Imagine a nursery in outer Southeast Portland, tucked in a nondescript residential block just off a major thoroughfare.
Now imagine your garden filled with edible plants from that very same nursery, ranging from figs to pomegranates to countless varieties of berries to that holy grail of Northwest horticulture: cold, hardy citrus that can remain outside all year.
I know, it’s a lot to digest.
But One Green World provides a feast for the eyes (and nose and tastebuds) in its very well-curated collection of striking plants, both edible and nonedible, just off Foster Road in a spot that has led more than one customer to say “I had no idea you all were here.”
Originally, the nursery started by Jim Gilbert, who later sold it to the Gouy family (Kevin Gouy launched wine bar Bar Diane in 2019), focused solely on edible plants, trees, shrubs and vines.
And it still offers more than 1,000 varieties, from almond to yuzu.
As they installed landscape designs for clients emphasizing edible plants, though, they found themselves including unusual plants with a Mediterranean feel to round out the plant palette, One Green World horticulturist Sam Hubert said. And that prompted the thought: Why don’t we offer those for sale as well?
Roughly 70% of the 115,000 plants One Green World sells each year are via mail order, but they have turned the former gravel lot into an urban farm retail operation for those who want a first-hand experience with whatever they decide to put into their garden.
And there’s more to One Green World than the Southeast Portland location. The owners are renting space in Boring and the West Hills for trials on olive trees and pomegranates, and there are plans, Kevin Gouy says, for an arboretum/vineyard/garden/nursery/restaurant in Scappoose as well.
Hubert, who showed us and our granddaughter Noelle around the nursery, is passionate about every single plant, shrub and tree they are growing and selling there, but clearly he has a soft spot for figs. One Green World has about 50 varieties for sale on its website and 150 different stock plants, at least, many which will eventually be introduced.
“Some might say we have a fig problem,” he says.
But his boss Kevin Gouy sees it differently, saying, “We have one of the coolest selection of figs in the country.”
And that’s only part of one of the coolest — if not THE coolest — plant/tree/shrub selection we’ve ever seen.
I love this nursery!!! Love, love, love it!
It has such an amazing selection of edible plants. I can spend way too much time reading their catalog with all its information, and dream of somehow planting each and every variety in our quarter-acre garden.
Visiting the nursery is just as much fun, but dangerous because somehow I convince myself I can fit more than is realistic into our already-packed garden.
Case in point: When we went to One Green World to take photographs and interview Sam Hubert for this column, we somehow managed to bring home a pineapple guava and a fig tree for our already-full garden.
The nursery triggers something primal and also speaks to my childhood.
I grew up in Southern California and lived in an unincorporated part of Orange County next to a national forest on 1 ½ acres we jokingly called “The Ranch.”
Nowadays it would be called an urban farm or we’d be referred to as home orchardists. We had one, sometimes two, of every fruit or nut tree you could imagine.
There were oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangerines, several varieties of plums, apricots, peaches, avocado, pomegranates and all kinds of nuts. And, of course, a fig tree. Not to mention chickens, beehives and horses.
I have such great memories of plucking ripe pomegranates from the tree while on horseback to get a higher reach, and then heading out to explore the chaparral, accompanied by our dogs.
I’d ride up into the hills with red-stained hands and not see another person in the wilderness until I returned home hours later.
Things have changed! Dennis is a city boy (Dennis: Actually, more of a suburban boy) and I’m a country girl and somehow we ended up on a quarter-acre in a planned community. How did that happen?
Our garden is a blend of our childhood roots.
Our front garden is lush California xeric that transitions to our back garden, which is Pacific Northwest Mediterranean with a hardy dose of urban farm.
We have raised veggie beds bursting at the seams, but also throughout the garden, mixed in among the ornamental grasses and perennials, are edibles. Blueberries, thornless blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, figs, tomatoes, basil, peppers and much more make their home throughout our garden.
And they all meld together beautifully.
Who says you can’t plant a fig tree right in the middle of a lush perennial garden? That is what One Green World is all about. You don’t have to grow a dedicated orchard or veggie bed; the trend is to mix things up.
Consider planting that graceful fig or possibly a loquat or olive tree instead of a Japanese maple as the centerpiece in your perennial garden. It will be stunning and you can enjoy grilled figs with chèvre and balsamic in late summer as the fruit ripens, to boot.
Consider a blueberry or evergreen huckleberry or hedge instead of barberry, or try mixing in a grapevine with your clematis.
I guarantee that if you visit One Green World, you won’t come home empty handed. And if you don’t have room in your garden, just get rid of that last remaining patch of lawn and plant a perennial bed with a fig tree smack dab in the center as a focal point, ringed by a blueberry hedge.
You’ll be serving grilled figs with dinner in no time.
EASY (ish) TO GROW
Horticulturist Sam Hubert (he majored in jazz, too), is big on fruit trees (“You don’t have to start over every year,” like you do with vegetables, he says) and stresses One Green World tries to “educate people that it can be easy to grow things.”
- A variety of berries: Great for beginners, many varieties of blueberries, cane berries, goose berries and currants just require a little summer watering (the plants, not the beginners). And One Green World doesn’t sell them until they’re ready for a new home. (Says Hubert: “We make sure to sell first-time gardeners stuff they’re not going to kill and then get discouraged.”).
- Olives, figs: Yes, we can grow them here and they don’t need much water. And no spraying is required.
- Pomegranates: The shrubs sport beautiful blossoms followed by red fruit and are, Hubert says, much easier to grow than a peach.
- Sea Berry (aka Sea Buckthorn): Prized for their ornamental value and tasty, healthy fruit, these not only grow in really poor soil, they can actually improve the soil.
- Table grapes: Seedless, disease-resistant varieties are easy to grow and when trained on an arbor, fence or trellis, can add beauty to any landscape.
Given his passion about them, it’s safe to include figs in this category, although all three fit Hubert’s mantra of “You can have a beautiful tree and eat it, too.”
- Figs: With dozens of fig varieties to choose from in their catalog and an actual fig fest (pre-COVID at least, and it could return early this fall) at the nursery, they know their figs. They’re easy to grow and delicious and make for a beautiful small tree for most any garden.
- Pineapple guava: From Brazil, it’s become so popular One Green World has had to ramp up its propagation “like crazy.” This handsome, broad-leafed evergreen shrub’s leaves have a whitish-silver underside. The striking flowers are edible, as is the fruit.
- Loquat: From East Asia, this small to medium evergreen tree sports tropical-looking leaves, an apricot-like fruit and does well in dry Northwest summers.
- Evergreen huckleberries: A native and a favorite among buyers. One Green World features several varieties and is working to develop more with larger fruit.
- Maqui Berry: Also known as Chilean wine berry, the tree tops out at 12-15 feet and features juicy berries. Hubert says “we can’t grow enough of them.”
- Suhosine mulberry tree: Not a mulberry but a nettle relative that produces a small, mulberry-esque fruit that tastes similar to strawberries. Very popular in Central Asia and the Middle East.
- Ronde de Bordeaux fig: One of Hubert’s favorites, it ripens earlier than most figs — think August — and features dark-skinned figs. In fact, we planted one in our garden on Hubert’s recommendation. Our neighbor’s fig tree, which everyone referred to as the “neighborhood fig tree,” died, but now we’ll have figs to share in a few years.
- Yuzu Ichandrin. Cold hardy citrus, the three-inch-diameter fruit has a lemon-lime flavor and ripens in the winter.
We asked Sam Hubert which fruit-bearing trees people should keep in mind, and he came up with the following list (note that two are not yet for sale at One Green World but should be available by this fall or early spring).
- Citrumelo: This grapefruit grows to 8-12 feet tall and is very hardy. The fruit tastes like a cross between lemons and grapefruit.
- Coolidge pineapple guava: One of the best for growing in the Northwest (Dennis: The one we now have), it’s both early ripening and self-fertile and yields large, tasty flowers and fruit.
- Argelino loquat: This broad-leafed tree produces fragrant flowers followed by large, orange fruit. (not currently available).
- Black Madeira fig: This fruit is regarded by many as the best tasting fig and is a must for fig growers and collectors.
- Negra d’Agde fig: From France originally, its fruit is dark and tart (not currently available).
- Salavatski pomegranate: One of the most hardy, down to temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, it produces large fruit.
ONE GREEN WORLD
Where: 6469 S.E. 134th Ave., Portland
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
Email: [email protected]