From Plug to Purchase

I had the opportunity last Thursday to take a day off work and join the Master Gardener “On the Road” tour of three nurseries just south of Portland. I had never given much thought on how the seeds I order, or the plants I buy, got from point A to B so I was keen to see how the process worked. After meeting at a car rental place about 30 gardeners piled into vans and headed out into the drizzly morning.

First up was Silver Falls Seed Company situated in the pretty farmland in Silverton. Silver Falls is a family run seed farm which produces a huge variety of seed with a range of wildflowers, flowers, forage, and grasses. We were given a tour of the buildings where the seed is brought in for processing. It was pretty noisy due to the mechanized hoppers, shakers, and chutes run by the staff so I wasn’t able to hear everything our guide said.  Our tour centered around the area where the seed is sorted, cleaned, and packed into large bags which are then stacked on pallets to be shipped to various parts of North America and Europe.


One of the smaller sorters


Larger bin of collected seed


Bags of seed on pallets


Second stop was the Rita Lee Nursery in Gervais. This is a family run cacti and succulent specialty nursery located on the family farm. Much of their product is grown by seed or by starts from a ‘mother’ plant. The nursery has a FaceBook page where interested buyers can make contact, otherwise they sell at trade shows and local independent nurseries.


Just one of the greenhouses



There was a greenhouse with plants in bloom so of course I had to buy a few for my “Sedum in a bird bath” project.


Little Prince of Oregon, a wholesale nursery in Aurora, was our third and final stop after lunch. Many gardeners will recognize the name or the plant tag; that of a frog wearing a crown. The nursery produces several lines of plant material for retail nurseries and garden centers in Oregon, Washington, and California. I didn’t get a photo of the greenhouses but there must have been over 50… it was a bit overwhelming trying to walk through every one to see what was in there.


Plants in one of the holding areas


Plants in shipping area


In Vancouver you can find Little Prince plants at Fred Meyer Garden Centers, Wilco, Shorty’s, Yard ‘n Garden Land, Orchard Feed Mill, Hidden Gardens, and Bird’s English Gardens.

What I came away with: I think a lot about the aesthetics of plants in the garden. Seeing the logistical process of growing and marketing plants so that we gardeners CAN indulge in the aesthetics gave me an appreciation of what these businesses do.  A hundred plus  years ago collecting plants was reserved for the wealthy. Those with means would finance plant explorers to parts of Asia or the Americas in search of plants that are now commonplace. Thankfully the work of these companies make it possible (and much easier) for home gardeners to create their own havens.


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