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Baskets of beauty and trees to please

Gardeners love to share the dirt on new plants and new garden centers, so it's only natural for me to tell you about one that's getting some good buzz.

It's the Garden Corner, and it's kind of a hip place.

Judy Brokaw of Lake Oswego was puttering around deciding what not to buy when I asked her how she found it. 'Being a gardener you kind of hear, word of mouth, you know,' she says.

Brokaw calls it one of her treasures Ñ which means I'm probably blowing it by telling all of you, my new best friends, about this great place, right?

If you're having trouble getting a handle on what's different about the Garden Center, just think back to last summer and all those huge baskets of flowers hanging from almost every street light in Old Town or the park blocks. Similar baskets grace the streets in Lake Oswego, Mount Angel, Silverton and many other cities. In fact, 5,000 such baskets will be sent around the Northwest this year. They all come from the folks at the Garden Corner.

'You walk into this space with these gorgeous trees; it's like walking through a park and being able to shop at the same time,' said my friend Winnie Mauck, a master gardener.

'I love the high quality of the plants. They have stuff you don't see other places,' Brokaw added.

She must be talking about finds such as the heliotrope trees. Yes, this summer annual with the fragrant purple flowers is actually trained into a 4-foot topiary tree for decks and patios. And the Garden Center delivers for free, year-round Ñ a handy service when you need a tree at Christmas or a heliotrope tree in summer.

There's an interesting story behind the place, which I love. After all, a garden or a garden center is merely a reflection of the gardener behind it.

It all started at Al's Fruit and Shrub in Woodburn, one of the best-known garden centers in Oregon, run by Jack Bigej.

Jonn Karsseboom started working there in the late 1980s, learning all aspects of the business. Karsseboom always loved gardening. He even took out a classified ad looking for yard work in the seventh grade, in order to pay for a trip back to the Netherlands to visit his extended family. Anyway, it wasn't long before Jonn married Jack's daughter, Tracy. She's the one in charge of those amazing hanging baskets. She also has a nursing degree and three kids. I'm telling you, the Karssebooms look like they just walked out of a gardening magazine.

So, with a stellar background in the plant world, the couple bought the old S & J Nursery in Tualatin and hit the ground running three years ago.

Karsseboom's philosophy says a lot about his business.

'When people come into our store, this is their fun time,' he says. 'Making the sale is less important to me than making sure they walk out of here with enough information to make them successful.'

Contact Anne Jaeger through her Web site, www.gardengal.tv.