Monday, April 13, 2009

The 2009 Hardy Plant Society of Oregon Plant Sale, as economic indicator…

My parents came down from Spokane to spend the weekend with us and attend the HPSO sale. I warned them there would be crowds. I was not prepared for what we would encounter.

This is my 4th HPSO spring sale. I like to arrive early, usually this means big crowds, a price I am willing to pay to get the good stuff. Rationally I know the vendors have more stock to bring out later in the day but the idea of missing the first out just kills me. The venue was different this year, the sale was in the larger room at the Expo Center. I had wondered how the economy would effect the turn out, and if the vendors themselves would play it safe and not bring anything exotic or expensive. I was wrong to worry. The crowds were amazing and there were a few to-die-for exotics.

Our first stop in the door was Cistus, a little discouraging for my zone 5 gardening mother as they push the boundaries of our zone 8. We progressed along the rows and every 20 minutes or so I made a trip to the holding area.
These people know what they are doing, you can drop off plants as you shop. When I made my 3rd trip to the holding area they had run out of space, every inch was taken, people were buying and buying big!

What I didn’t get:
I managed to leave this amazing aloe behind. The $80 price tag was to blame.
Xera was there; oddly enough I didn’t pick up a thing at their booth.
This nice big Restio was tempting, but at $42 I had to walk away - it is much cooler in person!
Having watched the bloom spike develop on Pam’s Mangave over on Digging I think I was just too jealous knowing ‘mine’ would never achieve such glory, thus I walked away from these too. However, since I fell asleep regretting it I don’t think I’ll make that mistake a second time.

And speaking of regrets, this seemed to be the year of the Eryngium agavafolium as they were in several booths. I picked up another, I managed to stop at just one though. My mom also got one, we are hoping it can tough out the Spokane winters.

Now this is where things got crazy, once we made our final selections and got in line we waited over an hour just to pay! It was insane, 8 lanes and 2 long lines feeding into them. I really have to thank my parents for being such good sports, mere mortals would have fled. In line everyone was in good spirits, as gardeners with new plants tend to be. We talked with a couple of volunteers about the record setting numbers. What were they attributing it too? Three theories surfaced:

1. Portlanders lost a lot of plants with our record cold, ice and snow last winter and they were out to replace them.
2. After such a long winter people just needed to get out and enjoy the idea of spring.
3. People were tired of the bad economic news and just decided to hell with it and wanted to spend!

No matter what the cause it was an amazing sight to see. So much money being spent on plants and all pumped into the local economy! Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel and this economic nightmare will end.

More on what we bought next post…


  1. Ha! I wanted that aloe, too, I came home with a picture of it. I somehow missed that restio, but I remember passing it, I just didn't recognize it. I thought it was a rush when I saw it, if I'm thinking of the right one.
    I think the other thing with garden popularity garden is that people see investing in their homes and gardens as a way of cutting back on entertainment and eating out. Somewhere I read interest in gardening is up 20% this year over last.
    Can't wait to see what you did come back with.
    My biggest regret is that I didn't get the name of a vendor against the far left wall, he was talking to me about a shrub with blue pods, edible beans, he said it was a must for the gothic garden. It seemed like a nursery run by a plant fanatic that I should check out when I'm not panicked by the imposing crowds.

  2. Megan, the only reason I saw the restio is because there was one being purchased in front of me in line and when I stood there drooling the lady took me back and showed me where it was. There was only one left and as beautiful as it was just too much money!

    I bet you are right about the investing thing. I wonder if there were very many people who were hoping to find more veggies? I know my dad (Mr. Tomato Perfection) was. Interest in veggie gardening is so big right now!

    I think by the time we reached the booth you describe we had seen the line, and were way to focused on what lie ahead to see much more. Sounds like a very cool plant! You know there is a vendor list on the HPSO website here: you might be able to figure out who it was. Good luck!

  3. Sounds like you got some good finds. Did you go back for the mangave? :-)

    I can't believe the hour-long wait to pay though. You guys are die-hards.

  4. Hey Pam...nope, I didn't go back. But it was at the Cistus table and they are only a nice 30 minute (or so) drive away so it still may happen!

    The fact that I hadn't seen my parents since Christmas helped the time pass quickly, in fact I was surprised when my mom told me how long we were waiting. I felt like we had been standing there talking for 20 minutes tops!

  5. okay, I need to send you some of my aloes! I can't believe they were $80! They are Aloe barbadensis, right? I have them coming out of my butt!
    I know that sounded bad, but you know...
    Such a beautiful bloom .

  6. definitely paint a picture that's for sure... ;)

    You know I am not sure of it was Aloe barbadensis, the tag was around back and I couldn't make out what it said. I was afraid to lean to far in for fear of becoming an aloe accident victim and all of a sudden owning a broken $80 aloe! And just so you know I ADORE aloes of all kind...if you have any to get rid of!


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