Kingston nursery supplies demand of native plants

Salish Trees Nursery isn’t your average nursery as it focuses on native plants.

But it will be even more special in the future as it is looking to make its location a destination spot with food trucks, live music and activities.

Mike Winningham and his wife Patty decided to open Salish Trees Nursery in Kingston to support the high demand of native plants in Kitsap County. “There is a growing demand and not enough nurseries to get native plants. It is not a high-margin business, and it’s an expensive world to be in.”

Mike is impressed with landowners Jill and Joe Cabra. “They want a community-style marketplace with businesses that are different but have some synergy and really draw people to the property.”

The Winninghams opened Salish Trees because it is a megatrend, especially with the effects of climate change. “When I was in technology, we talked about megatrends,” Mike said. “A huge one is sustainable living. People are more interested in native plants because habitats are disappearing worldwide, and they want to make a difference. Through this sustainable gardening, you can have an immediate effect.”

Salish Trees Nursery has been open since March, and the couple is still making upgrades.

Mike has been around Pacific Northwest native plants since he was a kid. His family has had land in the Northwest since the 1960s and did a lot of gardening and hiking in the woods. “My father was really into gardening and taught me about propagation of plants,” he said. “I developed a high appreciation of the flowers we have. It’s a really unique area of the world.”

Patty added, “Mike’s family would put their backpacks on and hike for a week. He was so excited and brought home all these pictures. It has been nice to see his appreciation for native plants he sees along the way.”

Mike left the Northwest for a short stint to go to Cornell University in upstate New York. They both graduated from Cornell as chemists. After a few years, they moved back to Washington. Patty worked with the North Kitsap School District while Mike did business development, technology scouting and looked for collaborations with startup companies.

However, Mike stepped away after 25 years to focus on his passion with the native plants he grew up with in Kitsap County. “I married some of my interests in gardening, interests with plants, understanding how to launch a new business venture and how to develop protocols for propagating plants,” Mike said. “There is a lot out there but not a lot of detail on how we bring more science into how to do propagation.”

Mike worked at Woodbrook Native Plant Nursery in Gig Harbor for a year, but then decided to expand his business from his backyard greenhouse. He found a spot that used to house another nursery, Savage Plants and Landscape. “We knew about this property when Savage Plants Nursery and Landscaping was here,” Mike said. “When that sign went up for sale, I finished my business plan and pitched it to the Realtor.”