Yesterday evening during the course of my epic travels , I was invited by a friend of mine to go along with her and her mother to a garden. At first the garden was not specified and I had in mind it being the Japanese Gardens not too far from where I live, which I have traveled to before and enjoyed . This morning, though, I found out that the garden in question was not that one but another one that I had never been to before, namely the Oregon Gardens in somewhat remote Silverton, Oregon. As I am almost always up for an adventure, particularly one that can be conducted at such little cost to myself, and that involved gardening, one of my more unusual interests , I looked up the directions and set off on my journey.
Although I arrived a bit later than I had wanted to or expected, it was still early enough in the day that we had about two hours or so to explore the 80 acres of garden. First we waited a bit for the tram, since one of our party had some ankle problems and was a bit hobbled by them. As someone with my own frequent foot troubles, I was content to sit on the tram and take photos of lovely views along the way. We ended up making one and a half circuits around the tram, stopping at the market garden where commercially viable plants ranging from kale and katerina cabbage to peach trees and various types of grapevines trained on wires were available for inspection. One of our adventuring party, a reasonably seasoned gardener, had me snap some photos of some of the labels for plants in order to see if the miniature hedge around many of the plant beds could be found, and then purchased, and then walking back to the entrance gate where we had lunch before departing, knowing that we had only explored a small amount of the garden and that a full day’s of exploring would be necessary to see all that was worth seeing. In short, we will be back, God willing.
In general, I was impressed at the honesty and forthrightness of the tram operator/tour guide when it came to the origins of the garden and the motivating principles behind it. To summarize, there had been an idea for having a large garden in the Willamette Valley from the state’s nursery growers that would help them promote their products to a plant-friendly audience going back to the 1940s, but money was a major issue. Independently of this, the city of Silverton grew to the extent that it was found necessary for the town to develop a way to slow down the transfer of treated wastewater to a local watershed in order to preserve the fish population, and so a public-private partnership was developed that allowed the Oregon Garden to make a large number of gardens, many of them devoted to helping nurseries sell various types of plants for Oregonian gardeners, while also simultaneously allowing the city of Silverton to handle its environmental problem of needing to cool its treated wastewater, which it could then give to the garden as an unlimited supply of free irrigation water that would likely nourish plant growth to a considerable degree. And so, in 2001, the Oregon Gardens was opened, and since then it has expanded to somewhere around 20 smaller gardens and a wide variety of demonstration plots as well as locations for events including weddings and a summer series of movies. All of this the tram operator freely discussed, expecting the audience to find this sort of public-private partnership to be unobjectionable.
The garden, at least what I saw of it, offered a few areas of interest that I found to be somewhat odd and also potentially troubling. For one, the oak savanna area was done in association with a local tribe as part of a way of providing an area of old trees that was supposedly in the same sort of pattern as was in existence before the arrival of American settlers, a sort of mythic ideal that I find problematic. Likewise, there were various statues in the statue garden, at least some of which appear totemic in nature, which is also troubling. Indeed, I found the quasi-religious aspects of the gardens, and the hints of heathen worldview that I saw on evidence to be even more troubling than the hints of public-private corruption and marketing that were everywhere in evidence. Even so, despite my concerns, I consider the garden worth visiting again, although if and when I return I plan on doing a bit more investigation into those areas that strike me as troubling, to see what the creators of the garden are about in their behavior.
 See, for example: