Cornell Farm one of few gardening centers to offer popular roses
When you drive up Southwest Barnes Road near Beaverton, you'll see a bright yellow house meet you around the corner at Cornell Farm Nursery & Café.
The property is a fifth-generation family farm located on five acres in the West Hills of Portland. It can almost be compared to a playground for gardeners, where they can find almost every plant or tool they need.
The one thing gardeners won't find a lot of this year: David Austin roses.
Deby Barnhart, co-owner of Cornell Farm, says the highly sought-after roses will be in very slim supply this spring season due to COVID-19.
When the coronavirus pandemic forced more people to shop online, rose suppliers began selling to consumers directly, which meant fewer roses for wholesalers like Cornell Farm.
"In the United States, there's 16,000 independent garden centers, and we are one of 30 that were able to get these roses," Barnhart explained. "That's because of our reputation in growing them, and the breadth of the variety that we carry."
What makes these roses so special?
About 60 years ago, an Englishman named David Austin decided to cross heirloom roses for their fragrance with modern hybrid tea roses for repeat blooming to create his own signature rose.
David Austin roses can have up to 100 petals each, said Barnhart.
The roses also come in a variety of colors such as deep red, pale pink and yellow. However, this year, Cornell Farm will only have a supply of yellow and white David Austin roses.
"Unfortunately, we are all crying about it, because we love them so much ourselves," Barnhart said.
She added that gardeners in the Northwest seek out these roses because they're more disease-resistant than other varieties.
Despite being the leading David Austin rose purveyor in Portland for the last five years, Cornell Farm will receive about half of the number of David Austin roses compared to last year. This means having other roses — and a lot of them — on hand from other suppliers to make up the difference, said Barnhart.
"We sold more David Austins than any other kind of rose," she noted. "That meant we needed to beef up other rose supplier varieties in order to fill the gap that we have for rose buyers."
Cornell Farm might not have a lot of its popular David Austin roses this spring, but Barhart says the pandemic did help sales jump over 40% in 2020.
She describes the increase in sales as "exciting" and attributed the increase to new gardeners looking for a hobby as restaurants and other places closed last spring. This means that certain plants or supplies might also be wiped out this gardening season.
According to staff at Cornell Farm, conifers and larger trees will be tough to find, but they hope to have enough hydrangeas for the masses.
Barnhart hopes the new gardeners will continue their hobby and others will jump on the bandwagon with spring right around the corner.
"Gardening is such a great thing to do," she said. "I'm kind of biased, but I've been doing it for 34 years here with the nursery, and there's mental and physical benefits to being out in your garden. There's beauty in your plants and lots of wonderful things about it."
Barnhart also has one piece of advice for those looking to start gardening in the future, and it doesn't have to do with having the perfect equipment or knowledge right off the bat.
"Come in and ask your questions," said Barnhart. "If you have a chance to do any research ahead of time, that will help. As the sun comes out, the parking lot is full and everyone's waiting to ask their questions, so don't be in a hurry, or come in early, or come in late, and we can help you."
As for the David Austin roses, Cornell Farm is now selling their limited supply. People can purchase the rose bushes now and expect to see them bloom in June.
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