Growing from an idea born in the 1940s to open as a 70-acre garden in 2001 (it will expand to 240-acres over the next decade) the current 80-acre Oregon Garden, divided into 20-plus specialty gardens, showcases various plants and plantings. In total there are 3,000 varieties of plants now in the garden.
Some Features and Amenities of Interest
--Interspersed are water features, fountains of various types, pools, ponds, waterfalls, streams, and a wetland. An example: the Sensory Garden contains an 8-foot high water curtain, a fountain of downward jets spaced maybe a foot apart along a simple curved pipe-like 20-foot wide frame, and spurting a steady stream of water from each that sways in response to the wind.
--Some water features are expansive enough to comprise the whole of the specialty garden. The 1-acre A-Mazing Water Garden is a series of frog resident water lily covered ponds crisscrossed with paths. There is an 80-foot long water wall running along one side, like a waterfall but with a lighter flow -- a water trickle.
--Inhabited by many local birds (158 different species have been seen throughout the garden), the extensive wetland area is actually a part of the water reclamation and treatment system for the area. During periods of low flow, summer in particular, treated water discharge from Silverton raised Silver Creek water temperature, which can affect its ecology. Now passing through ponds in the wetlands area water temperature lowers, is used for garden irrigation, and returns to the water table indirectly. The wetland was constructed, dug out, built up, 158,000-cubic-yards of soil moved in its creation, but this isn’t apparent -- everything seems well established, grown-in.
--The Bosque is a plaza with 40 maple trees planted in square containers, many of which are sunk in a raised pool to (hopefully) create the illusion that the trees are growing in the water.
is sprinkled throughout the garden. A bronze bust commemorating Bobbie the Wonder Dog sits atop a raised pedestal at the head of a long narrow raised pool fountain. Bobbie, a Scotch Collie, lost on a family trip to Indiana in 1923, walked for six months and over 2500 miles to find his way home. There are more commemorations for Bobbie in downtown Silverton.
--The Pet Friendly Garden is in fact a teaching tool for humans instructing you on which garden plants are safe for pets and which are toxic. If your pets spend time outdoors, you should check this out.
--A Children's Garden has a large sandbox with "dinosaur bones" to excavate, and animal topiaries amongst the features that should appeal to kids. There is a child‘s size amphitheater here that is well used for educational lectures and demos for kids.
--The Axis Fountain forms the heart of the garden. It sits on a rise at one end of the Oregon Way, a series of diagonal paths that cross each other again and again so that the lawn between forms a series of green diamonds when viewed from either end. The way is bordered either side by triangular flowerbeds tucked into the angles.
--The Gordon House is Frank Lloyd Wright’s only design built in Oregon; rescued from demolition, moved to the garden, rehabilitated, and opened for touring; it’s also the only publicly accessible Wright in the Northwest. My entry on the house is here.
--The Rose Garden contains 40 varieties and a number of complimentary plants.
--The Northwest Garden showcases native species and varietals.
--The focus of the Oak Grove is the Signature Oak. It’s over 400 years old and looks it; gnarled, moss covered, some of its thick limbs so heavy they’ve drooped and grow outwards along the ground.
--The Market Garden contains many food and other useful plants. One elegant curved metal arbor supports a burgeoning hops plant while a straight wooden one is climbed by grape vines. These represent two leading products out of the region: beer (66% of the world’s hop supply comes from the U.S. Northwest) and wine.
--The Conifer Garden includes one of the largest collections of miniature conifers (cone bearing plants) in the country. Some are quite strangely shaped. A few of the larger ones look as if they’ve leaped from the pages of a Dr Seuss book. There are substantial standing stones in one hollow that commemorate contributions from the Western Division of the American Conifer Society to this garden’s formation.
--Contributors are also commemorated in the Honors Garden where a series of cedar posts interspersed with plants in a spiral setting hold brass plaques with names of those who made special contribution to the Oregon Garden‘s development and creation.
--Music in the Garden is a summertime feature. A musician sits under a canopy playing an acoustical instrument for about 4 hours. It’s a very casual, not like a concert but more like having a radio on. People pause, listen, and move on.
--The Visitor Center houses a gift shop and the Garden Café that has both inside (next to large windows) and outside seating with sweeping views of the garden. The menu as it was on my last visit is visible in the images below.
Visiting on a bright summer day places you in the midst of color so vivid and intense the flowers seem to glow like neon. I actually found it painful to look at some of the larger solid colored flower beds. They planted 40,000 summer annuals for 2004. That’s lots of neon (blue), argon (red), etc. Planned as an all-season garden (admissions are lower in winter) there is always something in bloom. I’ve also been here in early spring with a predominantly gray overcast sky and still found it colorful. Much of the garden is unaffected (like the many water features) by seasonal change, always colorful, or appeals through texture and contrast.
The various sections of the garden (the advantage of the gently hilly terrain they created) are laid out in such a way that the view around you is usually fairly restricted to the specialty garden you are currently exploring, even some of the more apparently panoramic areas, probably meant to focus and intensify your immediate experience. There are some viewpoints where you can really get the bigger picture.
A guided-tour Tram (at an additional $2 fee with ages 3 and under being free) roams the garden, taking about 20 minutes to complete its loop. A nice alternative to a self-guided walking tour, it makes stops a various points so you can hop off to explore. Each of the five stops has a large (probably 3 by 5 feet) "you are here" map with a descriptive list of points of interest near that stop.
The Oregon Garden Guide duplicates much of the information on the main website, and expands on some of it. Upon entry to the garden, you will be given a magazine version of the Guide with a map (map available online here) and oodles of other information including, yes, advertisements for local shops, restaurants, and attractions. Although it lacks some details, it includes others not available on either website. We were also given a copy of Dig: The Magazine of Northwest Gardeners on this last visit, but I don’t know if that is an ongoing or short term extra. It includes listings for garden and plant events in Oregon for the current year.
The gardens are located on the outskirts of Silverton, a town noted for its murals, and less than half-an-hour from Salem.
Other Useful Information
--The garden has many benches scattered through out it. An important feature if you decide to walk the whole 80 acres as we did. There are 14,000 feet of pathways.
--Pets are permitted, on-leash (maximum 8 feet), but clean-up is your responsibility.
--Smoking is not permitted. Other restrictions are listed at the visiting link (listed below) near the bottom of the page.
--The garden hosts a number of events throughout the year: teas, special in-depth tours, demonstrations, and plant shows.
--There is a Summer Concert series. The season, just completed, included performers as diverse as the Oregon Symphony Orchestra (which performs every year), Little River Band, and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. These concerts take place after regular garden hours and have a separate admission. Tickets are $20 for non-members.
(Detailed info on visiting the garden.)
879 West Main Street (1 mile south of Silverton on OR214)
PO Box 155
Silverton OR 97381
May to September: 10-6
October to April: 10-4
Oregon Garden Admission
--Oregon Garden members are given discounts at many other gardens throughout the U.S. and Canada. If you are a member of some other garden, check to see if there is a reciprocal program that would give you a discount here.
May to Oct -
$8 Adults, $7 Seniors (60+), $6 Students (8-17)
Sept to April -
$5 Adults, $4 Seniors, $4 Students
-- Free – Visitors under seven and members
503/874-8100, toll free 877/674-2733, fax 503/874-8200, firstname.lastname@example.org
Giftshop: 503/874-6016, email@example.com
Gordon House: 503/874-8826, firstname.lastname@example.org