A slice of local life: Good News for the Garden — Rhea Hergenrather

Rhea Hergenrather tends to her growing business at Good News Gardening which includes flowers, baked goods and local art.

Photo by Julie Raefield-Gobbo.
Rhea Hergenrather tends to her growing business at Good News Gardening which includes flowers, baked goods and local art.

As delicate scents waft on softening spring breezes, a stroll through the life’s work of Rhea Hergenrather will bring most visitors a deep sense of wonder and calm.

Good News Gardening has been brightening Valley gardens and patios for 32 years now and Hergenrather in partnership with her husband John is responsible for the expertise behind that beauty.

“I had a background in retail and merchandizing before starting Good News,” said Hergenrather with a bit of good-natured amusement. “I had no experience with nurseries; but with John being a landscaper, I knew that if I didn’t start a business related to John’s we wouldn’t have much time together to share.”

Lucky for all nature-lovers, Hergenrather pursued that idea and has since created a nursery beloved by many. Five years ago Hergenrather decided to mix in her love of good, wholesome cooking to the business and the Garden Cafe’ took over the quaint and cozy craftsman house on the property. Now guests can shop and sup at the same time.

Though Hergenrather’s personal business acumen is evident, she credits her longtime staff for making the business customer-focused.

“I have a great crew here, many of whom have been with me over 15 years,” said Hergenrather. “And our customers are like old friends. They return in the spring — I love to see them back. And, now with the cafe, we see them year-round, as well.”

A typical day for Hergenrather begins at 4 a.m. and usually ends around 9 p.m. Luckily the month of January provides some respite from the grueling but gratifying work needed to create her plant-pleasing wonderland.

According to Hergenrather, her plant expertise has grown over the years in part because of her very knowledgeable customers.

“In a way, my customers ‘grew me.’ I tell my employees that they will learn a lot by waiting on customers. It is all very, very interesting and with new varieties out all the time, it keeps the work exciting,” she said.

Not only does Hergenrather keep up to date on newly developed plant varieties, she keeps a mental Rolodex on which plants do well in which zones.

“In the Valley, it can really come down to what street you live on. We are all working hard to help people buy and plant what’s going to work in their particular area,” said Hergenrather. “We want everyone to succeed.”

To help customers and better share wisdom, Hergenrather designed her own computer program to print out plant information to post in display areas.

But organization and efficiency never trump Hergenrather’s creative side. In addition to her and her staff’s enticing displays, she offers local artists wall space to display and sell their creations.

It’s safe to say that Rhea Hergenrather is much like a symphony conductor, bringing together disparate instruments of beauty — flowers, art and food — to create a masterpiece worthy of a demanding audience.

Drop in and experience a bounty for all your senses.

Good News Gardening is open Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Sundays, closing at 5 p.m. The cafe is open daily at 7 a.m. at 1086 Tucker Road.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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