This gay-owned garden center has deep roots in the Four Corners
Company: Cliffrose, Your High Desert Gardens
Type: Full-service garden center
Owners: Ric Plese, Matt Keefauver and Alan Cook
Contact: 27885 Highway 160, Cortez, CO 81321
970.565.8994 | cliffrosegardens.com
INSTINCT: What’s your professional background like?
RIC PLESE: I went to school for landscape architecture and graduated with a BS in landscape horticulture.
What services does Cliffrose offer?
We’re a full-service retail garden center, specializing in native Four Corners plants and drought-tolerant plants. We offer organic and natural gardening products, plant-care consulting and designs. You can buy yard art, pavers, home decor and unique gifts at Cliffrose, and we also offer classes year-round! You can learn more about pruning, landscape design, wreath making, wine tasting, etc.!
What is it about southwestern plants that makes them beautiful?
They have tough leaf textures and silvery blue colors. When they bloom, the extra color is like a gift.
How is southwestern gardening different than in other areas of the country?
You have to take into account the harsh extremes of weather, sunlight and soil. It can be challenging to grow things in the Four Corners, which makes success that much sweeter.
What can you buy at Cliffrose?
We offer more than 700 types of plants at Cliffrose and have a searchable plant directory on our website. If what you’re looking for isn’t here, we’ll order it for you. We also maintain a demonstration garden here that features native, drought-tolerant grasses, perennials and shrubs.
So then apparently you have a fairly green thumb yourself?
Yes—most of the time! [Laughs] All of my houseplants tend to get neglected during the busy season. That’s why I prefer to have a lot of cactus and succulent indoor plants.
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So what’s your garden at home like?
It’s a New England shade garden with lots of containers. It’s not typical of the area! [Laughs]
What’s the most challenging thing about running Cliffrose?
The off-season and weather extremes.
Why is it important for gay men to start their own businesses?
To be independent. If you live in a small town, like I do, it also proves to the other residents that gay men and women can be responsible and civic-minded.
You do a lot of work to involve the community in your business, right?
Yes. We stock a huge selection of locally made products and plants. It’s important for us to support our neighbors, our region and our city.
What advice do you have for our readers who want to start their own plant-related business?
Be passionate and friendly. Hire employees who are plant lovers!
When you look at your business today, what are you proudest of?
Our unique products and, most of all, our customer service. If you walk into Cliffrose, we’ll give you a free cup of locally roasted, free-trade coffee from Fahrenheit Roasters. Oh, and our gift shop’s dog-friendly. [Laughs] That’s great. We also give birthday discounts and weekly senior discounts. We want to do whatever we can to thank our customers for supporting Cliffrose.
What’s your favorite thing about running this business?
I love plants, but my favorite thing has to be interacting with our customers. I like to joke with them, answer their questions and solve their problems. Gardening success for our customers is our number-one priority!
Ric's Four Favorite Plants
1. Lungworts - I love their leaves and flowers.
2. Hellebores - They’re unique, and they bloom in the off-season.
3. Succulents - I love ice plants—they’re tough and add great texture to a garden.
4. Agastache - Especially hyssops. The colors are gorgeous and they’ve got fragrant leaves.
Five Tips For A Southwestern Garden
1. Prep the soil!
2. Match the correct climate-zone plant with the proper climate area in your garden.
3. Consider plants in ceramic, wood or concrete containers.
4. Think of your garden not only in terms of color, but in texture as well.
5. Take time to enjoy what you are creating.
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