Dennis Bahr was born in 1953 and spent his formative years in San Jose, California. Dennis’s father was in the electronics field but also enjoyed turning homes: designing, building and selling his residences, making a profit and bettering his position each time, and constantly moving his family around San Jose in the process. Dennis was attracted to music and sports, excelling in track and field and in his quiet time, exploring his potential as a guitar player. When in high school, Dennis’s mother took his destiny in her own hands and arranged a job for Dennis in a local garden center, to which Dennis cooperatively accepted. To his surprise, he enjoyed the work and began to shape a future in horticulture. He enrolled at De Anza Community College with the goal of transferring to the University of California at Davis, but his second job at The Tree Farm Nursery in Los Altos convinced him that hands-on experience in the nursery was more valuable than the classroom, so he immersed himself in the work of knowing and nurturing plants. Dennis also found pleasure in sharing his knowledge, helping customers select and determine placement of plants and providing guidance in garden design. During his stay at The Tree Farm Nursery in Los Altos, two of Dennis’s colleagues yearned to move from California, and both landed jobs in the thriving Seattle market, one at Molbak’s Nursery in Woodinville and his colleague Ken at Ralph Wells Landscaping in Bellevue. Wells was a thriving landscaping contractor ready to begin a retail nursery, and Ken tapped Dennis for the opportunity to participate in the startup business.
Dennis was ready for an adventure, and he wasted no time in accepting Ken’s offer. With his entire estate fitting easily into his VW Beetle (his bike strapped to the rear bumper of the car the only exception), Dennis drove non-stop from San Jose to Seattle. Exhausted upon arrival to the Puget Sound and disoriented with the varied topography, Dennis overshot Bellevue and spent the night in his car in Everett, but recovered in the morning no one the wiser. Establishing himself at the nursery, Dennis bunked with his friend Ken and family in the old Well’s residence. He soon developed competency not only with management of the nursery, but also with the affections of one of the Well’s daughters, who would soon become his wife. While at the nursery Dennis would frequently get requests to do landscape design and installation, and to support his young family he did so in his off hours. In 1977 he left the Wells Nursery and pursued his own business doing landscape gardening full time. Within the next few years Dennis had two young children, a thriving business, and had purchased acreage and a home in North Bend. In the early 1980’s the stresses common to many young families brought his marriage to an end, but despite the difficult loss Dennis continued to develop his work in landscape.
A few years later Dennis met Chris and the two of them quickly began to visualize a creative future together, the first step being marriage in 1985. Chris left her job at Safeco Insurance, sold her house and began working with Dennis in the landscape business. Chis had solid business skills and this was a perfect match for Dennis’s nursery and landscaping experience. Soon they had bought a small 1977 travel trailer that eventually served as a temporary residence while they built a home together on five acres near Snohomish. The house completed, Dennis cleared additional land and erected two large greenhouses in which they began to grow plants from seeds and divisions. In no time the greenhouses were bursting with plants, and Chris saw an opportunity to make the most of Dennis’s gift of growing. They formed the Pilchuck Plant Company and began selling their thriving stock of plants at a small lot in Snohomish, a venue similar to small boutique nurseries common throughout England. In time they were selling at local Farmer’s Markets, the Bellevue Botanical Gardens plant sales and the Seattle Arboretum Foundation annual plant sale. Sales were so strong that Dennis began to scale back his landscape gardening services and focus his energy in the nursery.
In 1993 Dennis got a call from friend David Eck who was working on the Coval House, asking for his help pruning the Coval apple orchards. The winter work fit Dennis’s schedule perfectly, since the demands of the nursery dropped considerably during the colder months. On site at the Coval House Dennis found a colleague in Michael Mey, who was eager to learn pruning skills from Dennis. The collaborative working environment found inside the home soon spilled outside, and Dennis was now shadowed by a pruning apprentice who’s company he quickly welcomed. When the rare old specimen trees began arriving from David Ohashi to the Coval House, Dennis was called in to supervise installation and insure that the trees adapted successfully. Barbara Coval was also frequenting Dennis’s nursery, and appreciating the quality of his stock, made sure that when Dennis visited the Coval House his truck was loaded with a nice array of interesting plants and shrubs.
In 2003 Dennis and Chris opened Machias Nursery just north of Snohomish, Washington, a full-scale retail nursery specializing in high quality trees, plants and shrubs. They are in their ninth year now, and despite the serious downturn in the housing market, have managed to do well. Dennis’s vast knowledge and experience and Chris’s friendly personal service in the nursery yard has created customer loyalty over the years, making all the difference during lean times. Dennis say that being “parents to plants” keeps them both busy in the nursery nearly year round now, but occasionally they manage to get away and go fishing, yet another passion that Chris and Dennis find joy in sharing together.