A Garden Center’s Worth of Trees and Bushes Has Transformed the Street Outside Old Town Brewing Into a Green Escape

In most instances when you run up against one of those white- and safety-orange-striped “Road Closed” barricades, heavy equipment is on the other side ripping into the pavement, frustrating drivers now in need of another route along with neighbors who must put up with the sustained din of construction.

At Old Town Brewing’s Northeast Portland location, these blockades actually seal off a tranquil urban thicket right in the middle of the street.

This past summer saw every bar, brewery and restaurant in town expand into lanes of traffic if they had the means and ability. While many of these makeshift pandemic patios are nothing much to look at, Old Town’s is different: It immerses you in nature.

“I think one of the things that made such a drastic improvement were all of the trees,” says owner Adam Milne. “It made Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard look like a park. It’s beautiful.”

The temporary woodland—just off the major thoroughfare on Northeast Sumner Street—took more to create than just a run to the closest big-box store’s garden department. The trees are actually loaners from the city of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services as part of its effort to partner with the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Healthy Business program. And the agency didn’t just pick whatever extra available shrubs happened to be in storage, either—careful planning went into the selection of each flower and frond for Old Town and the newly launched Dream Street Plaza it’s a part of.

“They sent out an arborist who walked through the place to develop a ‘tree site plan’ to help support the goals of the plaza,” says PBOT spokesperson Hannah Schafer.

The plaza, which had its grand opening Oct. 2, is the result of a $25,000 National Association of City Transportation Officials grant that PBOT won to aid with pandemic response and recovery. Through Nov. 1, 15 vendors will be posted along Sumner. Spearheaded by the Soul District Business Association, Old Town’s side-street picnic table seating was also born of that group’s suggestion.

Right now, there’s no better place than the little forest sprouting from cement to enjoy a pizza and a Pillowfist, Old Town’s take on a New England IPA that is appropriately soft in mouthfeel and cloudy in appearance. While the temperature still allows, the oversized garage door at the front entrance will be rolled up, providing more airflow for anyone dining indoors.

But you owe it to yourself to find some solace among the trees—some squat and bushy, others taller than the red umbrellas shading the patch with blooming flowers in a complementary shade of crimson.

When not looking up at the flora, you’ll notice the landscaping and shaping extends to the ground. On one half of the road is a mural that looks like a postmodern game of hopscotch; the brightly colored squares and rectangles were designed by the owner of the neighboring boutique. Then, next to the curb is a wide strip of green artificial lawn, a purchase inspired by an

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Fall’s the best time to harvest discounts at garden centers

Fall is the best time of year to get new trees, shrubs and perennials into the ground before cold weather sets in, and it’s often the best time to buy them, too. Garden centers traditionally mark down their off-season inventories rather than muscle them indoors for overwintering protection.

Discounted items also might include succulents and carnivorous plants, garden furniture, tools and statuary, potting soil and fertilizers. Many of the sale items are teasers, priced so low that you can’t resist pulling out your wallet even though you may have to work hard at protecting them once they make it home.

Before heading out for your bargain shopping, anticipate. Set aside several sheltered areas along retaining walls or the sides of buildings for what one veteran gardener labels “clearance stashes.”

Understand that nurturing those unplanned-for plants until spring may eat into your investment, at least in terms of late-season sweat equity. They’ll need a deep watering, holes dug for their containers or burlap-wrapped root balls, and then some fill dirt or straw layered around them for insulation.

“Containers are vulnerable to freeze damage,” said Weston Miller, a horticulturist with Oregon State University Extension Service. “Overall, I would recommend planting things right away if you buy in fall sales. Overwintering them is not worth it if you’re going with planters. Most people are not willing to deal with all that.”

Fall end-of-season sales are the biggest of the year, said Maureen Murphy, owner of Bayview Farm and Garden near Langley.

“We do progressive sales,” Murphy said. “So much is marked off one week and then more is marked off the next. People like it. It’s kind of a game for them. Will it be here next week at 30 percent off?”

Garden centers — especially those in the somewhat winter-friendly Pacific Northwest — recommend that people plant in the fall, she said. “The ground is still warm and that’s when the seasonal rains arrive. The plants spend their time until spring rooting in.”

Small, privately owned garden centers have to be quick to adapt to consumer demands, Murphy said. Her Whidbey Island grower-retailer operation is open now year-round with a gift shop and restaurant on site. It draws tourists along with gardeners, she said.

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L.A. County restrictions on indoor shopping centers are unjust, mall lawsuit alleges

The operator of a sports apparel store in Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County in an effort to ease countywide restrictions on operating businesses in indoor malls during the COVID-19 pandemic.

a store inside of a building: The Pro Image Sports store in Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance sells sports apparel. (Daisy Rivas / Pro Image Sports)

© (Daisy Rivas / Pro Image Sports)
The Pro Image Sports store in Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance sells sports apparel. (Daisy Rivas / Pro Image Sports)

Also objecting to the limits is the largest owner of indoor malls in the county, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, which called the county’s restrictions that are now stricter than state guidelines an “undue hardship” on the company and its store tenants.

In a proposed class-action lawsuit filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the owner of Rivas Sports Inc. said it was unfair for the county to shutter “nonessential” businesses like hers that have their front doors inside of an enclosed mall.

Stores in shopping centers that have their own doors to the outside can still operate under safety guidelines issued by the county in May as pandemic-related restrictions on businesses were eased. Interior mall stores were allowed to operate at 50% occupancy until they were closed by the state in July as infections surged.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Aug. 28 unveiled a plan that allowed Los Angeles County to reopen stores and malls at 25% capacity, but county officials opted to keep most stores inside malls closed. Hair and nail salons can reopen countywide with limited service.

Rivas Sports owner Daisy Rivas said she is willing to follow the state rules, which would mean allowing only eight customers at a time inside her Pro Image Sports shop at Del Amo Fashion Center.

“We have operated safely and followed the government guidelines to the letter of the law, and we are prepared to be fully compliant” with Newsom’s guidance, Rivas said. “Yet without a single word of explanation by the county, they continue to shut us down. We and many other small businesses need our stores open in order to survive.”

The lawsuit was filed by Rivas on behalf of other retailers together with the owner and manager of Del Amo Fashion Center, an affiliate of Simon Property Group. Indianapolis-based Simon is one of the largest mall operators in the country.

A handful of people shop at the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance on Thursday, Mar. 12, 2020, after officials had cautioned the public to keep a safe distance from other people to avoid infections of COVID-19. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

© (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
A handful of people shop at the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance on Thursday, Mar. 12, 2020, after officials had cautioned the public to keep a safe distance from other people to avoid infections of COVID-19. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

“This blatantly unconstitutional act prevents interior mall stores from operating, crushing their businesses, denying their employees of their livelihoods, and laying waste to their businesses,” the plaintiffs said in their complaint filed with the court.

The county’s public information office said it would not comment on pending litigation, but released this statement:

“From the onset of the pandemic, Los Angeles County has been intensely committed to protecting

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Go to garden centers now for deals to freshen your landscape

The second week of September is a good time to visit nurseries and garden centers for new plants to freshen the landscape.

Look for Japanese maples that show off fall foliage, shrubs such as cotoneaster with bright winter berries, and oak leaf hydrangeas that offer flowers plus foliage that glows in the autumn sun.

Your soil is likely still be dry from the summer weather so make sure you water any newly planted shrubs until the winter rains begin.

Q. OK, it looks like I will be stuck at home all winter until this coronavirus thing ends. My new idea for survival is to plant a winter garden with shrubs and plants that look good during the coming dark months. I already have forsythia in one corner of the yard but what should I plant behind and in front of forsythia to extend the bloom season? I may add a bird feeder as well. — J., email

A. I am just waiting for our governor to pass a new law: Everyone must plant more hellebores, crocus and mini daffodils this fall to make “staying home” more tolerable. We could call it the Corona Color Bonus.

There is also a cold tolerant rhododendron called ‘PJM’ that will flower as early as the forsythia and winterberry holly with red fruit that feeds the birds. For vivid red or gold stems in a winter garden, check out the Cornus stolonifera or red and yellow twig dogwood. The more compact Cornus ‘Arctic Fire’ dogwood is a 4-foot shrub that is shade and deer tolerant and survives even in wet soils.

You can use an evergreen with a tall and dramatic form in the back of your winter garden corner. The upright Japanese holly ‘Patti O” or the narrow growing Ilex ‘Sky Pencil’ won’t take up much space but the columnar form adds an exclamation point to the winter garden.

Most important of all is to use the dormant season to grow fresh ideas for your landscape. Start a new idea notebook, listen to Zoom lectures and remind yourself that winter and quarantines are temporary.

Q. What is the secret to making cut hydrangea blooms last? I live in Enumclaw and see that you have dried hydrangeas on your gate. I have tried to dry hydrangeas earlier in the summer but mine just wilt a day or two after I cut them. — A.C., Enumclaw

A. It is all about maturity when it comes to handling tough times and a cut hydrangea needs to be mature enough to no longer have a drinking problem. Feel the petals before you cut the blooms. They should be dry and feel like paper. The oldest blooms on the shrub will be the best for drying.

Once cut, remove all the leaves on the stem. Then place in a vase with one inch of water that you allow to evaporate, or if you have a cool, dark shed or garage, hang the cut blooms upside down to dry. As

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