Ferguson’s Fragrant Garden Nursery display garden

I was out in the Aurora/Donald/St. Paul area for work this weekend and decided to poke around a bit afterwards.

Turns out it was a big weekend for garden centers in the valley: GardenPalooza was going on (September 9-12 2010) and I was smack-dab in the middle of it. There were scads of gardeners driving to the various nurseries for sales, talks and hands-on classes.

But my goal – apart from finding a fantastic burrito at a cart in Carlton (correction: NEWBERG!!), which I did – was to visit a nursery I know and love – Heirloom Garden Roses – and one I’d never been to – Ferguson’s Fragrant Garden Nursery, both in St. Paul, OR.

I love to visit Heirloom Roses because I’m crazy about the scent of old-fashioned roses. I sniff my way through the extensive display gardens, as focused as a professional wine taster, trying to figure out all the elements of each rose’s scent. Because I like to pick roses and keep them nearby, scent is incredibly important to me. Yes, I really enjoy certain rose plants in the garden, but it’s the scent that usually drives me to shell out the bucks for a plant. Heirloom’s roses are all own-root, which means they are not grafted on a different, faster-growing root stock. Their plants are small when you buy them but grow better in the long run, as they take off quickly and you never have to worry about pruning them below the graft union (’cause there is no graft union!). All their roses are $16.95, although they have near-constant sales on certain categories of roses if you sign up for their email newsletter.

I’d never been to Ferguson’s Fragrant Garden Nursery but a nursery devoted to deliciously-scented plants could only be a wondrous thing. And indeed, it was! The selection of fragrant plants and their companions was excellent. The display gardens were lush – maybe a bit too lush in places (leaky irrigation pipes will do that) – and they were planted with an ebullient mix of perennials, shrubs and trees.

It’s a beautifully tended and handily organized nursery. And the employee I hammed it up with was knowledgeable, helpful and genuinely friendly. Impressive!

There were some hot-off-the-presses plants and everything last weekend was on sale at 40% off – that’s about as great a deal as you can get at a retail nursery these days. The crazy-good sale’s over but starting tomorrow there will be another sale – 25% off through the month of September – that will usher in the autumn. Check their website for details.

And all this within a 45 minute drive from Portland. Add in the Mexican food carts in Carlton (no! NEWBERG!) and surrounding towns and you’ve made a fantastic day trip of it! And check out the slideshow (above) to get a taste (virtual sniff?) of what I experienced. Too bad I forgot to get the name of the AWESOME food cart…