Amid pandemic gardening, few Oregon nurseries carry coveted roses brand

Special Reports

The demand for roses during the pandemic is leaving some garden suppliers with limited supply

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Many people developed a love of gardening during the pandemic, but the recent interest in beautifying backyards has become a bit of a thorn in the side for Oregon nurseries and plant wholesalers. They can’t keep up with the demand, especially for the very popular David Austin roses. 

Cornell Farm in Southwest Portland is one of only 30 garden centers in the U.S. that received a supply of the coveted flowers this year. 

“This year, all the preorders, I think they’re almost all picked up,” said Deby Barnhart, co-owner of Cornell Farm. “We still have some roses here and we’ll see, I’m sure they’re going to go very fast because we always sell out.” 

Cornell Farm in Southwest Portland is one of only 30 garden suppliers in the U.S. to receive a shipment of the highly desired David Austin roses in 2021. (KOIN photo by Amanda Arden)

Barnhart said when the pandemic hit in 2020, so many people decided to work on home improvement projects – including their landscaping and gardens. She said plants, trees and shrubs started selling like crazy. 

With David Austin roses, the demand has been so high that in 2021, the breeder had to limit the supply they made available to wholesale growers like Cornell Farm. Barnhart said their reputation as a good grower is what made them eligible to receive a batch of the roses. 

Barnhart said the David Austin roses have taken the U.S. by storm. They’re ramous for their flower form, fragrance, and the fact that they bloom multiple times a year. The roses are bred in Shropshire, England and grown in the U.S. 

Cornell Farm in Southwest Portland is one of only 30 garden suppliers in the U.S. to receive a shipment of the highly desired David Austin roses in 2021. (KOIN photo by Amanda Arden)

March and early April is the best time to plant roses, so that’s why Barnhart expects their supply to sell out soon. As of Sunday, March 28, they still had dozens of David Austin roses in a variety of colors. 

KOIN 6 News contacted the Portland Rose Festival to see if the David Austin rose shortage is impacting their events at all. Rich Jarvis, a public relations representative, said every year the festival offers a collectors rose for sale at Portland Nursery. As of Wednesday, all these roses were already sold out. 

The rose festival is still limiting its 2021 events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jarvis said if the full events were taking place, they might have felt the effects of the shortage, but for now, it’s not impacting them. 

Barnhart said the wholesale supply shortage isn’t limited to roses. She said a lot of tree and shrub growers are struggling to keep up with the demand. Plants like shrubs and trees take years to grow to a certain size when they can be sold. So, many were planted years ago when growers had no idea there’d be a sudden interest in landscaping. 

The Cornell Farm Café was busy with people shopping for plants at the nursery on March 23, 2021. (KOIN photo by Amanda Arden)

“Some growers held certain plants back so they would have something to grow on for this year. And so, those are what you’re seeing now. But large trees and many shrubs that are larger sizes are going to be in short supply,” Barnhart said. 

She said she recommends people buy their plants early in the season, especially if they’re looking for larger-sized plants. 

Although the recent landscaping and gardening craze has created a few new challenges for her business, Barnhart said she hopes people stay hooked. 

“It’s just beautification of your home, your sanctuary, creating a place where you are happy,” she said. 

KOIN 6 News contacted other Oregon nurseries listed as David Austin rose suppliers and the next closest location with a few of the roses left is Al’s Garden Center in Sherwood. The Al’s Garden Center in Woodburn also has a small supply remaining.  

Heirloom Roses, an online company that grows all their roses in St. Paul, says they also have a full supply of David Austin roses and can ship them anywhere in the U.S. They are shipping out bare root roses now. Customers can order them online.

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