Two weeks ago today I think I finally saw enough gardens to satisfy me. Maybe. At least for a while.
The Willamette Valley near Salem is an amazing place. The climate and soils are such that it’s an ideal place to grow nursery stock of all kinds. It’s very odd to come around a bend in the road and see an entire field of some exotic evergreen or shrub, let alone entire fields of garden flowers.
I live just down the road from a commercial dahlia grower (which is something of a joke because I can’t grow dahlias in my own garden to save my life), and up north of Seattle is where a large part of the nation’s crop of daffodil and tulip bulbs are grown by the acre (spectacular in early April). But the Willamette Valley is something special, even by my standards.
My first stop, about five miles back north of Salem on the west side of I-5, was somewhere I’d been before, Schreiner’s Iris Gardens. I have some Schreiner’s iris in my own garden, as a matter of fact. Bearded iris are my alltime favorite flowers. They look like enormous butterflies, come in every color of the rainbow except for true red and true green (they come in shades of both, but not the true color), and many of them smell fantastic. Sort of like fruit punch tastes. Or grapes. If they had a longer bloom season, they’d be the perfect flower.
Schreiner’s not only has iris fields by the acre, but they have a multi-acre display garden, too, with hundreds of varieties. I hit the garden just after peak bloom, and it was spectacular. I spent the entire morning there, and took way too many photos. Here’s a sampling of them.
After pizza for lunch in the little town of Keizer (kee’ zer), I drove a couple of miles on the other side of I-5 to a place called Adelman Peony Gardens. I’d never been there before, and I don’t think they even existed the last time I was down in this neck of the woods over ten years ago. While they’re not quite to the scale of Schreiner’s yet (although I suspect they’re on their way there), they, too, have beautiful display gardens, with a far greater variety of flower forms and colors than I ever expected from peonies. Yes, they’re primarily red, pink, and white, but they also come in creamy yellow and rusty peach, and range from a single row of petals to flower heads that resemble a cheerleader’s pompoms. I wish I had room for a peony or three in my tiny garden. Maybe someday. In the meantime, here’s some more photos.
My last garden stop for the day was at a place called Sebright Gardens. Here the emphasis was on green, as they specialize in hostas, or dinosaur plants as my sister calls the three I have in the shady part of my garden. Hostas are primarily foliage plants, although they do put up stalks of purple to white bell-shaped flowers in late summer. I knew hostas came in a lot of shapes and sizes, and they do, from cereal-bowl-sized to five feet across, mostly with leaves proportional but sometimes not. But they also come in shades of green from almost blue to almost yellow, almost white to almost black, sometimes several on the same plant or even the same leaf, and those leaves come in a wild assortment of shapes, as well.
The gardens here had more companion plants than the other two, and were spectacular. But it was the hostas that were so amazing. Green is my favorite color. What can I say?
By that point it was getting late in the afternoon, and I’d planned to visit the Oregon Garden that day as well. The Oregon Garden was built by the Oregon Nursery Association, and is an enormous display garden full of ideas for how to use all those lovely plants in the landscape. I’d been there before when it was new, and it’s really nifty. But by that point my feet hurt, and my eyes were so full of color I’m not sure they could have held any more. It did seem a bit like overkill at that point.
So instead I decided to drive the hour or so on down to Eugene, where I had some trouble finding a motel, involving crossing town twice and getting stuck in rush hour traffic, but I finally did, and settled down to make plans for heading over to the coast. And back to research, which, after all, was the main reason I was making this trip.