Christina Perron adamantly denies being any type of plant guru. The sole proprietor of Sprig and Sprout, a backyard greenhouse in Northeast Portland that produces sumptuous culinary plants, explains that plants are too elusive to really master: “That’s the cool thing about plants, there’s so much to learn. Plants don’t behave the same in every place.” Christina’s philosophy of gardening sounds too scientific to entertain metaphysical titles like guru anyhow, “I like to experiment. I like to test what I can get to grow here that normally wouldn’t.”
With a degree in horticulture from UC Davis and years of gardening experience including professional stints at Colonial Williamsburg and the United States Botanical Garden, Christina doesn’t need any epithet to prove that she knows plants. The proof is in her on-point customer interaction. When a customer asks her whether or not he could plant a tomato plant in a pot without a drainage hole, she instantly replies with a smirk and a question, “Do you have a drill?” It took me a minute to realize that she was asking him to perform pot surgery, and make his own drainage hole.
Sprig and Sprout went into business in 2007, after Christina was inspired by a friend to turn her backyard into a greenhouse. Now encompassing 160 square feet of space, her greenhouse houses plants that are started with organic seeds (when available), grown in certified organic soil, and managed as a certified organic grower would. She believes that Portlanders appreciate locally grown food: “What could be more local than someone’s backyard?”
Most of the plants Christina grows are destined for the kitchen and include several varieties of tomatoes and peppers, as well as herbs like cilantro, dill, and fennel. The names of the different varieties of fruits and herbs offered at her stand at the Moreland Farmer’s Market are whimsical and enticing. The plants’ placards advertise lively breeds like the “Saucy Tomato”, “Confetti Ciantro”, “Apollo Arugala”, and “Rosemary Barbeque”.
While Sprig and Sprout continues to thrive, its owner has no current plans to expand the operation. “My backyard isn’t getting any bigger!” she quips. You can find Christina manning Sprig and Sprout’s bounty at the Moreland Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays and at the King Market on Sundays.