Excerpts from June Russell-Chamberlin’s July 15 article titled 7 Gorgeous Gardens to Visit in Salem, Oregon. Published in Travel Awaits
From shaded green oases to colorful fragrance-filled flower gardens and stylized spaces designed to impress, gardens in the city offer a respite from the bustle and noise. But the gorgeous gardens in Salem, Oregon, provide more than a moment of beauty and peace; they also showcase the seemingly endless variety of fruits, flowers, and other flora that thrive in the Willamette Valley.
Some of the gardens highlighted here are historic, reflecting the dominant influences and varieties of the time. Other gardens are more modern and incorporate native plants and butterfly favorites. One is on a working farm, and another is at a retail nursery. The Oregon Garden, the state’s premier botanical garden, is designed for both pleasure and education. Whichever garden you choose to wander, you can stroll the paths, soak up the colors and fragrances, and discover new garden ideas along the way.
Martha Springer Botanical Garden
The first thing you notice about the Martha Springer Botanical Garden is the birdsong, trilling from an unseen warbler. This narrow 1-acre garden hidden behind the Sparks Center for athletics on the Willamette University campus is devoted to native plants and organic gardening. Many of the plants provide food and habitat for wildlife and pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. Sixteen raised beds and tall bushes fill the center of the garden. The Mill Race flows along one side, the back of the Sparks Center defines the other. Sword ferns, maidenhair ferns, thimbleberry, wild roses, and other native plants provide cover for nesting birds. Butterflies and hummingbirds are drawn to the monarda, showy milkweed, poppies, evening primrose, and other flowers. A small artificial waterfall and a small pond provide water for the wildlife. Benches — some hidden, some in the open — invite visitors to linger. To find the garden, park in the lot in front of the Sparks Center and follow the sidewalk around the side of the building.
Once the home, studio, and private garden of the Pacific Northwest’s first woman-owned landscape architecture firm, today Gaiety Hollow showcases the garden design principles of its original owners. Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver began designing the garden in 1932, incorporating garden rooms, sightlines, points of interest, and other features. An allele framed by boxwood hedges, rhododendrons, and camellias stretches along one side. A parterre flower garden with a complex pattern of brick walkways, benches, and an arbor blooms from spring through fall. Roses, lilies, delphiniums, and more fill the space with color and fragrance. A grape-covered pergola links the parterre garden with the allele and provides a shady spot for relaxing.
The garden is maintained by the Lord and Schryver Conservancy, which offers free open garden days from April through September, workshops, and other events. Check the calendar on the conservancy website for open garden dates. Parking is available a block away on Mission Street in a lot at Bush’s Pasture Park or around the corner on Church Street.nd.
Bush’s Pasture Park Rose Garden
With more than 2,000 plants representing more than 100 hybrid tea and old rose cultivars, Bush’s Pasture Park Rose Garden is filled with fragrant blooms from May to September. The garden began in 1955 with hybrid tea and floribunda roses. Today, rose varieties from the 1950s to the present are planted in more than 80 flowerbeds. North of the gazebo, the beds are filled with rose varieties dating from the 1920s and 1930s that were collected from around the Bush family estate. Even older roses are part of the Tartar Old Rose Collection, planted in 17 beds in the northwest corner of the garden. Mae and A.R. Tartar collected roses introduced to the public before 1857 when the first hybrid tea rose appeared. This collection of old roses is considered the finest on public property in the Pacific Northwest.
Don’t miss a chance to explore the greenhouse and surrounding gardens near the parking lot at the end of Bush Street S.E. Known as the Bush Conservatory, the greenhouse dates to 1882. Inside you’ll find cactus and other exotic plants. Outside, espaliered apple trees and a series of mixed borders surround the structure. Both the rose garden and conservatory are free to visit and open year round.
The gardens change with the seasons, so plan to visit multiple times to catch the gardens at their seasonal peaks. Tulips and spring flowers bloom in April, summer flowers put on a show in June and July, and fall color adds drama in late September and October.
Take a camera and a notebook to record new plant discoveries, planting combinations, and other ideas to use in your own garden. Check each garden’s website for a calendar of informative tours, talks, and other special events to learn more about the plants and principles at work.