Portland may be well-known as a green-thumber's nirvana, but until recently, approachable urban nurseries ran a bit slim. Sure, we had the corporate kitsch of Kasch's and the so-pro-its-intimidating Portland Nursery. But when Poppybox plopped six feet under in January, we lost our last, best chic plant haven for the home grower (Poppy's ritzy vibe--and prices to match--may have had something to do with it). But two neighborhood newcomers promise to turn the north side into an unrivaled resource for sensible, sustainable garden gear--without sacrificing a stylish shopping experience.

What: Pistils Nursery

Who: Sisters Megan and Amy Twilegar

When: The outdoor space opened last May, the building opened
Feb. 1.

How: Last year, the Twilegars bought a small lot on that boomlet known as North Mississippi Avenue for their chemical-free retail plant nursery. It focuses on environment-friendly agriculture and business practices. The store building features a winsome, false-front storefront, with a cozy shop below and rental commercial space above. Decked out with vintage industrial lighting and exposed beams, it was awarded a $5,000 G-rated grant for its environment-friendly features (psst...ask to see the eco-roof).

Dig: The Twilegars propagate more than half of their edible and ornamental plants themselves at two in-town growing sites--without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

What: Garden Fever

Who: Husband-wife team Jim and Lori Vollmer

When: Just opened March 1.

How: The Vollmers snatched up the airy, Martha Stewart-y, just-deserted Poppybox space (you'll recognize those galvanized tabletops). Like the Pistils girls, they're intent on promoting sustainable gardening and business methods (90 percent of the plant care and soil amendments sold here are environment-friendly). Though they've never owned a nursery before, they're putting their long-earned retail chops to use (he worked for years in warehouse and operations for the furniture and antiques biz).

"It's great to be back in this building," says Lori Vollmer, who worked in the space in 1990 when it was Nature's. She was on the design team for the Nature's "concept stores" that landed in Lake Oswego and nearby at Northeast 15th Avenue and Fremont Street (you know, the ones with the skin-treatment "salad bars"), and also lent her wisdom for the design of New Seasons.

Dig: "We're thrilled to be working in gardening, because it gets people in touch with their roots," says Lori, who winced at her own pun. Since the store's walls are festooned with an impressive collection of vintage farm and gardening implements, you can also get in touch with life before the rototiller.

Pistils Nursery
3811 N Mississippi Ave., 288- 4889

Garden Fever
3433 NE 24th Ave., 287-3200


Imelda's 9th Anniversary Sale
Save 10 to 70 percent off at this two- day event to celebrate Imelda's ninth year in the shoe business.

Imelda's Designer Shoes, 1431 SE 37th Ave., 233-7476. Saturday-Sunday, March 8-9.