Visit Our Location in Portland, OR
6469 SE 134th Ave
Portland, OR 97236
Each spring seems to be busier and crazier than the last one. And each year we say it couldn’t possibly be any wilder than the last one but then find a hundred new varieties to grow and the madness starts all over again. These days our season really starts in late December or January with bare roots being moved into the coolers and goes until the end of May. It’s a marathon to say the least and there is absolutely no way that we could’ve done it and come out of it sane, this last part still being up for debate, if it weren’t for our amazing crew! The lovely folks who get your plants to you, keep them alive, propagate more of them, process all the orders, send you emails answering your questions, and keep the place from spiraling into full on botanical chaos are the most fantastic, hard working, charismatic and absurdly hilarious bunch of characters you might ever collect. The comedic idiosyncrasies on this crew would give Steve Zissou’s crew a run for its money. Behind every shipment that arrives at your door and every new plant that we introduce is a shipping warehouse full of amateur stand up comedians, some with real promise, a road tripping dog and his Grande Stefano traversing the Willamette valley to bring in new plants and materials, a part time construction crew that’s now built the entire nursery, taken it apart, and put it back together again, a cantankerous old fisherman that relishes the most miserable tasks, a handful of ethereal quiet geniuses, a few conspiracy theorists, my cohort in insomnia who holds more together than I’ll probably ever know, and an office so full of grace, patience and humor that they somehow are able to deal with this unruly cast of horticultural pirates and let the never ending sarcasm slide by like water off a duck’s back. It’s quite the crew and it makes surfing the tsunami of spring so much more enjoyable.
And what a tsunami it was! On top of the usual craziness of the season, it seems we always have some unforeseen event that throws a massive wrench in our operations. A few years ago the road was torn up so our retail customers and shipping trucks couldn’t access the nursery. Last year of course was navigating operations during the pandemic. And this year we were forced to tear up the entire front of the nursery for all of spring. Half of our usable space was gone and we had to shut down for many days while we anxiously watched a sewer construction crew tear apart the fences, tables, and plantings we’d worked so hard on creating the past few years. There are few things more torturous to me than digging up a prized plant we’d worked so hard to establish at the absolute worst time of year to dig them up and then watch many of them slowly die after being cut back hard and put in pots. During what is already the most chaotic time of the year, the Nursery Gods saw fit to turn the chaos dial to 11. Cavernous mote-like trenches welcomed our customers and the massive piles of soil and heavy machinery (that would sit inexplicably for many days at a time without work being done…) became the look of our nursery for so long this spring that we just got used to them being there. We forgot that plants used to live in the places where our giant soil and rock piles were.
But there were a few very tiny silver linings through all of it. When else would we get the opportunity to dig a big soil pit and see what the soil horizons look like 12 feet down? Turns out it’s a whole lot of boulders gifted to us by the Missoula floods. Massive boulders that certainly help our drainage, and if these mulberries are any indicator, don’t seem to inhibit root growth.
It’s wild how deep the root system is on these after only being in the ground for a few years!
And look how nicely the Chilean Flame Tree’s stunning flowers matched the construction fencing and paint on the excavator…
Yeah, we were really scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for a silver lining on this situation.
And then, like clockwork, as soon as the spring season was winding down and we had our big end of the year barbeque the sewer construction project was finished! As if the Nursery Gods truly were just toying with us the whole time. Now for the work of replanting everything and getting the nursery put back together…
We have to send out a huge thank you to all our retail customers who navigated the nursery through all of this, called us from the gate when dump trucks blocked the entrance so we could bring out their plants, dealt with all the disorganization it caused, and still came to see us on the weekends and keep us going! We learn so much from our customers and you all inspire us to keep finding new varieties, bring back old ones and make this green world a better place to live. It’s been an insane last two years navigating the pandemic but we’re looking forward to seeing your full smiling faces once again soon, starting up classes and getting to interact like regular humans again! Thanks for all your patience and understanding throughout this wild time, and most importantly for keeping those gardens growing. After all this time spent at home, we’re hoping everybody comes away with a deeper connection to their plants and gardens and the satisfaction in knowing you can escape to any part of the world you want to with the right arrangement of plants.
All of this time spent in town also meant we basically did nothing but work and we have a ton of new plants to show for it! We’re gearing up for our biggest growing season yet, with many varieties that have been in the works for years finally being introduced. We’re very excited about what’s coming for summertime and hope you’ll come visit us for what is our favorite time of the year at the nursery!
We’ve gone a little crazy with new fig varieties as of late. The list of stock plants is a bit dizzying, but we’ll be releasing some this year that we’ve been trialing for years and we are very excited for you all to try them in your gardens. Big Steve has potted up so many this year that he’s seeing figs in his dreams now. Perhaps it’s proof that it’s time to shift our focus to a new species.
We’ve tracked down a handful of varieties besides just Panache that have variegated figs! Many of them ripen too late for our season, but the allure of their striped beauty is just too much! We have a good crop of Martinenca Rimada coming on, (not pictured above, that one is for a later date), and we’re hoping this early season heat we’re getting will allow the fruits to ripen outside of just the trees in the greenhouses.
Though the above variegation is most likely not stable, it’s still fun to see a slightly variegated leaf in the rows every now and then!
While we haven’t been able to travel internationally the past year and a half, we’ve had a great time seeking out plants all along the West Coast. In the “Wasp Zone” of California, wild fig seedlings pop up in drainages all over the northern part of the state. We’ve found some really incredible figs, and some not so edible caprifigs, and now we engage in the anticipatory torture of seeing if they will be parthenocarpic, or common, figs and produce in Oregon without the fig wasp to pollinate them. So far, results have been whole heartedly disappointing with most plants teasing us with tons of developing fruits only to drop them after many weeks. Ugh…. We’ll keep trying though. One of the good ones has got to be common!
Keep an eye out for these as well as many new varieties of pomegranates, olives, citrus and a whole smorgasbord of plants we’ve never sold before but have long been favorites in our gardens. It’s a big old green world out there and we’ll be doing our best to bring as many of our favorite plants as we can to you all this summer. Thank you for all the support and we hope to see you soon!