Oregon Gardens of Eden in Salem

In Salem, Oregon residents and visitors alike have access to beautiful inspirational gardens, as well as the gardens at commercial flower farms. Whether you enjoy just walking through gardens, the activity of gardening or are an armchair gardener, you’ll find plenty of inspiration when you visit the region’s public gardens. Here are a few places to visit where you can purchase plants and cut blooms, order bulbs and tubers or gain inspiration for your home garden.

Flowers and gardens are an integral part of life here in the Salem and Marion and Polk Counties area. The mid-Willamette Valley is a major region in which bulbs; tubers and plants are grown on a large scale for sale nationwide. Many festivals are held throughout the spring and summer to celebrate nature’s colorful and fragrant blossoms.

Springtime is filled with events that celebrate the flow ers that bloom at winter’s end. The region's first spring flower festival is held in March and April at the Wooden Shoe Bulb Company in Woodburn, just 20 minutes north of Salem. At the Wooden Shoe Bulb Company you’ll have the opportunity to walk through fields of brilliant yellow, red, pink and orange tulips, quickly curing any "winter blues" you may have acquired.

From the fields at the Wooden Shoe Bulb Company you'll enjoy spectacular views of nearby Mt. Hood with its snowcapped peak towering above the Cascade Mountain Range and the Willamette Valley below. Viewing the blooming fields provides the perfect means to choose bulbs to order for fall planting.

In May the annual Iris Festival is held in Keizer. Located adjacent to Salem, Keizer is situated on the 45th Parallel -halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. The Iris Festival includes a parade and flower show that celebrates the beauty of the bearded iris. The region is a center for the growing of this fragrant plant, with hundreds of varieties grown and shipped each year.

North of Keizer, between Highway 99 and Interstate 5, you'll find Schreiner’s Iris Gardens. One of the nation's largest retail growers of iris, Schreiner's has 200 viewing acres open to the public free of charge, along with ten acres of gardens in which visitors will be inspired to order tubers for autumn planting. During the month of May Schreiner's holds its annual celebration that features a barbecue chicken dinner, wine from area wineries and musical entertainment. For over three-quarters of a century, three generations of the Schreiner family have been dedicated to growing and selling irises.

Near Silverton, fifteen minutes northeast of Salem, you’ll find more irises at Cooley's Gardens, another of the nation’s largest iris growers. Each May Cooley's Cut Flower Show features 200 artistic tall bearded iris floral arrangements, wine tasting and weekend entertainment. For 74 years the Cooley family has been growing irises commercially. Today they offer more than 600 bearded iris varieties. Over 7 million rhizomes are shipped annually from Cooley's to customers nationwide. In addition to viewing acres and acres of blooming iris, the beautiful display gardens, which are wheelchair accessible, offer a wealth of garden ideas.

Like the tulip fields at the Wooden Shoe Bulb Company, the iris fields at both Cooley's and Schreiner's provide panoramic views of both the Coast Mountain Range that rims the valley to the west and the majestic Cascade Range to the east with its snow capped volcanic peaks, Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson.

Just a few miles from Cooley's, at the edge of the picturesque city of Silverton, is the magnificent Oregon Garden. This is one of Oregon's newest attractions. Formerly an Arabian horse farm, this botanical display garden has been open to the public since June of 2000. Designed to be accessible to people with disabilities, the electric "people mover" trams offer guided tours as you ride silently through the grounds. Seasonal activities, classes and seminars, plant sales, exhibits and other garden-related special events are held throughout the year to provide education, inspiration or entertainment. The Oregon Garden’s summer concert series has featured a variety of musical entertainment - big band music, salsa, bluegrass, jazz, blues and more offer something for every musical taste.

The Oregon Garden features the plant offerings of the state's nursery industry. Majestic trees, beautiful blossoms, and distinct gardens have been landscaped into the property's gently rolling hills. Garden areas include the Children's Garden where the young of all ages relish viewing the bed of "weird" plants. The Silverton Market Garden, developed by local citizens, area showcases many of the 147 edible crops grown in the Willamette Valley.

Water is an important part of any garden and The Oregon Garden has many water features. A unique water feature is the Wetlands that are an attractive viewing garden for visitors while serving an important environmental service by receiving Silverton's treated wastewater. If you want to take some practical gardening tips home, a visit to the Home Demonstration Garden is a must. There you'll find a series of small gardens that showcase landscapes and gardening techniques that can be successful on a home garden scale.

In March of 2002 The Oregon Garden opened The Gordon House to visitors. This Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian style home was moved to the Garden to preserve the state's only family home designed by the renowned architect. The Oregon Garden continues to add to its botanical offerings making each visit a new discovery of this garden built on a majestic scale.

West of Salem in the small town of Dallas is the Delbert Hunter Arboretum. Located in the city's park, this is a perfect place to sit, relax and have a picnic lunch under the canopy of the arboretum's trees.

At Adelman Peony Gardens 200 old-fashioned and new hybrid varieties of peonies bloom each spring. Peonies come in pinks, blushes, reds, bicolors and whites. An excellent garden plant, peonies are long-lived and require little care. At Adelman Peony Gardens, cut flowers and plants are both available during the annual Spring Open House with root orders shipped for fall plantings.

The small town of St. Paul is the home of Heirloom Roses. Their three display gardens contain 2,000 rose varieties. These fragrant varieties have been time tested and are hardy, virus free plants that are much easier to grow and care for than hybrids.

Some special commercial gardens can be found South and Southeast of Salem in the small towns of Turner and Aumsville. From mid-August through mid-October the dahlias at Frey's Dahlias in Turner are in full bloom. A walk through their 2-acre garden provides a view of over 200 varieties.

Frey’s Dahlias holds an annual celebration each September when the plants are in full bloom. Seminars, tours and plants are available.

Each summer the Tender Harvest Lavender Farm in the small pioneer town of Aumsville holds its annual Lavender Festival. The spicy smell of lavender is used in aromatherapy to bring relaxation, calm and peace. At Tender Harvest Lavender Farm you’ll walk through the lavender fields, and have the opportunity to purchase plants, wreaths, essential oils, pottery and other gift items. Open year round, this is a must see place for lavender lovers.

Within the heart of Salem there are many beautiful public gardens in which you can stroll and enjoy the landscaping as the seasons change.

Salem is the state's capital city and the State Capitol grounds contain many beautiful landscaped areas. Of special note is Willson Park where majestic trees and exquisite flowerbeds soothe away daily cares and woes.

Across the street from the State Capitol building you’ll find Willamette University. This is the oldest institution of higher education west of the Mississippi. Willamette's campus is beautiful with many old brick buildings. Scattered throughout the campus are many gardens and landscaped areas, including a wonderful rose garden that welcomes visitors arriving on campus from the State Capitol.

Another beautiful and extensive rose garden can be found at Bush's Pasture Park. This city park was the family home of one of Salem's business pioneers. In addition to the rose garden, you’ll want to explore the original greenhouse, stroll through the mighty oak trees, tour the fully furnished home and visit the art center in what once was the farm’s barn.

Adjacent to Bush’s Pasture Park is Historic Deepwood Estate. This beautiful Queen Anne home is now a city park. Deepwood’s gardens are a gardener’s treasure. The beautiful formal English garden areas were designed by Lord & Schryver - the Pacific Northwest’s first female landscape architecture firm. True to its name, Deepwood Estate's grounds extend beyond the formal landscaping to include nature trails that allow you to walk through one of Mother Nature’s gardens, a wooded area that has been left in its natural state.

At Mission Mill Museum, just a short stroll from Salem’s newly restored Amtrak train station, you’ll find historic homes that have been moved to the site for preservation. The gardens here are a beautifully quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. From the herb garden to beautifully planted flowerbeds, this is a place to come and enjoy the gardens while exploring the region’s history.

Winter or summer the gardens of Salem and Marion and Polk Counties have much to offer. Many of the commercial gardens offer catalogs, some of which can be requested online. Contact telephone numbers as well as web site addresses are listed below. For information on accommodations or travel directions, contact the Salem Convention & Visitors Association (1-800-874-7012 or www.travelsalem.com). Their free travel guide can also be requested online. I know that you’ll enjoy your garden tour of this region no matter what time of year you choose to visit.

Contact Information:

Adelman Gardens (Peonies)
5690 Brooklake Rd. NE Brooks, OR 97305
Bloom Season: May 1-June 15

Bush's Pasture Park (Rose)
600 Mission St. SE Salem, OR 97302
Bloom Season: Mid-May - October

Cooley's Gardens Inc. (Iris)
11553 Silverton Rd. NE Silverton, OR 97381
Bloom Season: May - June 1st

Delbert Hunter Arboretum & Botanic Garden
631 Park St. Dallas, OR 97338
Year round 

Frey's Dahlias (Dahlias)
12054 Brick Rd. Turner, OR 97392
Bloom Season: August 1-October 15

Heirloom Old Rose Garden (Rose)
24062 Riverside Dr. NE St. Paul, OR 97137
Bloom Season: Mid-May-October

Historic Deepwood Gardens (English)
1116 Mission St. SE Salem, OR 97302
Year round

Mission Mill Museum

The Oregon Garden
879 W. Main St./PO Box 155 Silverton, OR 97381
Year round 

Schreiner's Iris Garden (Iris)
3625 Quinaby Rd. NE Salem, OR 97303
Bloom Season: May - June 1st Year Round

Tender Harvest Lavender Farm
Aumsville, Oregon

Willamette University's Martha Springer Botanical Garden and Rose Garden
900 State St. Salem, OR 97301
Year Round 

Willson Park/Capitol Park (variety)
900 Court St Salem, OR 97301
Year round

Wooden Shoe Bulb Company (Tulip)
33814 S. Meridian Woodburn, OR 97071
503-634-2243 or 1-800-711-2006
Bloom Season: March 20-April 23

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native Oregonian, Sharan Barnett lives in Salem where she enjoys time spent in her garden and visiting public gardens throughout the region. She and her husband, photographer Frank Barnett, have traveled extensively throughout the United States and Europe. Each journey brings new garden inspiration and ideas for Sharan to incorporate into the landscaping of her home’s one quarter of an acre.

You can receive additional information by visiting the Salem Convention and Visitors Association.