Take 10: Q & A with Dan Heims

– Posted in: Garden Design


Welcome to Take 10, our new interview series with great gardeners. We’re starting off with a horticultural dynamo by the name of Dan Heims, President of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc. and introducer of many outstanding cultivars of heucheras, heucherellas, and other exciting perennials. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the man behind the plants.

1. What is the one thing that we’d be surprised to learn about you?
Besides living, breathing, and living horticulture, I play blues harp (harmonica) in a Blues band called KNOW.

2. If you weren’t in the world of gardening, what would you be doing?
Marketing. My dad ran a successful advertising agency in Portland, and I was blessed with his creative genes. My daughter is an advertising copywriter in New York City. My daughter and I were both Communication majors – me in Broadcast communications, she in Journalism. I must say I like marketing/brainstorming as much as I like plants (which I do to obsession).

dsc_01133. If you could be a plant in another lifetime, what would it be?
A cycad. How cool would it be to be a plant that could say, “I knew dinosaurs…” Not to mention they are ferny-cool, but can cut you if you get too close; they take drought and blazing sun or shade; and they still have way-cool cones.

4. If you could create the perfect plant, what would it be?
I’d create evergreen plants that change color with the seasons. Ones that come in a myriad of leaf colors and flowers and foliage that could be used as cuts. Not everblooming, but maybe sporadic bloom or rebloom. With non-competitive roots, so they could be happy in a container or in the garden. Oh, wait a minute…I already did.

5. What is your favorite place in the world for finding inspiration or how do you go about finding inspiration in your work?
Japan. One small specialty nursery that is 1/10th of a city block but offers 10 varieties of Sciadopitys verticillata in different forms. Such history, such fanatics, such horticulture.

6. What’s the greatest plant expedition you’ve been on?
Japan, Aomori prefecture to Iwakuni (below Hiroshima) – best trip ever!

7. Do you ever go through a dry spell in your work? If you do, how do you get yourself out of the rut? And if not, how do you keep yourself motivated?
No. I am never bored. The internet is the greatest horticultural resource ever. It works like my brain- Oh, this is cool…but what’s that? Ooooh…cool! It’s never-ending. And there is something to be said for the rush of spring that I get from working in the garden.. The plants do communicate with me.

8. What’s the one thing that you don’t do in your garden that a lot of gardeners might find surprising?
I don’t remove moss. I love it!

9. When you’ve died, what do you want to be remembered for in the world of gardening?
I hope to introduce 201 more plants to horticulture (for a total of 801). This will best the marvelous Mr. Luther Burbank by 1. Then I can die in peace (with a lot of happy gardeners enjoying my children).

10. Do you have any other passions in your life besides gardening?
Travel, languages, photography, music, art, reading, love, and really, really good chocolate.

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

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Fran Sorin
7 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Darla April 13, 2009, 10:45 am

That was interesting!

Am glad you enjoyed it. Yep, Dan has made terrific contributions in horticulture PLUS being quite an interesting individual. Fran

Mr. McGregor's Daughter April 13, 2009, 1:18 pm

This is a great idea for a series. I love the stories of the people behind the plants. Dan Heim’s plants are some of the coolest ones out there.

Loree April 13, 2009, 3:24 pm

I was lucky enough to hear Dan speak at the last Yard Garden and Patio show here in Portland. What an amazing man! I would love the opportunity to spend a day or two in his shoes!

RB April 13, 2009, 10:55 pm

LB had 800 introductions (some new varieties, some new to the US). Keep working Dan.

Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" April 14, 2009, 11:35 pm

I listened to Dan at his nursery last year and found him to be extremely knowledgeable and entertaining! Looking forward to your next guest.
Shirley Bovshow

Dan Heims April 15, 2009, 1:52 am

Aye captain!! I’m breeding as fast as I can!

blackswampgirl kim April 23, 2009, 11:08 pm

Am just now catching up with GGW (and other blogs) after a busy winter and early spring… and am glad to see that the guy behind TerraNova is as interesting and colorful as the plants he introduces. Thanks for the interview! 🙂

With pleasure. One thing you can say about Dan for sure is that he’s passionate, is excellent at what he does and is certainly not boring!! Fran

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