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PACKWOOD — When William Owens II woke up in a hospital bed with pain covering his entire body in July 2015 he didn’t know what happened or how he got there. The last thing he remembered was hopping on his 2000 Kawasaki dirt bike after a night of drinking and taking off down the road from his Packwood home.
Owens, a heavy alcoholic at the time, soon found out that he had been in a serious motorcycle accident, was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center and had been in a coma the past few days. He had received a traumatic brain injury, broke his neck, back, eye socket and upper jaw.
Though he spent three weeks healing at Harborview, when he arrived back home in east Lewis County, the recovery process was only just beginning.
Owens II suffered short-term memory loss, saying it was similar to Drew Barrymore’s character in the Adam Sandler movie “50 First Dates.” He would wake up thinking it was still July 2015, not realizing it was actually months in the future.
“I had the exact same injury as the woman in the movie,” Owens said. “She wakes up every day and it’s the same day to her but time has gone on. That was me for the first six months to a year.”
He still deals with some short-term memory loss, though it has gotten better over the years. One silver lining — a tremendous one — is that Owens hasn’t had a sip of alcohol since the day of the crash. Monday was the five years and one month anniversary of his sobriety date.
“It’s a struggle, for sure,” Owens said.
Another bright side came in an unexpected way. Owens, who was a diesel auto mechanic, could no longer lift heavy weights or stand for long periods of time, so he began looking for a new venture; something that was easy on his body and mind.
He came across some small Venus flytraps for sale at the Chehalis Walmart in 2016. Like with most people, Owens had heard about them, but it wasn’t until he bought a few and took them home that he became fascinated.
He decided to start growing other carnivorous plants and before long he had begun selling them. He named his new business 2nd Chance Nursery.
“This is my second chance and then I give plants second chances, also,” he said. “Plants were a nice fun, relaxing way to do something I enjoyed.”
Owens overwintered them in the fridge that first year because he didn’t know much about the plant or how to properly raise them. Luckily, they survived and he still has a few of those first ones he bought to this day.
Now his business has flowered into a couple greenhouses and several above-ground pools full of carnivorous plants. He has few varieties of tropical carnivorous plants, including Sarracenia pitcher plants, also known as trumpet pitchers, that attract insects with bright colors and inviting scents. He also sells orchids and a few other non-carnivorous house plants.
Carnivorous plants catch insects and extract the nitrogen from them. They are capable of photosynthesis, but supplement their diet with nutrients from insects by catching and composting them.
There are several different trapping mechanisms used by carnivorous plants. Venus Flytraps use a snap trap, which is triggered when a bug touches the hairs on its mouthlike leaves. Trumpet pitchers have slippery waxy scales on the inside where insects slip and fall into the bottom of the pitcher where they are digested.
The Packwood-area soil has proven to be fortuitous for plant-growing, Owens has found. He does use a greenhouse for the tropical varieties, such as the tropical pitcher, heliamphora, Mexican butterworts and sundews. But some are suitable for the outdoors, such as the cold hardy sundew, the Sarracenia and Venus flytraps, all of which are native to North America.
He currently has about 200 plants for sale in a couple dozen varieties. Owens also has plans for rapid growth next year. He has some mother plants that he hopes to divide and propagate out this fall and winter.
“They’ll resume growth next spring and I’ll have a plethora of many more plants to add,” Owens II said.
His nursery hasn’t felt the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic yet. Being out in rural east Lewis County probably helps, he said, but he has noticed an increase in traffic in the area as people are heading outdoors more after being cooped up during quarantine.
One of the most rewarding aspects of his nursery is meeting and teaching people about plants that the average person knows little about.
“Doing the farmers market and seeing the looks on the little kids’ faces that don’t know these plants exist,” Owens said.
Owens II and his plants are at the Packwood Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday. He will also ship plants anywhere in the country to prospective buyers. He can be contacted by phone at 360-496-1663, or on Facebook at facebook.com/pitcherplantman.