What is The Other Plant Sale?

Now entering its second year, The Other Plant Sale (TOPS) is the next big spring event for plant lovers in the Portland Metro Area. You can find plants of all shapes and sizes alongside plant-related goodies for everyone. TOPS, the invention of Nanthawat Jiranuwatana, takes place on May 18th, 2024, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Downtown Rockwood Plaza at 458 SE 185th Ave., Portland, OR 97233. Nanthawat is the owner of The Other Side Nursery, a permanent storefront at the Plaza that sells tropical plants; cacti and succulents; and rocks and minerals. We interviewed Nanthawat about how TOPS came to be and what change it inspires in Rockwood.

An Interview with TOPS Founder, Nanthawat Jiranuwatana

So with Hortlandia and the Spring Garden Fair happening every spring, why did you start TOPS?

Nanthawat Jiranuwatana (NJ): I started TOPS for several reasons. I wanted people to come out to Gresham—specifically Rockwood—since there seems to be a several-decades-long, negative attitude and misconception about this community that continues to hold back investment that would help improve the area. I live less than a mile away and take pride in the neighborhood. There also isn’t much that happens on this side of the city. I wanted to share what I enjoy with the community!

With TOPS in its second year, it’s pretty exciting to look back on where it all started. What’s the story?

NJ: By that point, I had already participated in Hortlandia, the Spring Garden Fair in Canby, reptile expos, pop-ups, and farmers markets. I wanted to bring the different elements of what I enjoy to The Other Plant Sale. I initially was hoping for at least 5 vendors, but when I posted an advertisement to my Instagram, I received at least 40 responses.

Having been part of so many plant sales in the past, what makes TOPS special?

NJ: I’m really passionate about helping newer vendors launch or elevate their personal businesses. While I’m a huge fan of the larger plant sales, I know there are many smaller businesses that have never been able to participate in one, so I wanted to make [TOPS] accessible for vendors and guests. The original goal was to have the event be free for vendors, but unfortunately, we have to charge a small fee to help cover the permits—luckily everyone is understanding.

Besides being more accessible for smaller vendors, how else does TOPS differ from Hortlandia?

NJ: At TOPS, we pride ourselves on keeping our vendor fees low so we can feature a large number of vendors who are new to the plant industry. While we do use TOPS as an opportunity to elevate small plant vendors, we also have booths run by plant societies; well-known and established nurseries; and other local businesses. We don’t focus on any specific types of plants because TOPS has and will always be a sale that brings a wide spectrum of offerings and merchants. We also don’t charge an entrance fee! Being the owner of The Other Side Plant Nursery, I’m fortunate to have access to the Rockwood Plaza, which is open to the public and free to use for tenants to host events. Unlike Hortlandia and the Spring Garden Fair, TOPS isn’t funded or run by a team or regional organization—it’s just me and my supportive husband, Chris.

Photo of the Oregon Orchid Society booth at The Other Plant Sale

So, you’ve mentioned that TOPS is open to a wide variety of vendors. Who will be there this year? 

NJ: This year’s roster of vendors varies wildly from people growing plants and making crafts in their kitchen, to large-scale nurseries that sell plants across the country. There will also be authors, educators, artists, and everything in between, but the common thread is a common interest in plants and plant-themed things. TOPS is a place where you can meet like-minded people in the community!

What can folks expect to find at TOPS?

NJ: The big thing that people can expect to find is lots and lots of plants, plant-related crafts, and crystals. These are the three categories we try to stick to every year, but vendors vary, and their offerings change!

Let’s hear more about The Other Side Nursery! How did you get started?

NJ: Yeah! So, my interest in plants started over 20 years ago when the Home Owners’ Association (HOA) at my condo told me that my yard was unsightly and needed an intervention. It started with tons of research into what I could grow outside, and the plants I encountered fascinated me. I worked in that garden for months, and my pettiness toward the HOA turned into a passion that led me to experiment with hardiness, breeding, propagation, and peddling. I’ve never found any specific type of plant more interesting than another, so I’ve grown many different kinds of things.

The Other Side Nursery was officially founded in 2018 when I had a vendor booth at the Gresham Farmers’ Market—although I sold plants for years prior to this when I was working at a pet shop. The Other Side Nursery has always had “making plants accessible” as the motto, and I have always stuck with that sentiment even through the COVID-19 plant boom.

What is there to do after visitors attend the sale? Is there food nearby?

NJ: I encourage people to check out the Rockwood Market Hall! It’s right inside the building, and there’s tons to choose from. Visitors can get Japanese/Burmese fusion, Vietnamese, Indian, Mediterranean, Mayan, Thai, American, Pan-African, or even Mexican-style desserts. I would also recommend visitors check out Historic Downtown Gresham—there are quaint shops and bars, and then you can even stop by Tsuru Island Japanese Garden, which is free and open to the public.

Check Out The Other Plant Sale on May 18th!

In the meantime, you can visit The Other Side Nursery in Downtown Rockwood during their normal business hours. Peruse a wide variety of houseplants, crystals, and art—we bet you’ll find a gem or two! While Portland Botanical Gardens won’t have a booth at TOPS this year, we have big things in the works for our surrounding communities! If you’re interested in being featured on our blog, you can email us at info@portlandbg.org.