form and foliage

Year round garden interest with minimal care

The Oregon Garden – A Destination Resort


conifers, mixed foliage border, evergreen shrubs

The Oregon Garden in Silverton, Oregon

A Destination Resort is one whose location and amenities make the resort itself an attraction for tourists, rather than just a spot to stay while visiting the region.  For Form and Foliage, The Oregon Garden Resort provided the best amenity of all: The Oregon Garden! And an unexpected bonus was that The Garden is open before/after hours to those staying at The Resort.  Thus, we were able to wander at will before the crowds arrived and after they had gone home, and catch the best light of the day.

evergreen foliage, mixed evergreen foliage border

A beautiful array of conifers at The Oregon Garden

We spent most of our time in the Conifer Collection, which features not just conifers tastefully planted but also a nice selection of companion plants.  The Garden was the brainchild of the Oregon Association of Nurseries as a way to showcase the State’s rich horticultural heritage.  Groundbreaking was in 1997 and the Conifer Garden was dedicated in 2000, although the plantings feel like they have been in the ground longer than the intervening 12 years (our visit was in September 2012).

Oregon Garden conifer garden

Sara is dwarfed by the Sequoiadendron giganteum ‘Pendulum’

The Conifer Garden has one of the largest collections of dwarf and miniature conifers in the U.S. and was created in partnership with the American Conifer Society, which provides ongoing consultation.  We hear that there are plans to double the Conifer Garden’s size so we’re calendaring a return trip!

conifers and colored foliage

Mixed foliage border at The Oregon Garden

We used The Resort as our home base while we were visiting nearby nurseries and private gardens and thus were able to see the gardens over several days.  There was no shortage of plantings to observe, and we were particularly taken with the mix of conifers and companion plants, which showcased the best attributes of both, such as the juxtaposition of the blue spruce and orange heather in the above photo.

conifers, the oregon garden, Abies amabilis 'Spreading Star'

The soft blue needles of the fir contrast beautifully with the peachy tones of the nearby plants

The same blue/orange combination (which we’ve written about before in We’ve Got the Blues) works with softer tints as well, as you can see in the above photo.  Clearly this garden was planned with an eye to both color and seasonality.

Weeping blue and upright orange combine with starry mint green for a rich combination of colors and shapes

Weeping blue and upright orange combine with starry mint green for a rich combination of colors and shapes

The planners were attentive to shape, as well, as tall weepers flow into upright ground-huggers with staccato bursts of bright foliage keeping things lively.  This garden provides many take-aways for the home gardener in design, plant selection, and plant combinations.

The Oregon Garden, conifers

This blue spruce is highlighted by the dazzling orange heather in the background

We couldn’t resist one last artsy shot of the power that the blue/orange combination provides! The color combinations in the garden go way beyond that pairing, however.  The palette encompasses many shades of greens, yellows and reds and maroon.

conifers, evergreen plants, foliage border

Orange and blue broaden into a plethora of greens and chartreuse

In the above photo the maple in the foreground tries for drama while the conifers provide a range of color, even in autumn when they are not flush with new growth. Everyone that thinks that conifers are boring should take a long look at this scene, and remember that they will look like this all winter, too…

shrub border, foliage plants

Yellows dominate in this scene from The Oregon Garden’s conifer collection

The above scene shows another side of conifer color – the ‘pop’ that yellow and gold can provide in a dreary winter landscape (see Bleak Midwinter).  The lemony yellow of the billowy weeping Chamaecyparis is picked up by the tips of the spruce on the left.  While the maroon Berberis in front and the fiery Viburnum in the rear are still in leaf there is even more garden color – in autumn.

Soft color from conifers and a peony in fall foliage

Soft color from conifers and a peony in fall foliage

One of the things that makes this garden such a pleasure to visit is the use of such a broad selection of plant material.  The fairly pedestrian peony in the above photo, which most people plant simply for the sumptuous spring flower, has raspberry-stained leaves in autumn and provides a subtle accent to the many shades – and shapes – of the surrounding conifers.

weeping beech

The conifer garden makes generous use of deciduous specimen trees

The conifers are interplanted lavishly with beautiful specimen trees, chosen for their form and foliage (see why we liked it?) The weeping purple beech above shows off the cedar in front with lovely contrast of color, shape and texture.  The tree trunks will continue to provide structure and contrast when the leaves have fallen.

The weeping purple beech dominates this scene and its form is echoed by the group of Cupressus nootkatensis behind

The weeping purple beech dominates this scene and its form is echoed by the group of Cupressus nootkatensis behind

We loved staying here at The Garden and would recommend it as a relaxing spot for anyone wanting to see a superb – and beautifully planted – conifer collection.  Even non-gardeners will find much to admire and enjoy at The Garden, and the ability to wander freely when it is closed to day visitors makes this garden experience more like staying at a private country manor than visiting a public installation.

Sunset at The Oregon Garden

We lingered in The Garden as long as it was still light enough to see!

From here we visited a private garden that has some breathtaking plantings, so stay tuned…in the meantime, take a look at The Oregon Garden and start planning your visit!

15 thoughts on “The Oregon Garden – A Destination Resort

  1. I saw this as a very young garden, and now love how it has developed. So beautiful!

  2. Always amazed how the subtle differences of shade and texture can conspire to breathtaking composition. Makes me want to go to Oregon.

    • Debby it is an amazing part of the world, and a great spot to visit if you want to get out of the Texas sun and heat (two things that are always in short supply in Oregon!)
      Jan and Sara

  3. I love seeing red-shirted Sara beside that Sequoiadendron gigantea! What a beautiful collection. I can see the ranch garden looking just like this some day. It’s on its way!

    • We have received quite a few comments about how having a human in the landscape gives a sense of size and scale and so we thought we’d start with a really dramatic one!
      Jan and Sara

  4. Hello,

    I plan to visit the Portland area (first time) the first week of May.

    You have sent so many wonderful gardens to visit, I am so excited can hardly wait.

    Other than the three conifer gardens you have sent , do you have suggestions for other gardens/nurseries that should not be missed

    during the week of May 5th thru 11th ? Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Inez Austin, ASID

    Design Innerphase, Inc.

    1732 Overlook Drive

    Silver Spring, MD 20903

    301 439-8400, 301 439-8401 (f)

    • Inez, early May should be a great time to be in the Portland Area! Two other spots that you might consider are the Portland Japanese Garden and the Hoyt Arboretum. Also, the Oregon Garden does do guided tours so you might check with them about a guided tour of the conifer garden. There is an ACS member who is extremely knowledgeable who usually does the tours. Rare Tree Nursery/Conifer Kingdom is near the OG – not sure if they do retail or allow visitors but you could check. The wholesale spots usually allow you to visit if you call ahead and ask nicely.
      Have a great trip!
      Jan and Sara

  5. We’re so glad that you enjoyed your trip to the Garden! Thanks for coming to visit us and for sharing your amazing photos. We hope you’ll come back and visit again soon.

  6. And yet another magnificent post. The photos are really special. Who took them? Jan?

    Bama Love

  7. the colors are EDEN!!! that Sequoiadendron giganteum ‘Pendulum’? what is that thing?

  8. Conifer kingdom does keep limited retail hours,check with them.They have also been great
    supporters of the Oregon Garden conifer collection,donating some superb plants.No I don’t work there !LOLDoug

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