Garden Tour Road Trip to Oregon

Another APLDWA Members Adventure

Another APLDWA Members Adventure
Relaxing and having fun during the Oregon road trip, photo by Heidi Hower

Winter is a wonderful time to plan a "Garden Tour Road Trip" for the upcoming summer. I did this last winter with five friends who are fellow designers and APLDWA members. Susan Picquelle, Jade Waples, Mary Kennedy, Heidi Hower, and Elaine McEnery and I (Hege Watkins, APLDWA Secretary) met at Edmonds Community College in the Landscape Design classes. During that incredibly busy time we fantasized about taking a summer road trip to Oregon to visit some nurseries and gardens. Late last winter we decided to make our dreams a reality, and we planned a four-day trip to Portland for late July. We compiled a list of private gardens and nurseries that were of interest to all of us, narrowed it down to a reasonable list, and made the arrangements.

Cracked Pots Recycled Garden Art Show
Cracked Pots Recycled Garden Art Show, photo by Hege Watkins

McMenamins Edgefield was our home base. Little did we know that McMenamins Edgefield would be hosting Cracked Pots Recycled Garden Art Show during our stay (no wonder we had a hard time booking rooms!). Edgefield was affordable and a perfect place for us to stay. It is a former county poor farm that is situated on 74-acres in Troutdale, which is east of Portland. The property includes delightful gardens and outdoor spaces; a golf course; several restaurants and bars; a theater, gift shop, and spa; and a very large serpentine hot tub that weaves around tropical themed plantings. It also has a rich history that is celebrated in artwork throughout the rooms and public spaces and in tales of ghosts and hauntings. We even had our own entry to add to the "ghost log" at the front desk, but that's a tale for another time.

In the span of four days and three nights, we visited four private gardens and four nurseries, enjoyed some wonderful restaurants, and had a fabulous time at the Cracked Pots Recycled Garden Art Show. Each of our hosts was welcoming, engaging, and generous with his or her time. In some cases, the hosts seemed as excited as we were about the garden visit. We became fast friends with one woman who was incredibly gracious and fun. After we toured her home and garden, we enjoyed lemonade and home cooked sweets in her garden pavilion. And then she invited us all to stay at her amazing home when we visit again!

Cistus Nursery, photo by Jade Waples
It is difficult to say which nursery was my favorite, because they were all so varied and remarkable. The first nursery stop was at Cistus Nursery on beautiful Sauvie Island, which is northwest of Portland. Cistus carries Mediterranean climate and hardy tropical plants, which are available for retail purchase on site and by mail order. Their plant displays were informative and often delightful.

A breathtaking display of Japanese Maples and conifers was found at Buckholz and Buckholz Wholesale Nursery. They are wholesale growers of Japanese maples, dwarf and unusual conifers, and other ornamental trees and shrubs, most of which are displayed beautifully in their Flora Wonder Arboretum. For plant geeks like us, the variety of dwarf conifers (many that we had never seen) was a bit overwhelming. A future road trip (with a truck to take back a few treasures) is definitely in order.

Iseli Nursery
Iseli Nursery, photo by Hege Watkins

Iseli Nursery really needs no introduction, and their arboretum was every bit as stunning as the photos on their website and in their catalog. Because we made arrangements for our visit in advance, we were given a personal tour that was very informative. We then set out to explore the arboretum on our own. The varied textures and colors of the conifers combined with a multitude of shapes and sizes soon had us all in a state of sensory overload!

Our last nursery visits also involved a personal tour conducted by Nancy Buley, who is the Communications Director of J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co., which specializes in growing shade, flowering, and specialty ornamental trees and on bringing improved cultivars to the wholesale market. Nancy met us on her lunch hour and gave us a tour of Treephoria, which is her own niche nursery. We were particularly impressed with Nancy's witch hazels, which she was growing as standards. From Treephoria, Nancy took us to the J. Frank Schmidt & Son Co. corporate headquarters to show us some trees that are not yet readily available to the trade. (We wait for the purple leaved Styrax japonicus 'Evening Light' with great anticipation!!!) We ended up at the peaceful J. Frank Schmidt Arboretum with not nearly enough time to explore or examine the mature trees growing there. This is one spot that is on our hit list for our next visit.

We quickly realized that there is a limit to how much we could take in and still enjoy it in each day. Having time to relax and enjoy a delicious evening meal together was high on our list of priorities, and doing so proved to be a perfect way to debrief each other after a day of touring. Fellow APLD members are the perfect companions for a garden focused road trip, and this trip far exceeded our expectations. While we were arranging the trip, we discovered that mentioning that we are APLDWA members made it easier to get a welcome invitation from the owners of the private gardens. So take some time this winter to sit down with a hot beverage, choose a destination, and start dreaming and planning your own "Garden Tour Road Trip" - I promise that you won't regret it!

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