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.