20 years!

I officially started Tadpole Haven Native Plants exactly 20 years ago, in June 1998, (after having spent too much money to call it “dabbling”). Starting a business on our family’s property was a concept that my sister and sister-in-law and I had been kicking around for a while. We kept coming back to the idea of growing something. My brother got wind of our discussions. He is in the road construction business, and regularly perused the Daily Journal of Commerce to see what projects were coming up for bid. He pointed out that there were many of these projects that were calling out for native plantings. Maybe we could grow native plants?

The idea struck fire with me. It appealed to my environmental sensibilities and seemed like a natural fit for the land, which is mostly in a natural state. We enthusiastically began learning more about native plants and came up with a name for the business: “Swamp Sisters.” My business-minded cousin Andy talked us down from that decision and we settled on the slightly more sedate “Tadpole Haven” which, a couple of generations before us, had been the name of a business next door to the homestead which raised bullfrogs for the Seattle restaurant market. The original Tadpole Haven went “belly-up” (so to speak) during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Frog legs anyone?

My original partners contributed labor and encouragement during our initial experimentation with growing natives, but eventually moved on to other projects. I threw myself into learning about natives. I had no background in horticulture. Looking back, it may have been more efficient to have gone through one of our wonderful community college horticulture programs, because my mostly haphazard education is still costing me money and time! The biggest help in learning about natives was going through the Native Plant Steward program of the Washington Native Plant Society. I highly recommend WNPS and its programs as a way to expand your knowledge of native plants.

Tadpole Haven began as a very part-time project with one person. Now it has taken over my life and threatens to do the same for my current partners, Brian and Lisa. But it’s all good! We are constantly learning, with the goal of growing high-quality plants in an environmentally-friendly way. Most of our plants are purchased wholesale for restoration of local parks and natural areas. Landscapers buy them for their residential projects, and some local retail outlets carry Tadpole Haven’s plants. And we also make our plants available to retail customers who want to help improve the health of local streams or welcome birds, butterflies and other wildlife to their yards.

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