Wednesday, October 5, 2011

October is Support Your Independent Nursery Month! Let's visit Garden Fever...

On her Austin, TX, garden blog called Digging, my friend Pam has declared October to be “Support Your Independent Nursery Month,” Every Wednesday during the month she’ll be posting about an independent nursery that has helped to build her gardens over the years. Of course I had to join in the fun and I’m starting my celebration with a trip to Garden Fever, “your neighborhood nursery” and for me it really is…less than two miles from my driveway to their front door. I am a very lucky gardener to have a resource like this so close to home. Not only do they have a top-notch plant selection but their container choices are among the best in Portland (and one of the most affordable), plus they’ve got all the other necessary items like gloves, soil, tools and books. Add in the knowledgeable and helpful staff (many of whom have been at Garden Fever as long as I’ve been shopping there) and who could ask for more? A special nursery like this has to have some pretty special people behind it right? Right. Lori and Richard Vollmer have been in business for 9 years and have been avid gardeners most of their lives. I wanted to learn a bit more about what it’s like to run a neighborhood nursery like Garden Fever and Lori graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me. Wanting to get a little industry dirt (haha, sorry…I couldn’t resist) I asked Lori what’s been the biggest surprise in running a retail nursery, her response: “People actually garden in January. Gee, I thought we could just close the store for a month!” And just what is the craziest question a customer has ever asked? (I have a retail management background I know just how odd the public can be)… “There are no "bad questions" but we do get people asking for tomato plants in December to give as Christmas gift. We usually give them a great selection of tomato seeds...great stocking stuffer!” Speaking of stocking stuffers that’s another category that Garden Fever does extremely well. Their holiday décor and gift selection never feel like “fillers” just there to take up space in the off season, they are as well curated as the plant selection. And even though they double the size of their staff for the busy spring and summer season you'll still find plenty of people to assist you in the fall and winter they still have a great plant inventory then too (just not tomato plants). It was at Garden Fever that I first spotted an Astelia, since then I’ve made many plant discoveries at the nursery and always sensed a similar plant taste at work behind the scenes. Hoping to zero in on this (and maybe discover a new “must have” for my garden) I asked Lori “what do you feel is the most undervalued plant at the nursery? The one that someday the gardening public is going to realize how cool it really is” her response helps to explain why Garden Fever appeals to so many people “Gardening is such a personal expression of what is meaningful to you. I don't think I could name a plant that everyone should grow. I do think that the more the world changes around us, the more we should, as gardeners, remember that what we put in the ground is not just for today. It's for the next gardener and owner of your home, the next generation of gardeners. I'm so glad that the folks that owned my house before we did didn't take all the Douglas Firs down when they built the house. Having decade old, established plants in your garden is a gift that you don't always appreciate until you start gardening and realize how long it takes for a plant to be established in your garden. How long it takes before you can experience the plant in its full glory.” Back to my feeling that there was a like-minded gardener at work deciding which plants to stock at Garden Fever? Well I learned that Lori grew up in Arizona! In her words “My gardening experience started in Arizona, land of spiky plants.” Along those lines I inquired as to how many Agaves she has in her garden. Only a typo got in the way and that isn’t what I actually asked but rather my question came across as asking how many agaves is the right number to have in the garden (silly question obviously, the right answer is as many as possible!) Lori’s answer “How many should gardeners have or how many do I have? I have many, but I have a whole lot more at our house in Arizona (the one I grew up in). There really is something different about growing plants in their native habitat.” And lastly I asked about her personal garden style… “I have to honestly say that my garden changes every year as I discover new plants and as the reason I garden evolves. However, I love vegetables because I love to cook. I love plants that flourish toward the end of the summer, because that's when we spend the most time with friends and family in the garden (it's finally warm enough!). Most of all, my garden is not "designed". I do what I'm excited about today and see what happens. And, I'm trying to find more ways to enjoy my garden 12 months out of the year.”... thank you Lori!

Okay it's time to head out to the nursery and look at the plants!... So after looking at all of these beautiful plants do you still need an excuse to get out and support Garden Fever? How about 25% off Perennials, Herbs & Vines, Ground Cover, Grasses & Bamboo, Sedums and Succulents…(yes succulents too!)…thru Sunday October 9th. All joking aside these are tough times. We vote with our dollar every day by spending it at the big box, or spending it at local nurseries like Garden Fever. I recently blogged about buying a Chocolate Mimosa at the big orange box…so obviously I’m not up on any high horse here, sometimes a plant grabs you when you least expect it and you’re helpless. But beyond those occasional lapses I spend my gardening dollars at independent nurseries like Garden Fever, of course here in Oregon that’s easy since we’ve got a riches of nurseries to chose from! (by the way that will be my topic for next week’s Independent Nursery Month post…exploring the 100’s of independent nurseries of Oregon…well, maybe not all of them). I leave you with one more reason to shop at Garden Fever…they’ve got pink flamingos!


  1. what a wonderful idea!! I'm glad to see you are spreading the tradition (who knows how many we will see next wednesday!?). That looks like such an amazing nursery you have there. I especially love the bins of different top dressing rocks right with the pots ... you can tell that is someone who pots succulents!

  2. Before Garden Fever took over that space, there was a high-concept garden store: very modern/minimalist. I think you would have loved it, as did I. You have captured, in the interview and the photos, why GF is a success where the prior shop failed. This is a funky/eclectic town, where rebel citizens, especially gardeners, hate to be told, however subtly, how to do things. I can see walking out of GF with the makings for any style whatsoever.

  3. Oh! That orange bench is perfection. I wonder if any old bench painted that color would do the trick...but I like that one. : )

  4. I cannot imagine my garden without Garden Fever. I love all the things they sell that you never knew you needed/wanted. It is also a great place for me to take foster kids who say they "hate" gardens and gardening. During the winter months I tend to take a lot of kids there and I think it has even changed a few of their minds about our dirty hobby!

  5. I got the fever to visit Garden Fever! I love these virtual nursery tours, and WHEN I come back to Portland I'd love to see your neighborhood nursery.

    And yes, I'll be sure to take you to Barton Springs Nursery, among others, when you visit Austin.

    Thanks for joining in for Support Your Independent Nursery Month!

  6. Just 2 miles away? Damn...

  7. I love this place! And for some reason Garden Fever is unique to me in that it's my best retail therapy location. If I'm feeling a little down in the dumps, all it takes is a stroll through the plant aisles to bring me right out of it. I don't even need to buy anything (although they have gotten a good percent of my garden dollars over the years.) It's retail therapy that works every time.

  8. How wonderful to have such a cool nursery so close to your house! I'm trying to think of other independent nurseries that I can showcase from around here. I seem to remember you wrote about one a while back that is in Tacoma, called Jungle Fever? I think I will check it out.

  9. Fantastic post, Loree!

  10. Louis, you picked up on one of my fav's! Usually I buy a bag of small pea gravel at the rock store but when I've got something that I want to look a little special its great to pop in GF and buy some fancy rocks.

    Ricki, I've recently learned that one of my neighbors used to work at Poppy Box (the pre-GF store)...and I've heard from several people that I would have liked it. I'm so glad that GF went into the space, I can't imagine gardening here without them!

    Growing Op, it's certainly worth a try, but you're right that one is perfection!

    Ann, reading your comment got me thinking about all the things I've discovered Atlas gloves, chicken grit, Xera plants...the list goes on and on!

    Pam, thank you for the idea! It's a good one...and we'll definitely hit GF when you're back.

    Denise, yep!

    MulchMaid, you are so right! Especially in the winter, walking through GF you just know it (winter) can't last forever.

    Alison, I look forward to it!

    Lauren, thank you!

  11. This is a great post. Yes they have a ton of stuff you didn't know you needed/wanted. LOL Thanks Loree.


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