The Explorer: Riz Reyes
Gardeners in the Seattle area who know Rizaniño “Riz” Reyes, 30, consider him a rising star in the firmament of plant explorers and innovative nurserymen. He has traveled to China to collect plant material to propagate, owned a nursery, and introduced rare and beautiful plants to American horticulture. But he downplays the comparison to his elders.
“There are avid young gardeners in just about every part of the country,” he says. And Reyes knows many of these people through virtual gardens.
“That’s the beauty of social media, meeting gardeners through Facebook. You see a post, a conversation begins, and you ‘friend’ somebody,” he says. “I met someone through Facebook and got a chance to tour nurseries and gardens in England.” Reyes gets some of the remarkable plants and seeds he grows from “China, the U.K., New Zealand, and eBay. But the very best come from generous gardeners who become friends.” Reyes is a well-known presence in social media, appearing in videos on gardening and garden design. He maintains a business website, a personal website, and a blog, The Next Generation Gardener.
Reyes came to the United States from the Philippines when he was 7 years old. His earliest interest was fruit. “I wanted to know about the produce in the supermarket, and then where the flowers came from.” He read Exotica, the tropical-plant bible by Alfred B. Graf, and catalogs from mail-order nurseries like Jackson & Perkins and Spring Hill. “The one that resonated with me was Wayside Gardens. I cut out the photos and dreamed about owning unusual hostas—‘Great Expectations’ or H. tokadama ‘Aurea Nebulosa’. You know how teenage boys have certain magazines under their beds? I had plant catalogs.”
“I started my nursery business, Landwave Gardens, during college,” says Reyes. He graduated with a degree in environmental horticulture and urban forestry from the University of Washington, where he works part time at the botanic garden.
“When I had my nursery, I sold plants that I liked, then focused on plants that my colleagues had a hard time getting.” Among his pursuits are rare lilies; he even hybridizes his own. But if you ask Reyes what interests him, he rattles off a list: “ornamental edibles, evergreen perennials, Chinese woodland plants, summer-flowering bulbs, residential landscape design, container gardening, teaching and lecturing, pruning, propagation—horticulture.”
Photo: Tom Marks