When Portland Wholesale Nursery opened its doors in 1907, horse-drawn carriages outnumbered cars, movies were still silent and refrigeration was a startling new idea. Even then, however, people everywhere were gardening.
Retail centers on the East coast were particularly hungry for plants, and Pacific Northwest plant growers were hungry for business, but without phones or even highways to work with, the nearest town was a saddle sore ride away. Local small farmers growing ornamental plants were up against stupendous odds.
So how could a plantswoman or plantsman with a knack for growing peonies or poplar trees sell to a market 3,000 miles away? The answer came in the form of a nurseryman named Albert Brownell. With a few choice acres of nursery property, minutes from the railroad yards of Portland, Brownell opened Portland Wholesale Nursery and began to broker plants. Taking orders from the East and pooling resources from around the Northwest, Brownell shipped hundreds of thousands of plants to gardeners clear across the country... in unrefrigerated railroad cars packed with ice! It was the beginning of a nursery business that would last the century.
In the early 1920's Portland Wholesale Nursery changed owners... and a star was born. Meet our horticultural hero, Avery Steinmetz.
During the next six decades, through his enthusiasm and example, Avery Steinmetz would elevate the nursery trade. He would set new standards for commercial horticulture. He would also become one of the first people honored in the American Association of Nurserymen's Hall Of Fame. When he finally sold the nursery in the 1980's, Mr. Steinmetz wasn't looking for the biggest profit. He was looking for the greatest vision. He wanted to make sure his nursery would remain an oasis in the city, a green space with a human touch, a place for people who loved plants as he loved them... Turns out we had a lot in common with Mr. Steinmetz.