Rain fails to keep plant lovers away

Vancouver nursery bustles with activity Sunday

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Mother's Day has come and gone, and that means it's safe for gardeners to plant their favorite flowers, fruits and vegetables.

As safe as it can be, that is, under the fickle skies of the Pacific Northwest, said Sequoia Lott, assistant manager at Shorty's Garden & Home nursery.

Thunder cracked on Sunday above the Vancouver nursery as about a dozen dedicated plant shoppers walked the aisles. While rain pelted the nursery's roof, Washougal resident Lisa Padilla described the hail her family drove through that day on their way to buy tomato and zucchini plants.

"If the weather shapes up, we'll be planting maybe this week," she said. Her husband, Honorio Padilla, also bought some wildflower seeds and said he plans to create an herb garden.

The Padillas weren't the only ones with gardening on their minds over the weekend. Volunteers took advantage of a sunnier day Saturday to fill the flower beds at Esther Short Park, while another organization got busy planting this year's "Welcome to Washington" sign just off northbound Interstate 5 near the exit to Fourth Plain Boulevard.

This year's living Washington sign, planted by the Master Gardener Foundation of Clark County, features a combination of 2,920 red and pink fibrous begonias and 864 emerald falls dichondra plants. The red flowers provide a bright backdrop to the green dichondra planted in the shape of an evergreen tree.

The sign gives I-5 drivers "a colorful and cheery welcome" soon after they pass over the bridge from Oregon to Washington, Marie Ogier, a spokeswoman for the group, said in a news release. "It should bring a smile to a lot of harried drivers this summer."

Creativity, healthful food

At Shorty's on Sunday, Ron Trotman carried his pet dog, Dexter, and pushed a shopping cart as his wife, Arlene, loaded up on petunia and tomato plants. Each year, Arlene Trotman said she buys about 200 plants to decorate her Portland yard, and with each new gardening season comes a new test in creativity.

While others plant bright pink flowers, she said she tends to gravitate toward blooms that are blue, yellow, white or peach. Besides planting flowers around her yard, she has 18 pots on her deck to fill. She also fertilizes her plants about every 10 days.

"I just love to drive up to a yard that's well-groomed," she said. "When you're sitting out on the deck, it's so pretty. I just love it."

Lott, Shorty's assistant manager, said the store was busier than she thought it would be Sunday. When it comes to vegetable plant sales, she said the nursery has seen business pick up during the past few years. She credits that trend to customers' increased awareness of the food they consume.

"There's nothing like growing your own food," Lott said. "More people are trying to be more educated about where their food is coming from."