A Winter Visit to Portland Nursery

Visiting garden centers mid-winter is vital to keeping me sane. I recently made the trek to one of my favorites, Portland Nursery where I have spent many hours of my life gleefully shopping. I used to live a few blocks away from one of their locations, and, boy, was I spoiled. Now, an hour's drive away, I savor every moment. Not expecting a lot in terms of selection this time of year, I was pleasantly surprised. Let's look around.

 Hamamelis were nearly all in full bloom. Here, Hamamelis intermedia 'Orange Beauty' mingles with Hamamelis intermedia 'Arnold Promise.' More witch hazels in a moment.

As garden centers go, Portland Nursery serves a huge population of gardeners in the Portland area, especially with two rather large locations. They have just about everything garden-related from edibles, fertilizers, tools, mason bees, bird supplies, gifts, house plants, seasonal items, pottery, books, advice, bonsai, statuary, fountains, compost, seeds, plants, classes and more. Oh, and a coffee cart. This is Portland, after all.

While the bulk of the plant material will arrive in a few weeks, their evergreen shrub selection was quite colorful.

 What colors! One could arguably garden with only shrubs and still have a fantastic variety and texture.

This day I visited had rare sunbreaks amid scattered showers. I'll take whatever sun I can get. This was paradise believe it or not after the weather we've experienced lately.

Many Asian-themed elements can be found throughout the Pacific Northwest, and garden centers are no exception. Japanese-style gardens fit right into our climate.

Cheerful heathers blooming a crisp white caught my eye.

Portland Nursery has a large selection of dwarf conifers and bonsai plants and accessories. Perfect for the smaller city garden.

Here is Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph', a rare dwarf evergreen conifer from Oregon. And expensive. The needles take on this golden color in winter, turning to a deep green for the remainder of the year.

Fatsia japonica (possibly 'Spider's Web') and Hellebores make a lovely container planting for shade.

Another conifer that caught my attention was Sequoia sempervirens 'Albospica', an 8 - 10' tall by 4 - 6' wide shrub with lovely creamy new growth contrasting with blue-green older growth.

Even in the heart of winter there is still a section for native shrubs. 

As I mentioned, Portland Nursery supplies information and classes. It's great to see this, free information and booklets helping to illustrate great plant choices for our area.

Also brochures about a wide range of topics. As the sign says, "These and many other handouts are available though our website: portlandnursery.com"

Many seed-starting and propagating supplies.

Gifts for the playful gardener. Or just about anyone, actually.

Fun containers and updated gnomes.

Even though I do not have children, I love seeing this. Encouraging young gardeners to explore and learn about the natural world is wonderful. They are our future, after all.

I was meeting my friend Amy Campion of The World's Best Gardening Blog this day, hey...there she is! Hi Amy!

For a bit of information about this genus, here's a great link to an article by Pacific Horticulture. They are wonderful deciduous shrubs/small trees with winter interest and often fragrance, coupled with amazing fall color for many of the cultivars. I wanted to take them all home as they bring such cheer this time of year. But at an average price of $100 (very large plants), it was out of my budget. I can admire them for free. Pictured here is 'Jelena', one of my favorites.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise'

A detail of Arnold Promise.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Orange Beauty'

One of my favorites and difficult to find, Hamamelis x intermedia 'Aphrodite', but at $124.99, sadly I had to pass. 

The majority of plants were in a semi-protected indoor area. Here a Valentine display shows off festive colors.

It's also camellia time around here.

Lovely red hellebore, perfect for a Valentine.

A bit of drama never hurts!

Primroses, daffodils, bergenia and candy tuft all mean one thing: Spring!

A zingy color combination. Not so much my taste but I appreciate the color variations.

Fun moss mushrooms. What would you do with them?

This display has such soothing colors, I like the contrast in textures, too.

This is the kind of display that gets me excited. Tray after tray of selection - pick your favorite.

I've seen these types of plantings around lately, I think they are a new trend, kokedama. There's a local garden center in Portland called Pistils that has a tutorial how to make these. You can read it here.

Portland Nursery always has a choice selection of bulbs and tubers. The begonia selection is vast. There were more than what is pictured here.

The reason I came to Portland Nursery in the first place. Asparagus crowns. They had a few to choose from as well as onion sets, potatoes, seeds, blueberries, raspberries and so many other edibles. 

This bonsai is labeled as "Pre-bonsai Larix Kaempferi"

Here's a detail. It reminds me of Hamamelis petals. Priced at $299.99, I had to wonder why so much? I know nothing about bonsai, perhaps this is a very hard-to-grow tree. Feel free to chime in if you have information.

This was a curiosity. This is a manzanita branch (Arctostaphylos sp.) - just a branch in a stump as a decorative element. Labeled as a "cut floral arrangement" it was priced at $49.99. I will never compost my manzanita branches again...I will make them into valuable items for sale! I kid, but really, it is cool. Just a little spendy in my mind.

Trees! Shrubs! Take us home!

Year in and year out I count on Portland Nursery to be there, to have what I am looking for (mostly) and to entice me with colorful items I must have but just didn't know it. It's therapy. Portland Nursery has a super-friendly staff and is open year-round.

Having worked the last couple of years in the industry I can honestly say that most people in it are in it for the love of plants and the plant community and not to get rich. In other words, we rely on the community to keep us going. Portland Nursery has been a stalwart of the garden community in Portland, and for that I thank them. So yay for your local garden center and for supporting them. We couldn't do it without you!

That's it for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you for reading and happy gardening!


  1. So wonderful to see all those plants! The gardening season really is upon us. Hardy shrubs like those dwarf conifers can be planted now. After years of passing them up for more "exciting" or unusual plants, I'm planning to add more dwarf conifers to my garden this year. Most of them are so tough and are beautiful all year. As to the bonsai, they take years to train, even decades, and can be worth thousands of dollars. That's if they're trained well, of course. I'm afraid with that awful, awkward cut in the middle of the tree where the two branches meet, that one is essentially worthless and certainly overpriced. But as most people don't know anything about bonsai other than that they're expensive, it's a common practice in the US to pass off butchered plants like this as bonsai.

    1. Conifers, dwarf or otherwise, are one group of plants I have come to appreciate a lot more recently. Yes, I was wondering about the bonsai and that big cut...little do I know, I mean it looks pretty cool to my eyes!

  2. I guess it is good for my wallet that I don't live too close. They also have a pretty nifty sale table hidden in the back! If I were rich, I would get the 'Chief Joseph' and the 'Aphrodite' hamamelis. I love those colors.

    1. Yes Phillip, your wallet is fatter not living next to this wonderful place. But, that sale table...it's a pretty good one! The Chief Joseph and Hamamelis 'Aphrodite' are absolutely on my wish list. We can dream!!

  3. Always uplifting to visit Portland Nursery, even virtually.

  4. Given that your gardening season hasn't actually kicked off yet, I'm impressed at how well this nursery is stocked. I so wish I could grow witch hazel but it doesn't do SoCal, at least not my part of it. I'm usually put off by the 'Spider's Web' Fatsia japonica but the one in your photo has just the right balance of variegation. I loved the conifer (Sequoia) in the photo below it too. Hm, it seems I'm itching to go plant shopping too.

    1. Isn't it impressive how well they are stocked? And the thing is, they look good year-round. Even more impressive in spring and summer. I know what you mean about the 'Spider's Web' Fatsia, or Fatsia in general - I like them "ok" - but that one really shimmered.

      Go shopping, Kris! You have permission :)

  5. Went to HPSO Conifer Talk on Sunday. Arbutus brought a few plants to sell. My friend got a little Chief Joseph Pine for $39. Thought that was pretty good.

    What a gorgeous post, Tamara. Thanks for the ray of sunshine.


    1. That is a great price! Good for your friend! Thanks for the comments, Patricia - I aim to please with purdy plant photos.

  6. You've reminded me I wanted to get some Begonia tubers this year. I'll have to see if there are any at the show next week. I've been to both branches of Portland Nursery a couple of times and they're great places!

    1. They are both fabulous places. I guess I should point out that I was at the Stark Street location.

      Yes, get thyself some begonia tubers!

  7. I remember Portland Nursery from my Portland days back in the 70s through the early 90s. I'd pack the kids in the car, go to The Daily Grind health food store on Hawthorne, then pop on over to Portland Nursery before heading home. Good memories. I'm glad it's still going strong.

    1. What a wonderful memory, Grace. I think the Daily Grind is gone, Portland Nursery is going strong as you say. Such a fixture in the minds of all Portland gardeners, I believe.

  8. That first photo knocked me out! Love Hamamelis, so much. Great photos, Chickadee.

    1. Thanks Alyse! Those Hamamelis...swoon!

  9. Great walk-thru! I loved seeing all of those inspiring displays. Trekking up to Stark Street is a treat for me. I appreciate living in a place with so many incredible plant nurseries.

    1. Thanks Jen! Oh, the excitement when turning up Stark Street gets me every time. We are all soooo very lucky to have places like this. It's a good thing a lot of people garden and keep these places humming.


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