The Oregon Garden

It was over a decade ago that The Oregon Garden was created. There was a lot about it in the news and when it finally opened the people that had gone there were disappointed. They said it had all been recently planted and everything was small. So – I waited. A decade later I would expect it to have started to take shape in the way the developers intended even though it may still be somewhat immature. So last week, I headed down to Silverton and thanks to Free Public Gardens day, it only cost me the gas to get there.

So what is the Oregon Garden? It was intended to be a showcase of everything horticultural about the Pacific Northwest. It contains large display gardens, demonstration gardens, natural areas, water gardens, a children’s garden and many other garden areas. They have several festivals and special events that they hold in the gardens throughout the year, educational classes and concerts in summer. Being spring time, a lot of the plants were just poking through the soil, so it gave me a good opportunity to see the bones of the garden.

It took me a while to get the feel of the garden. It wasn’t quite a botanical garden, although most of the plants are labeled, it wasn’t really a demonstration garden as most of the areas are too large for a home, but too small to be really impressive. Some of the areas of the gardens were a little – tacky. In the “Pet Friendly” garden the water feature had the pond liner exposed almost all the way around, in other parts of the garden, statues were placed on bare soil and not really straight or properly settled in – and then it struck me. The garden had no passion! Its design lacked coherence and it is maintained by people doing a job – not for the love of what they do. And that lack of passion shows.

As I walked around the garden, I was just so tempted at times to just fix something for them. In the wetlands, there were a couple of bags of compost, or bark – I am not sure which – which had clearly been there for more than a few seasons. Moss was growing on the bag. They were partially under the boughs of a tree and the staff clearly thought it would be too difficult to get them out and tidy the area up. So they stay there disturbing what should have been an idyllic spot.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some very impressive aspects to the garden. I thought the Bosque was wonderful. It is part of their central plaza which contains four symmetric raised water gardens. In each of those “beds” there are islands created again in a very symmetrical manner and in each Island is a tree. The reflection of the trees in the water was very well done and being raised, you can sit beside the water and enjoy the changing light on the water.

Then there is the Children’s Garden. Delightful! There are so many nice touches in here that it raised my spirits and made me smile. I can see children wanting to play in here for hours, and it has a little amphitheater, so I am guessing in summer they have demonstrations for the kids. This garden is very much worth a visit.

Some of the gardens around the periphery of the garden are more natural, and set up for learning about the eco system. They have a mini tree farm, a composting area, trails through various forest types and while I was there, several groups of school kids were doing field trips.

So, if you haven’t been to many public gardens, or just like to look at pretty gardens, then you will probably enjoy it here. However, if you are an avid gardener, or you have visit any of the gardens of the world, you will be disappointed with what they have created here and how it is maintained. I am disappointed that this is the best that Oregon can provide in the way of celebrating an industry that is so important to this state.

Brought to you by Brian Bailey

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