Springtime is in full swing. How do we know? The telltale signs of Portland spring abound: yards are bursting with color, the birds are chirping, the grass grows tall, gigantic dandelions are popping up everywhere and bright blue skies quickly give way to dark and dreary days and intermittent sunshowers.
The sometimes incessant rain of Portland, which has been surprisingly mild the last few years, may seem like a burden, but without this rain we wouldn’t have those exceptionally vibrant gardens. We’ll take it!
Spring is the time for garden planning and preparation. Eager green thumbs may already be planning their veggie gardens, hopefully for an abundant season. It’s easy to plant a garden in Portland; the hard part is deciding what you want to put in the ground.
No matter what phase of the season you’re in, and even if you aren’t an experienced gardener, Portland is filled with ways to find your vision or simply relax and browse.
Here are a few of our favorite places for springtime inspiration.
Cistus Nursery is a unique retail micro-nursery located on scenic Sauvie Island, 15 miles northwest of Portland. They sell hardy tropical plants from Mediterranean climates and the southern hemisphere.
It’s fun to wander through the display gardens and ogle at some of the most wild species you’ll ever see. The staff are extremely knowledgeable and friendly - they love to talk about their remarkable plants.
As a bonus, Sauvie Island makes for a lovely day of bike riding or scenic driving. There are several hiking trails on the island, and a few u-pick farms (though most u-picks don’t have anything available until Memorial Day Weekend when strawberry season begins), plus plenty of working farms.
Portland Japanese Garden
When His Excellency Nobuo Matsunaga, the former Ambassador of Japan to the United States, visited Portland Japanese Garden, he proclaimed it to be “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan.”
Keep this in mind as you stroll the 12 acres with eight separate garden styles. You are here to find your inspiration, but don’t expect to recreate this masterpiece that has been expertly curated since 1963.
The Garden sits nestled in the hills of Washington Park, overlooking the city and providing a tranquil, urban oasis for locals and travelers alike. The Garden proclaims their site as a place to “discard worldly thoughts and concerns and see oneself as a small but integral part of the universe.”
As you stroll the gardens, you’ll be treated to an authentic Japanese Tea House, meandering streams, intimate walkways and a spectacular view of Mt. Hood.
The Portland Japanese Garden says they are “born out of a hope that the experience of peace can contribute to a long lasting peace. Born out of a belief in the power of cultural exchange. Born out of a belief in the excellence of craft, evidence in the Garden itself and the activities that come from it. Born out of a realization that all of these things are made more real and possible if we honor our connection to nature.”
We think that makes for a lovely theme upon which to inspire your home garden.
Fill your mug with coffee or tea, leash the dog and head out for a neighborhood stroll. Find inspiration in your neighbors’ gardens. See how plants compliment each other, shade each other and interact visually with the shape of a yard and the structure of the home. Take note of the plants that stand out and instantly draw you in. Much like works of art, plants are completely subjective, so find what you love and add it to your yard.
You might even find textures and landscaping features you never thought to incorporate, like concrete pavers, pea gravel or potted plants. Don’t be shy about asking your neighbor, “Hey, where’d you get that gorgeous metal trellis?” Portlanders love to share their unique finds.
Take photos of what you like, and close ups of any plants you think you might want to buy. Clear, detailed photos will help a nursery identify and source the plants for you.
Fantastic garden stores abound in Portland. Your neighborhood store just might be the best one for you. Armed with inspiration from the Portland Japanese Garden, a stroll through Cistus and your neighbors’ yards, the friendly and extremely knowledgeable team at Garden Fever! can help advise you on how to transform those ideas into reality.
Tucked into a small space in Beaumont-Wilshire near 34th and Fremont, the store appears even smaller from the street. But once inside, you’ll find a wonderland of thoughtfully organized plants and supplies with a sustainable focus.
Your Yard is a Canvas
When you buy a new home, think of the yard as a canvas. You may want to keep what’s already there, or start fresh. It’s a good idea to see a yard through a season of plants blooming so you know what you have to work with.
As you browse for homes with your Urban Nest agent, take note of (and photos of) features that inspire you. The lush climate of Portland makes it easy to plant and maintain a simple garden that you can build upon over time.
The Urban Nest team is here to help you find your dream garden… or a home with the potential for a dream garden.