hpso spring sale


On the hunt for the unusual, the exotic, the hard-to-find? The Hardy Plant Society of Oregon has a plant sale each spring and fall, where every specialty nursery worth its salt displays its most special merchandise. If the activity at the Expo Center last Saturday is any indication, the economy is on a decided upswing. I had never seen such an active sale, with it often hard to jockey one’s way to the front of the crowd massed around the display tables. I arrived in the vicinity at about 11:30 (the sale ran from 10 to 3 Saturday and Sunday). Bumper to bumper traffic crawled at a snail’s pace, and there were signs telling us that the Expo parking lot was full: we should take light rail. I couldn’t imagine schlepping plants on public transportation, so, like many others, I ignored the warnings. Indeed, cars were being admitted to the parking lot, but much circling and an embarrassing willingness to scoot into an open space in front of someone quite possibly with a prior claim yielded a space as far from the exhibition hall as one could get.


Can you see that building way off in the distance? That is where the sale was being held. As I approached, I could see a long line of cars lined up to pick up their plants. Only if I were to find the plant of my dreams would I be willing to run that gauntlet.


Plenty of shoppers were up to the challenge. This lady was pulling her filled cart into the pick-up area. Boy, did I feel like a wimp.


I had decided to follow the common advice to browse the whole show before committing to purchases. I’m here to say that that is the stupidest advice ever. I was already suffering from sensory overload by the time I made it through half of the displays. I had stumbled upon Romneya coulteri, which had been on my wish list ever since my first open garden visit several years ago. As I looked it over, along came a delightful woman who assured me that it was a fabulous plant and that I needed to get myself a box and snatch it up RIGHT NOW. Well, I know good advice when I hear it, and I had already forgotten which plants I had earmarked for return visits. It was time to commit, and to get the heck out of there while I still had some modicum of equilibrium. So my take, I am sorry to say, is anything but impressive: the aforementioned California poppy, a new Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’, Contoneaster horizontalis ‘Cheney’ (sorry about that, but it is a cool plant), Calluna vulgaris ‘Spring Torch’, a chocolate cosmos for my daughter-in-law (tiny, so I will need to baby it along a while before giving it to her), and a tomato plant for Richard.

8 thoughts on “hpso spring sale

  1. God I hear you about the traffic! That was just plain insane!? Who thought it was a good idea to schedule 4 shows at the Expo Center all the same weekend?

    As for the advice to look it over before pulling your must haves that is crazy talk. Not because of being overwhelmed (for me) but because that must have might be gone when you go back! The horror.

    If you aren’t completely burnt out on the idea the fall sale is usually much more mellow…

  2. I never heard the advice to wait, my system seems to be to wildly grab everything that looks interesting. My muscles were sore from lugging around the boxes! It was surprisingly not quite as busy very first thing when the doors opened. I went back a second time Sunday afternoon. It was downright mellow, but also very picked over. I found some really fabulous stuff on day one.

    I wasn’t familiar with Romneya coulteri, but very cool plant, after looking it up. Good find.

  3. I’d say your take is quite respectable! And why on earth are you apologizing about the cotoneaster? We need to balance the exotic with the known-and-loved in the garden. I was looking for some pretty prosaic rudbeckia (that I didn’t find.) That said, your exotic looking poppy is wonderful. I look forward to seeing it later in your garden.

    I was lucky enough to get there just after the sale opened and it was not bad. But by the time I left at about 11:30, I ran into Loree, who sat in line to park for 20 minutes. I’m going to say that even at the fall sale last year, the place got wildly busy around noon on Saturday. Plan accordingly!

  4. Well Ricki~~ At least you weren’t privy to the verbal assaults of your blogging brethren. I tried that “sensible” pre-perusal and lost my chance at a dwarf ornamental grass that all my buddies were hanging back to get. I think the idea is to get the best deal but like you said, sensory overload pretty much nixes that idea.

    You’ve got some great plants, regardless. ‘Cheney’ LOL. Was it shaped like a quail? I know, not funny.

  5. Loree~One good thing: as I crawled along in traffic there were red winged blackbirds showing themselves in the wetland nature preserve.

    I guess it has been a long time since I made it to a spring sale. Falling for that “good advice” to plant in the fall has led to massive plant death, so I decided to try a new strategy this year.

    Megan~Plant sale strategy: yet another desirable outcome from blogging. Thanks, Megan. Next time the coffee and paper will have to wait.

    Jane~Sounds like Loree and I could learn a thing or two from you and Megan.

    Grace~Yes, funny (you always are). Maybe it was named for Lon?

    Things seemed a bit picked over by the time I got there, and the things I really liked were offered by my neighbors: Cistus and Joy Creek, where I can just drive right up to get my plants, no sweat.

  6. Oh, reading this is making me think twice about going to the insanely well-attended big spring plant sale this coming weekend… the crowds, the lines, the sore arms! The things we will endure to find that perfect plant!! You guys were brave, this sounds like a true nightmare. I usually bring my daughter’s red wagon to these things but often park it under a table because the aisles are too crowded to tug it along. Nutty! Your finds sound great, and as you said, a peaceful trip to the nursery nearby might be just as fruitful, and much less stressful!

  7. I realize the Expo Ctr is the traditional venue and all that,
    but HPSO really needs to find a better site for the sale.
    The frenzy at the sale iitself is fine, fun even, but
    negotiating the gridlock through all the gunlovers etc has
    become a little ridiculous.

  8. Karen~No wagons allowed at this sale, so one must be stout of arms as well as heart. Don’t get me wrong. It is a great event, despite the aforementioned glitches.

    Marci~Actually, Expo is a fairly new venue. It used to be held at the Washington County Fairgrounds. There, we sometimes bumped into the Air Show, so I guess any place will have its problems.

    How did you happen upon my blog? It is very helpful to know these things. Welcome! I hope you’ll be back. Not all posts are so grumpy.

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