Your Bargain Garden

Hardware stores and grocery shops offer affordable options for the yard.

Gardening - Tony's Garden Center (Allison Barr)

We’re not here to lie to you and say gardening is cheap. Plants and all the planting goods can cost a pretty penny. But don’t turn your back on that empty yard yet—there are options. Gardening centers, hardware stores and even grocery stores can be great places to get what you need. They offer lower prices and pretty solid selections of plants to build a fun and affordable garden. Also note: Fall’s a great time to get some solid deals on plants when there’s still a good window to get them in the ground. But that’s months away, so for now, here are our recommendations. ROBIN BACIOR.

Tony’s Garden Center

Multiple locations, Hours vary based on location.

Tony’s Garden Center doesn’t just give you bang for your buck—it’s a bit of a bang for your time, too. There are locations in Happy Valley and Damascus, but Portlanders might find themselves at the Southeast Holgate Boulevard and 103rd Avenue post. The parking lot is small but the offerings on the other side of the gate are ample. There are multiple greenhouses to wander through like an outdoor market—tomato starters for days, along with a host of veggie trays coming in at $4, which is on the more affordable side of produce plants in town. And it’s not just produce. You’ll find native plants and shrubs, long aisles of annuals (overheard is a customer eagerly awaiting just the right begonias), trees and berry vines to take home. There’s also the indoor stuff, a greenhouse full of succulents and tropical-leaning plants with the half-off table offering a wealth of slightly crisped ones (except for a mighty philodendron moonlight with wide waxy leaves unfurling in a banana yellow).

This family-run locally owned business has been around for 25 years, and it feels well-worn and well-loved. At the end of a Sunday afternoon, a day when the heavy rain clears for one last burst of sun, the long rows of plants are saturated and almost glowing as parents mill around while their kids zip through the aisles, young couples lean into each other and pick plants for their new yards, and staff members smile and ask if you need anything, casually clustering together and laughing softly as the day winds down. You’ve got a community and a lot of options here. Stopping by Tony’s is time well spent. RB.

Fred Meyer

Multiple locations, Hours vary based on location.

The department-store nursery that erupts in Fred Meyer parking lots each spring is a boon for local gardeners who want to make a big landscaping impact but are operating on a tight hothouse budget. Thankfully, in Freddy’s seasonal makeshift aisles, gardeners will find shelves replete with familiar perennials, ground covers, ornamentals and colorful annuals, herbs and veggies, all thriving and ready to be dropped into window boxes, raised beds, tilled patches in backyards, or even decorative pots. The selection includes plants that thrive in shady patches, or are particularly drought tolerant, or will be fruitful in full-sun areas. Both starters and more established botanicals (hanging pots or small trees) all present price points considerably friendlier than those of boutique shops.

Gardeners with purse strings held tight can ease their grips in the FM parking-lot nursery, with a significant selection of plant starts on sale for under $3. With bargains like these, even the most frugal gardeners among us can assemble impressively designed garden patches, dial up their curb appeal, and add a splash of color to their porches and stoops. Freddy’s garden center (the indoor one) also stocks all the necessary gardening tools as well as the complementary accouterments like bird feeders, hummingbird nectar, and those brightly hued Adirondack chairs that really tie the outdoor space together. BRIANNA WHEELER.

Parkrose Hardware

Multiple locations, 7 am–8 pm Monday–Saturday, 8 am–6 pm Sunday.

Here’s the thing about Parkrose Hardware: it’s wonderful. The nearly 60-year-old Portland hardware store has expanded to locations across the river in Vancouver, Washington, and over in West Linn, but let’s focus on the Parkrose off Northeast Sandy Boulevard in its namesake neighborhood. There’s a modest but mighty selection of plants and gardening tools and supplies, and the sales are always, always running, like the current “Blooming Buys” sale through May 13 that’s offering $2 vegetable starts, half off ceramic pots, loads of soil, and hanging basket annuals. As summer goes on, you might find hearty azaleas moving to 30 percent off, echinacea starters dipping down to $5, or germander and sage plants scooting down to sometimes a single dollar. Again, that’s one dollar. (This writer may or may not have ripped out several overly pruned poodle shrubs in her yard and spontaneously re-landscaped with Parkrose’s sale plants.)

For the homeowners out there, a stop at Parkrose Hardware can be feeding two birds with one scone: Maybe you’ve got a busted sprinkler head or need to pick up some obscure nail or screw, as most old Portland homes require. The staff at Parkrose is knowledgeable and friendly, and will help you find that weird fastener. Plus, Parkrose has a rewards program that gifts you $5 bonuses. That’s basically a free plant. RB.

See more of Willamette Week’s 2024 Garden Guide here!

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.