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A major facelift is approaching completion at Woodstock Ace Hardware on SE Woodstock Boulevard

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Billie Jo McGahey and Brock Linder take turns working at the Woodstock Ace Hardware Garden Center, at S.E. 44th and Woodstock Boulevard. The door to the Garden Center is sometimes the only entrance to both stores during the current hardware store renovation.  If you have noticed paper that's covering the front of the Woodstock Ace Hardware Store, don't worry about any closure. It is just a façade facelift.

Depending on the work being done, these days you may find the entrance to be the regular Hardware Store door – or its Garden Center door, just to the west on Woodstock Boulevard. Enter through the latter, and you may be seeing the Garden Center for the first time. If so, you're in for quite a pleasant surprise.

The Woodstock Hardware Garden Center actually opened six years ago, with the large outdoors area behind the store filled with plants, garden hardware, and all sizes and colors of plant pots and containers.

A greenhouse on the west side of the outside area has vegetable starts, and another section is filled with succulents and sedum. "We have a little of everything," remarks Billie Jo McGahey, one of the attendants at the Center who has worked there five years. "Sun perennials, annuals, native plants, vegetables, ground covers, small shrubs, and a couple of small trees."

The offered selection changes, depending on what's in bloom. "We have a big selection of unusual plants – like scented geraniums and black columbine," says McGahey. "We order from all local suppliers that follow good practices; no 'neonicotinoids' [a systemic agricultural insecticide resembling nicotine], which kills bees."

When THE BEE asked if the Garden Center is in competition with Bi-Mart's garden section, and with the various plant sales around here in the spring season, she explains, "We order from different nurseries than Bi-Mart does. If we don't have something, we refer customers to them."

The smaller indoors store is filled with garden tools, plant food, seeds, bird feeders, and anything else needed by local gardeners.

But, we learned, the item sold most often is not specifically for the garden. "Ant bait is the best-selling litem in here!" revealed McGahey.

McGahey says she has always worked with plants, and grew up gardening with her mother and aunt. She has worked in other plant nurseries, and has also studied herbalism, and worked in shops specializing in herbalism and plant extraction. She volunteers at the nonprofit Leach Botanical Garden. On McGahey's days off, Brock Linder is the attendant. He has worked in the Garden Center for its entire existence – and, in fact, helped storeowner Chad Cook create the large outdoors area in 2013.

"We sell all 'Territorial' brand seeds, because they are locally sourced," Linder says. "They grow better, and are sustainable – and, for the past three years they [Territorial] have had a new organic program."

During our interview with McGahey, a young woman with a little boy entered the Garden Center. The boy seemed entranced with all of the products, including the large colorful Mexican garden pots displayed outside, and various tools and unusual plants.

"I am his nanny, and we come here at least once a week," said Barbie Kethan, who lives in Sellwood. It was evident that this has been a favorite "field trip" for the small boy.

And, rather than consider them competition, The Woodstock Garden Center generously donates plants each year to the annual pre-Mother's Day Woodstock Neighborhood Association Plant Sale, among other spring plant sales.

The Garden Center's hours are the same as the Hardware Store's hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 8 to 6, and Sunday 9 to 5. The address is 4430 S.E. Woodstock Boulevard.


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