With my gardens put to bed, it’s time to catch up on all of the things I did over 2006 but neglected to write about. Late last February I took a trip to Portland, Oregon to do a couple of events. One was a presentation on growing food in difficult spaces at Clackamas Community College for their day-long “Vegetable Gardening Symposium” and the second was a Seed-starting Workshop at a gorgeous nursery called Pistils.

Setting Up for a Workshop at Pistils
    I look horribly perplexed or vexxed here. I assure you I am just caught off guard by the camera. This is in the back of Pistils where I am setting up for the workshop. Note that I am not wearing a jacket in Feb! It was cold but not bad at this time of day.
    They have a couple of chickens running around at Pistils. It is my dream to one day have chickens.

I had never been to the Pacific Northwest so we spent a few extra days in Portland walking around with cameras. While it was cold and windy they had just come out of a month-long rainy period — the entire city was in good spirits. I was particularly fascinated by the lush greeness of everything, particularly the moss and lichen covering trees, old walls, and just about anything that stood still long enough.

Lichen and Moss

It was really insightful for me to see what certain plants look like at that time of year. For example the rosemary bushes were massive — we can’t grow rosemary outdoors past November in my neck of the woods. I am very jealous!

Rosemary Bush
    A horrible picture of me… but let’s ignore that and focus on the massiveness of the rosemary beside me — it reaches my head!

The climate is also mild enough for plants like calendula and swiss chard to continue growing all year. I saw both just about everywhere.

One of the best things about going to Portland was the opportunity to experience spring early… and then re-experience it again a few months later! I was just in time to catch crocus flowers and plum blossoms.


Portland is known as the Rose City. I didn’t know this prior to my trip but I’m a fairly sharp pencil and figured it out on the train ride from the airport into the city having passed several businesses and wall murals bearing the emblem. And p.s. yay for a decent train that goes from the airport into the city! That was the cheapest ride from an airport ever — and they have bicycle holders too. Portland is my kind of town minus the whole grey-and-wet-for-months-on-end part.

Rose City
    Ummm… do ya think they like their roses in this here town?

Unfortunately, my timing was much too early for me to see what all of this Rose City fuss is about. We did visit the Rose Garden, however the plants were all cut back and large machines were shooting that awful, stinky, chemically dyed mulch onto rows of beds. I could have done without that part but will admit that the bleak, moist air and soldiers of thorny rose canes sticking out of the ground made for some good pictures.

in the Rose Garden Rose Hips (with water drops)

I can’t talk about a trip to Portland without mentioning Powells, America’s largest independant book store. Oh lord how I loved Powells. Our friends took us over there on our first night where I proceeded to spend the entire visit combing dizzily (and frantically like my life depended on it) through the garden section. They include used books in with the new books and the result is something close to heaven. I never did make it to another section of the store and bought so many books Davin (who went home ahead of me) had to lug home an extra piece of luggage filled with books! We headed over to the Powells books for home and garden store — yep, that’s right, AN ENTIRE STORE, people — on one of our free days where I was cautious with my wallet and only bought a few more books. I want to thank Powell’s for the way they promoted my book by including it in a special Small/Urban gardening section. They also attached a tag with a sweet overview. The whole thing made me both giddy and teary.

at Powells

The good news is that I will be going to Portland again this year, and at the exact same time no less, to speak about urban gardening at the YARD, GARDEN & PATIO SHOW (more details to come). If you are in the area I’d love to have a little get-together at a local coffee shop (it took me a while but I now get that west coast lattes are wimpier than east coast but if you ask for a double shot you get a REALLY good espresso-based coffee). You can also bet that because I learn my lessons well I will be packing an extra piece of luggage and am saving my pennies in preparation for a return visit to Powells. Must. Get. More. Books.

I have a few more pictures from this trip posted here. Stay tuned as I still need to show pictures from the gorgeous Japanese Garden.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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6 thoughts on “Portland

  1. Greetings from Portland!

    I just picked up You Grow Girl only 2 days ago at the very same Powell’s that you so enjoyed. I love your book, and I’m excited about starting my own humble garden on my apartment balcony.

    And I’m absolutely thrilled that you’re returning to P-Town. I’d be up for some coffee. :)

  2. Oh my goodness, Portland seems so amazing, I really want to take a road trip down there, it’s not actually that far from Vancouver (about 6.5 hr drive). My man and I have just been waiting for an excuse to check it out, so post early when you have details about that show… maybe I can head down there for a couple days!

  3. Hey, this was really neat to read. I have lived in Portland for the last six years and have lived on the west coast my whole life. I really liked reading your account of our town in Feburary. I just got your book, too, on amazon and am looking forward to reading it. It looks great! I love how you focus so much on small places! Love from Portland!

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