WHILE THE collective whoosh of umbrellas going up this month might induce groaning, remember that, thanks to April’s average 2.64 inches of rain, in mere weeks your garden will be painted with color—but only if you’ve already planted your seeds and bulbs. You could visit one of those football-field-sized nurseries and wander for hours past plain-old pansies before finding pots of fragrant, white-blossomed jasmine—or you could opt to visit one of these tiny boutiques, where you’ll easily spy exactly what you want while putting fewer miles on your feet.
1. BUFFALO GARDENS
Actually, there’s no room for buffalo to roam at this diminutive nursery, which specializes in unusual edibles, from medlar trees to sea berry shrubs. But what owner Sandra Galli’s shop lacks in size, it makes up for in selectivity: Her store offers only the best in rare heirloom seeds, organic soil enhancers and premium-quality tools—such as a $60 copper trowel. (It’s worth it, Galli insists.)
2. GARDEN FEVER
What distinguishes this 15,000-square-foot nursery is its exceptional customer service. The staff shares a collective 198 years of gardening experience and dispenses its advice—like how to murder mealybugs—in free, homemade fliers. And Garden Fever’s Saturday-morning "Yoga for Gardeners" class will limber you up to exercise your exclusive perusing privileges before the shop opens.
This NoPo pioneer sources nearly all of its plants from small growers in the Willamette Valley; about 20 percent is raised organically at the nursery’s own site about a mile from the store. And the boutique houses one of most interesting arrays of exotic houseplants in the city, like elkhorn ferns and butterfly plants poised to migrate home with you.
4. ARTEMISIA GARDEN NURSERY & GALLERY
The art-school background of Artemisia’s owners shows in this menagerie of beautiful things. When you’re done admiring the selection of pretty—and often unusual—perennials, trees and shrubs, visit the adjacent boutique, where more beauty awaits, like owner Michael Aiello’s landscape paintings—sure to inspire your garden puttering.