Some ideas take a long time to grow and The Oregon Garden is just such an idea. The Oregon Association of Nurseries had long wanted (since 1940) a demonstration garden to highlight the incredible variety of plants grown in the area. Since 1968, the citizens of Oregon have been leaders in protecting the climate, air, water, and landscape. In the early 1980’s when the city of Silverton, Oregon (an hour south of Portland) needed to manage treatment of its waste water and maintain wetlands for wildlife, naturally, all kinds of ideas began to sprout.
A bold idea was proposed: to combine a destination botanical garden with an integrated waste water treatment system, wildlife wetlands, and forestry education center. The resulting garden is an example of collaborative solutions for complex problems we face in managing environmental issues. Visiting the garden keeps citizens engaged in the realities the value there is in working together to protect our natural resources.
Water is used in abundance throughout this garden; fountains, rills, and pools are placed beautifully in the design. In addition, such a garden requires a good water supply to keep the plants vibrant. There are a series of descending pools built to cool the treated wastewater. The water provides habitat for wildlife, water for irrigation of the garden, and gravity fed water features. The collaboration between the city and the OAN members engaged engineers, erosion specialists, wildlife biologists, garden professionals and innovative designers to solve these serious problems resulting in a world class garden destination.
This is a beautiful and diverse garden using the best sustainable practices of gardening today. Designed to inspire the home gardener, the 80 acre site includes 20 types of gardens for visitors to experience. The Silverton Market Garden showcases many of the 147 agriculture products grown in Oregon, with grapes, berries, stone fruits, hops, and vegetables thriving to the point of producing 7000 lbs. of produce donated to local food banks.
The children’s garden entrance is highlighted with sculpted topiaries of flowers and hearts. Mr. & Mrs. Pots and their son Clay invite visiting children to explore the Hobbit tunnel, a dinosaur dig, and a houseful of potted furniture.
The conifer display garden was built in cooperation with Western Region of the American Conifer Society. The garden is a scientific reference site for conifer plants enthusiasts, but for home gardeners it is a magical display of the enormous variety of conifers available today. Sweeping, soaring, twisting, evergreen trees and shrubs in all shades of green with needles short and soft to needles lacy and long. The possibilities for design seem unlimited.
The Pet Friendly garden illustrates plants safe and sturdy enough for home gardeners to use in their own pet sanctuary. The Water garden features a creature from the deep sculpted in succulents.
The Axis Garden is a grand sweep of beauty, taking full advantage of the sloping site. Symmetrical pathways define diamonds sections of turf and colorful flower beds leading down to the rose petal fountain and a tall stainless steel sculpture of lupine blooms.
The garden encourages learning about plants and our environment in so many ways. The 15 acres Rediscovery Forest is a working forest of Douglas Fir trees. The 25 acre Oregon White Oak grove showcases the beauty of trees. Drought tolerant plants illustrate that compromises of limited water sources need not mean lack of gardens.
Forestry is a significant focus for the Northwest, with management of tree products, waste, and forestry health a crucial industry. The mission of the garden is “to welcome and inspire all visitors with an appreciation for the extraordinary ecology of the Pacific Northwest, and to provide a meaningful, educational experience for gardeners of all skill levels and ages.” The garden partners with industry groups to provide a program of outdoor and environmental lessons in science for over 50,000 fifth grade children each year. The Rediscovery Forest Program also offers programs and field trips for students of all ages to understand the scientific and commercial importance of forests.
When I think of Oregon I think of pine trees, roses, stone fruits, grapes, and flowers of all kinds. This is especially true in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Since the mid 1800’s this area has been a magnate for horticulture study and development. According to the OAN website, early settlers from Iowa arrived with fruit trees, young plants and seeds. Anyone who visits today will leave inspired and informed about the possibilities of their own gardens. A greater awareness of the variety and importance of Oregon’s rich production of plants and trees will result from wandering through this incredible garden. The entire world benefits from the plants and trees that grow so well here.
Gardens require thoughtful design, careful tending, and time to become something wonderful. The Oregon Garden has truly achieved all of this. The garden, opened in 2001, is young as public gardens go, but the idea proposed in 1940 of a demonstration garden to showcase the diversity of plants and trees growing in the Northwest has been realized and will make its mark in this century. Now in 2014, there is so much to enjoy. Some ideas just take a long time to flower, visit this garden and you’ll see that it was worth the wait.