Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

The New Oregon Trail – Specialty Nurseries Help You Find the Perfect Plants

My garden will be open in July, as part of The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program. Right now I’m madly tucking last-minute plants into my beds and borders. But I don’t want just any old plant. No, I’m on the hunt for the new and/or unusual. My quest is a common one among gardeners. So this month I talked with Ann Murphy, Director of Marketing for the Oregon Association of Nurseries. She told me about the Cascade Nursery Trail.

The trail is made up of seven specialty growers, whose greenhouses are all located within 25-miles of each other, south of Portland, Oregon. Although already known to hort cognoscenti, now these small nurseries have banded together to make it easier for on-the-hunt gardeners like me to find their wares. Best of all, for those of you not planning a trip to Oregon soon, many are mail-order.

Ann and I discussed the benefits of seeking out specialty growers, not just here in Oregon, but around the United States. Here’s what she told me.

#1. Plant Previews: At smaller nurseries and garden centers you often can find plants before they roll out into large-scale production. These growers have friendships with plant breeders around the United States and other parts of the world. “There’s an amazing network of horticulturalists who are sharing plants among themselves,” Ann said. You can join in and try out these new or under-utilized specimens first.

#2. OMG factor: Niche growers have a depth of plant material—often what they are most excited about—that you’ll never find in chain garden centers. We gardeners love to hear visitors say, “Omigod, what is that?”

#3. Free Horticultural Education: When you buy from specialty nurseries, Ann said, you can tap into the growers’ expertise first hand. Show up when owners aren’t too busy, and most will be happy to talk plants and solve your specific problems. Or read the catalogs for invaluable (and often entertaining) information.

#4. Great Garden Design Ideas: Many of these cutting-edge growers also take pride in how they display their plants. Some have fabulous gardens where you can stroll and appreciate their creative designs. As Tony Avent of North Carolina’s Plant Delights Nursery writes in his advertising flyer, “Unlike garden plants, design ideas are made to be stolen.”

#5. Grower/Gardener Connections: Ann’s last point is a good one. She said, “When gardeners understand more about how plants are brought to market, when they see the passion and the care, it changes their own gardening experience.” # # # #