Gardeners find plants, inspiration at idea fair

Home and Garden event draws 20,000 people over the weekend

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor



Did you know?

Clark Public Utilities provides vouchers for free compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) light bulbs in exchange for burned-out CFLs brought in for recycling. For more information about the program, go online to

CFL bulbs should be recycled rather than thrown away because they contain mercury, a potentially harmful chemical. An estimated 1,200 burned-out CFL bulbs were recycled over the weekend at the Clark Public Utilities Home and Garden Idea Fair.

Eager gardeners turned out Sunday to one of the largest plant sales in the county, filling wheelbarrows and wagons with fragrant flowers and young vegetable plants.

"I'm so excited," Inga Wahlander of Portland said Sunday at the 23rd annual Clark Public Utilities Home and Garden Idea Fair. "Look at all this stuff I have."

Her cart was full of assorted lettuce plants, a couple gooseberry shrubs and a honeysuckle vine. But that wasn't all she planned on buying. "I'm taking this to my car and coming back for the tomatoes," she said.

The event, which ran Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds in Ridgefield, provided Poksil Himrich of Salmon Creek a chance to get a start on her garden this year, which she hopes to grow organically.

Himrich, who said she spent much of her time at the fair "gawking at everything," said she grows kale and herbs. On Sunday, she was buying Sun Gold and heirloom tomatoes, and some flower plants, too.

"I'm just getting ready for the season," she said.

The event, which was free for the public, drew an estimated 20,000 visitors, Clark Public Utilities spokeswoman Erica Erland said. The plant sale included more than 40 nurseries.

The home improvement portion of the event included dozens more vendors, covering a wide range of home improvement needs. Visitors on Sunday could learn about outdoor fireplaces, replacing showers, landscaping designs, energy efficiency, invasive weeds and even how to make their own bird feeder by covering a large pine cone in peanut butter and coating it with bird seeds.

The show sold out all of its vendor spots, Erland said. That hasn't always been the case, especially in the years following the Great Recession, she said.

One of those vendors, Becky Sell, owner of Salem-based Sedum Chicks, has come to the fair for the past 12 years. Her nursery sells hardy succulent plants, which can be used as ground cover, in rock gardens or in a living wall hanging or wreath. She said the fair gives a boost to her business.

"I have a lot of regulars" who come back each year to the fair, Sell said. "It's awesome."