Located on the fast and furious street for which Portland Ave. is named after, blink once and you’ll miss this 4-acre oasis located on the East side of Tacoma.
Yes, the neighborhood that has grown up around Portland Ave. is a little rough around the edges, but don’t let that stop you from discovering one of the last big nurseries left in the city. Portland Ave. is huge and it’s well stocked and it’s neat!
Full disclosure: I worked at this nursery for a couple of years. Back in the “the good ol’ days,” when I dreamed of opening up my very own nursery, I thought I had better get some experience working in a garden center before I even thinking of opening up a place of my own. I learned about customer service, plant care, plant scheduling, and I also learned that it is nearly impossible to make any money owning a nursery these days. With big box stores and rich kids working on mummy and daddy’s income, unless you own your own land and you have a small fortune tucked in your mattress, you’re going to have a very tough time competing in this industry and making any money at it.
Fortunately Portland Ave. has been around for 30 years or so, and they have what it takes to compete and survive.
I will always love this nursery. It is immaculate! Look across the yard and you’ll see perfect rows of clean and healthy plants. Even in the fall when the leaves are shedding, you’ll have a hard time finding any leaves cluttering around the merchandise or even hiding under the displays. That’s because an army of nursery elves are constantly raking, weeding, watering, and rearranging. Diseased plants are simply not tolerated here. The nursery is a model of perfection. Yeah, I said that… perfection!
What Portland Avenue does well is specialty conifers, Japanese maples, trees, shrubs, a big variety of perennials, and a great selection of annuals and vegetables at really good prices. This is my favorite place to find fat pots filled with plump blooming annuals for a price that is hard to beat. Plus, they keep bringing those beefy bloomers in well after the normal planting season has ended. It’s nice to find that color when it feels out of season to the rest of the nurseries.
Did I mention the vegetables? This place carries a ton of tomato varieties. You’ll find the basic beefsteak to a growing selection of heirlooms. They have a big showing of peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, and herbs. Plus, potato starts in every color and right now they have at least 10 varieties of garlic. The overall food crops at Portland Ave. are stellar; fruit trees, berries, grapes, and veggies. You’ll find the same locals coming back year after year only shopping for food crops.
What I don’t like about this nursery (insert double-edged compliment): a few of those staffers and you don’t have to shop there often to know whom I’m talking about. Most of the employees are awesome. Phenomenal! They’ll help you pick your plants, design your garden, pack your car, and have a friendly chat along the way. It’s only a couple of bad eggs that can really tarnish your view of this nursery. I’ll always come back for the friendly staff and the amazing plants.
My only other complaint about Portland Ave.: I really wish they had an espresso stand, dang it!
The fall sale, going on now until October 20th: Almost every single thing in the nursery is 25% off. Plants, soil, gifts, and pottery.
Will you find me shopping there? Yes. I like to support my local spots and since I am located in Tacoma, this is a good fit. Portland Ave. is my favorite place for pot stuffers and trees.
Should you be shopping there? Yes. If you can’t find the plant you’re looking for, ask one of the staff, because they probably have it. Or, they’ll order for you and call you when the plant comes in, at no extra cost. Don’t miss the very back end of the nursery with a big selection of large trees, a whole bunch of different kinds of conifers, birdbaths, statuary, and the shade houses stuffed full of Hosta, Hydrangea, Camellia, and vines.
Portland Avenue Nursery
1409 East 59th Street
Tacoma, WA 98404