Q&A #3 – Peggy Acott from Portland Nursery

 1. What does your organization do? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We are a large retail garden center.

2. What is your background?

I am coming up on nearly twenty years at the nursery. Starting out as a seasonal cashier with minimal actual plant experience, my learning curve and love of all things plants skyrocketed that first year.

I then spent a few years helping develop the position of Cashier Supervisor, and the beginnings of a more in-depth training program for seasonal staff; also I am the main buyer for the nursery’s NW native plant section. 

Fifteen years ago I created a position for myself as Community Outreach Director. This came in response to an increasing number of requests for donation items for school and community garden programs and fundraisers. Since embarking on this project the scope of it has grown experientially –  we currently donate in small and large ways to around four hundred groups and schools annually! It has been gratifying to see especially children and youth get involved in growing fresh healthy food and discover the wonders of gardening.

I’ve been on the Board of Directors of Friends of Zenger Farm for a little over three years – www.zengerfarm.org

Some of the c ommunity projects that Portland Nursery has supported: 

And, as if that is not enough, Peggy has an article published in Edible Portland, available at

http://edibleportland.com/2008/09/teen-works/.   A video about the project is also available at


3.  What is a piece of advice for home buyers?

Take some time to get to know what is already in your garden; there may be a lot of nice surprises to be discovered if you purchase a house in winter (for example), when things are dormant and not showing above ground, or when that green-all-over-shrub is out of bloom.  Also, if you’re planning to install new garden beds, especially if you have some large trees on or next to your property, watch to see how the direction of the sun changes during the season, to be sure you’re placing and planting your beds correctly according to the sun requirements. This is especially true if you’re planning to grow edibles – those summertime crops of tomatoes and peppers really want no-kidding-full-sun.  (One idea is to plant in containers the first year, so they can be moved to follow the sun as need be, and so you don’t miss out on your favorite veggies or flowers that first season while you’re trying to get the lay of the land)

4.  Is there anything you would say specifically to first-time home buyers?

All of the above, plus: If you’re starting more from scratch on your garden, conventional wisdom is to start your planting with the larger items (trees and tall shrubs) that will serve as the anchors for your landscape, then work your way down to the smaller plants – groundcovers and bulbs last. Makes for easier planting, rather than trying to negotiate a large shrub into the back of an already planted garden bed full of perennials and annuals.

5. What changes have you seen in the last year?

There has been an increasing interest in gardening in general, probably due in part to an improving economy and all the emphasis on healthy eating, exercise and the health benefits of spending time in more natural settings. The really big change that I have seen, however is a huge upsurge in interest to incorporate NW native plants into home landscapes.

6. What changes do you see for the next 3 – 6 months?

We’re just coming into the planting season, so I’m curious to see – I think it is going to be a continuation of an increased enthusiasm and vigor for gardening.

7. What do you like best about living in Portland?

The long growing season – the fact that you can have a year-round vegetable garden here with not much extra effort.

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