs, thanks to Talon.
My husband and I have reached the golden age of 69 and we want to work less and play more – so I am reducing my inventory from 3,000 containers to a more manageable level between 2,000 and 2,300. Plus, I will limit the number of maples to be shipped each week to a maximum of 20 boxes. I am the nursery manager and operator which means I am responsible for all the work needed. Inventory requires buying baby maples every year and I try to buy 700 to 900 liners and pot them in 1 gallon containers. Annually, I re-pot another 600-800 maples. I now have my old Quonset style greenhouse, plus 2 larger greenhouses – each 30’x 80′ and a shade area of the same dimensions. The greenhouses are unheated and the maples do not seem to need the heat. I don’t have any employees, but I do hire a helper about 1 day a month to help with big projects, like putting the shade cloth on the greenhouses and outside shade structure in the spring and taking it off in the fall.
I believe my maples are a fair price for the love and attention I give each of them. They are my babies. I buy grafted babies from Talon and then grow them from 1 to 3 gallon size. I stake, prune and shape each maple from the time I get them until they are sold and adopted by a new family. I do not have larger maples because of shipping limitations and my aching back. When a maple grows too big to ship, I sell them at local plant sales or at my nursery. I am open at the nursery by appointment only throughout the year.
Sometimes it is necessary to tell a customer that I do have a specific maple, but it is below par so I won’t sell it. The feedback has been positive and it seems my honesty is appreciated. When customers ask about the maples I will offer to take a photo of the desired maple and email the photo to them. Which I consider extra customer service. I do not ship bare root – I ship all my maples in the containers they are growing in. It costs a little more to ship, but with the root ball intact, transplant shock is reduced and the maple gets established sooner. I also recommend SuperThrive a rooting hormone in a concentrate formula that is not a fertilizer. It stimulates root growth which does help maples to grow faster.
How I became ‘The Maple Lady’. My name is Samantha, but I prefer Sam. It seemed to be a problem leaving a message for someone from Sam – which the customer at the other end presumed was short for Samuel. When they returned my call and I answered they seemed confused that Sam was a woman. So, I would refer to myself as Lady Sam when leaving a message to call back and that became Sam – The Maple Lady.
I found my ‘Passion’ – Japanese Maples provide beauty six months a year with ever changing leaf color and I love the people who love Japanese Maples.