Sunday, May 3, 2009

old time nursery - Marbotts

Sunday I visited Marbotts, an old time nursery in NE Portland, I love this place. This is not a slick operation. You don't always find a price on each plant and as I discovered last year sometimes you have to convince the owner that you should be allowed to purchase a plant (more on that below). What it lacks in glamor it makes up for in authenticity. These people know what they are doing and have been doing it for years. They live on-site and I believe the second generation is taking over.

Last year I bought a papyrus at Marbotts. I knew it was too early in the spring to plant it out, Papyrus King Tut is a zone 10 plant and needs heat to thrive. The plants looked so happy and even though the nursery is very close to my home I just don't make it out there very often. I saw it and I wanted to buy it, right then. The owner, a surly old fellow wouldn't sell it to me. 'To early' he said. I know, I said, I will protect it, I promise. We talked awhile and I guess I convinced him I was worthy because eventually he told me the price and I went off to pay.

That papyrus turned out to be amazing. It completely took off and filled a large pot, stems were at least 5 ft tall, I loved it - all the while knowing it was doomed to death. Others buy true annuals at the nursery each year, I purchase banana and papyrus as my annuals.

So as I was planting and moving containers around the patio this weekend I realized I needed to go buy a papyrus. I went out to Marbotts prepared to do battle. Well they were pretty busy and the old guy was monopolized by folks with tomato questions. So I managed to scoop up my papyrus, pay and leave unscathed. Bummer. I was kind of looking forward to the debate.


  1. Nice overview! I have yet to go to Marbotts, and like you, I live reasonably close. You've convinced me to pay them a visit!

  2. Hello Jane, glad that I might inspire you to make the trip. It's a fun place. It's great to go there in the early spring too when it's still really cold outside, their green houses are so nice and warm!

  3. Dude - it sort of freaks me out how much you and I travel the same paths in our Portland gardening. I also had a run in last year over papyrus at marbotts, but I must have gotten mine a little later in the year:
    So the papyrus are there now? I'll have to make a run over, this really is a must have annual for me, too.

  4. Oh man! Megan...I can totally see that happening! And I would have done the same thing you did. Bummer. You definitely were there later than me. When I bought they were topping out at 3ft and looking a little spindly. I think it was early April.

    Honestly I was disappointed in the selection this year. In fact I would bet on what they have being left over from last year. They looked like they had been wintered over, only a few green stems. I selected the best and even then it wasn't fabulous looking. I have no concern though, as once it heats up it'll take off. I wonder if having it in a pot helps it achieve height (besides the obvious that the pot adds some height...).

    As for us traveling the same's weird, huh? I've no doubt that we've stood next to each other at some point admiring a plant and deciding to buy. Are you doing RPR this year or staying away? I've got a friend coming down for the weekend and we're making a day of it. Otherwise I might suggest that we meet up out there. That way I'd know my agave competition by sight!

  5. Ha, he sounds like the soup Nazi, only he's the papyrus Nazi. I'd have been glad to escape the battle, personally. You don't happen to have any pics of your 'King Tut' from last year, do you?

    And, by the way, anytime you want to hop on a plane to Austin and see the mangaves and agaves, I'll be glad to give you a tour.

  6. Pam - tonight was the big night that I got the old computer back (it has been at the doc) and I really thought I would have pictures, but unfortunately not. Seems some went missing (or my memory is off) and a few others were corrupt. Oh the future. I had an amazing image of a flax blossom, sad that it is gone.

    Thanks for the tour offer, if I win lottery I am there! And of course same goes for you if you end up in Portland. Although it would be a different tour. Were you here last September for the garden writers convention? I'm thinking not, I don't remember reading about your adventures in Portland.

  7. I had a good papyrus experiment last year, because I bought four papyrus last year. I planted three in pots and one in my bog in the ground. My bog drains to quickly, so it's not super soggy, just more moist than the rest of the garden. The papyrus in the bog got way bigger than those in the pots. I ended up transferring one of the potted plants to the bog, and it started to catch up. Those are the results of my highly scientific trial.
    I think I'll try to go to RPR this year, but I've been slacking on plant sales this year, I keep ending up too busy to go (I am doing unemployment all wrong). I hope to make it though.

  8. Megan you're getting me thinkin about creating a bog! I did move the Gunnera to a big round stock tank this year and I am attempting a bog situation there. But big papyrus in the ground is very tempting!

    I am trying to devise some sort of shopping list/budget for RPR - so I will feel like I have limits. Usually I just go there and fall in love with everything and then try and decide what I absolutely can't live with out.


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