My first stop for plants and quick seed purchases is Buffalo Gardens. Sandra Galli’s awesome neighborhood nursery focuses on edible and medicinal plants — annual, perennial, trees, shrubs, you name it. But they carry also carry things that are just plain pretty. I wrote “how to start your first garden” after talking with staff there about about the need for a super basic manual for neophytes. Extra bonuses: Sandra’s incredibly sweet dog, Farley, and three friendly chickens. My intern Lauren was blown away by the chickens.
When you’re ready to grow into more permanent plantings, and want to see things in the ground, check out the Home Orchard Society in Tigard, just outside of Portland.
Uprising Seeds, out of Bellingham, Washington, promises to be everything a seed company should be: organic, locally grown on small family farms, focused on heirlooms and the best bioregional varieties. If you live in the Northwest, check these guys out. Seeds and catalogs are now available at the Alberta Street Coop.
Abundant Life Seed, 360-385-5660. Focusing on rare and heirloom seeds, this was my favorite NW seed company until the entire place burned down in a fire several years ago. It’s now being nurtured back into existence by the folks at Territorial Seed Company in Cottage Grove, Oregon, but it hasn’t nearly recovered yet. They were the last company I knew of selling seed for Della’s White cucumbers, my favorite. Abundant Life’s story is stark reminder of our fragile hold on edible diversity.
••Fedco Seeds, P.O. Box 520, Waterville, ME, 04903, 207-873-7333. This is technically not local. But Fedco is a co-op, with great selection and even better prices, on seeds that do even better in Oregon than they do in Maine. In fact, many of their seeds are grown in Oregon, although the co-op is based in Maine. They focus on seeds for northern New England farmers and gardeners (where growing conditions are surprisingly similar to Oregon), and offer a substantial collection of organic and heirloom seeds at what may be the best prices anywhere. The catalog even tells consumers where the seed comes from (small growers to multinational seed companies) to help you choose.
••Filaree Farm offers a huge selection of organic garlic varieties. Okanogan, Wash., 509-422-6940. Owner Ron Engeland literally wrote the book on the subject (Growing Great Garlic: The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers), including an accessible and fascinating description of garlic’s history and genetic evolution as well as the expected information on garlic cultivation.
Horizon Herbs, PO Box 69, Williams, OR 97544 USA. 541-846-6704. Organic source of medicinal herb seeds and plants.
Ronninger’s Seed-Potato Co., P.O. Box 307, Ellensburg, WA, 98926. 800-846-6178. Huge selection of seed potatoes.
Territorial Seed Company, P.O. Box 158, Cottage Grove, OR 97424-0061, 888-657-3131. Started with the goal of offering seeds that grow in the maritime Northwest, Territorial offers a growing selection of organic seed and plants.
plant nurseries (mail order or go visit!)
Blue Heron Herbary. 27731 NW Reeder Road, Sauvies Island, OR 97231. 503-621-1457. On Sauvies Island near Portland, Blue Heron is a small, family-run business specializing in medicinal plants, with a heavy emphasis on diverse lavender varieties.
If you don’t find what you need at Buffalo Gardens, try Garden Fever at 3433 NE 24th in Portland (503-287-3200.) They’re comprehensive without being completely overwhelming, and have a very good selection of plants, tools, drip-irrigation supplies and books.
••Burnt Ridge Nursery and Orchards, 432 Burnt Ridge Road, Onalaska, WA 98570. 360-985-2873. Has a very good selection of fruit and nut trees, Northwest native plants, berries and some unusual plants, all at excellent prices.
Fedco Trees, P.O. Box 520, Waterville, ME, 04903, (207) 873-7333. See above disclaimer about locality. A terrific selection of well-priced, very cold-hardy trees, grapes, bulbs and herbaceous plants. Many from small growers using certified or de facto organic practices. Ordering trees from Maine is a little more tricky than ordering seed; some require more winter cold (and more concentrated summer heat) than we get in Oregon. If you see something you like, double check locally to make sure the species grows well here. Also, Fedco is careful not to ship any live plants (even dormant) when there’s a threat of them freezing in the back of a delivery truck. This means trees and bulbs may arrive late for optimal planting in Oregon. Still, I ordered my pear tree (Comtesse Clara Frijs) from them because my ex neighbor in Maine recommended and probably grew it. It’s thrived despite a fair bit of inattention. Mail-order only, and only open a few months each year.
Roses rock. They make food, they make medicine, they make beauty — and they love the acidic soils we have in the Pacific Northwest. So if you’re thinking down this line, consider the overwhelming yumminess of choices offered by Heirloom Roses in St. Paul, Oregon. They’re not actually mostly heirlooms, but many are very old (see their apothecary’s rose, the original specifically medicinal variety) or heavily laden with hips high in Vitamin C and other antioxidants (for example, a fair listing of rugosa roses.) Further, all of their roses are own-rooted, giving you healthier plants you can reproduce them cuttings.
Horizon Herbs, PO Box 69, Williams, OR 97544 USA. 541-846-6704. Organic source of medicinal herbs and plants.
••Raintree Nursery, 391 Butts Road, Morton, WA 98356, 360-496-6400. An excellent selection of fruit and nut trees, berries, and unusual edible plants from around the world. If you don’t see what you want at Burnt Ridge, try Raintree.
One Green World, 28696 S. Cramer Rd., Molalla, OR 97038. 503-651-3005. An excellent selection of fruit and nut trees, berries, and unusual edible plants from around the world.
Forestfarm, 990 Tetherow Rd., Williams, OR 97544-9599. 541-846-7269. One of the largest selections anywhere of “ornamental and useful plants from around the world.”
Oregon Exotics Nursery, 1065 Messinger Road, Grants Pass, OR 97527. 541-846-7578. Calls itself the world’s largest source of rare and exotic useful plants, and very well may be. Their offerings include subzero citrus, ancient nuts, medicinal plants from the Amazon, and new USDA releases.
•• = my personal favorites