By Clare Hancock Edited by Ted Shorack
SILVERTON, OR – Several Eugene citizens hopped in their cars Sunday morning and drove an hour and a half to The Oregon Garden in Silverton. The 80 acre garden was celebrating its 10-year anniversary with food vendors, cupcake decorating, free birthday cake, beer and wine, a country music concert and fireworks. The facility opened its doors at 9 a.m. and while the majority of the celebratory activities didn’t begin until after 2 p.m., hundreds of patrons arrived early to take an informational and scenic ride in the tram, as well as walk the numerous winding paths through the gardens.
The Oregon Garden officially opened July 3, 2001; however, the ideas that made the facility a reality were brainstormed 10 years earlier. From sprawling man-made wetlands, to a Lewis and Clark forest which displays the natural foliage that the pair encountered during their expeditions, The Oregon Garden showcases almost every landscape that Oregon has to offer. It includes but certainly isn’t limited to 40,000 annuals, 40 varieties of roses, a dog-friendly plant exhibit, an Incredible Edible garden, 25 acres of oak tree groves, a Silverton Market garden where popular produce is grown and harvested for local shelters, a composting demonstration, and a children’s garden. The thousands of species of plants that thrive at the garden are watered by Silverton’s waste water system. Out of the 700,000 gallons that flow from the town each day, only 31,000 gallons are used to sufficiently water the plants. The Oregon Garden is the only botanical garden world-wide that uses this recycled-water technique.
Guests of The Oregon Garden often encounter several whimsical elements as they stroll through. Cypress trees trimmed to look like elephants or fairies from a distance. Women on stilts resembling tree Ents from The Lord of the Rings gliding down pathways. A Loch Ness monster named Mr. Ed swimming in a lily pond.
Two elderly patrons who have continually visited The Oregon Garden since its opening commented about how much the plants have grown each year and how beautiful the flowers are. One of the patrons, a woman from Junction City wearing a light pink shirt, reached her hand out to a rose bush that had not been trimmed yet. “I love working with flowers,” she said smiling as she placed her fingertips around a dried rose-hip. “I wish I lived closer so I could volunteer here.” She released the rose-hip and continued down the trail pointing out particular plant species to her husband who walked at her side.
In preparation for the 10-year anniversary, the gardeners at The Oregon Garden planted multitudes of flowers in the shape of a peacock. They are hoping that by the end of the summer, the plants will be fully grown and that the design will be recognized from a distance.
At the Grand Pavilion, in between bites of chocolate and vanilla cake, five gardeners sat and spoke about numerous projects they had completed over the last 20 years at The Oregon Garden. After the cake was gone and the frosting was scraped from small paper plates, the group sat in silence. Finally, a man with a thick white beard raised his paper cup of water and toasted to another ten years of gardening. The others at the table followed suit, drank the water from their cups and readied themselves for an afternoon of pruning, deadheading, weeding and celebrating The Oregon Garden’s 10th anniversary.