SILVERTON, Ore. – The Oregon Garden is not just another pretty place. Home to more than one-hundred bird species, a variety of wild animals, a small but highly skilled team of horticultural professionals and a dedicated group of educational partners, the project showcases some of the best things Oregonians hold dear. It is a place with many one-of-a-kind collections of trees, plants, blossoms, birds, animals and people.
The original two-fold project, which broke ground in 1997, was to create a place to further treat Silverton’s wastewater and showcase Oregon’s nursery industry. The 80-acres of diverse gardens have done that. However, the best part and most important water feature in the Garden is found by following the footprints of the self guided ‘off-road’ nature trail that loops around the upper wetlands.
The trail in question, is a sweet path that follows the water that comes from Silverton’s wastewater treatment plant where it is piped into the wetland at the top of the hill. From there, it trickles down through a series of 15 ponds and collects in two underground storage tanks where it is used for irrigation throughout the Garden. The four-acre area, which has been planted with native plants that can tolerate water-saturated soils containing very little oxygen, is habitat for a diverse array of birds, insects, amphibians and mammals. It is a unique and beautiful place.
“Developing the wetlands from where the water enters the garden through the maze of plant life, has been a rewarding experience,” Renee Stoops, environmental horticulturist and director of the Sustainable Plant Research and Outreach Center (SPROut) said. “The process removes the nitrogen and phosphorous from the water, cools it and returns it to Brush Creek. In addition to getting the clean water back into the watershed, the wetlands also serve as a powerful example of the important role Oregon’s nurseries can play in contributing to sustainable landscapes.”
Stoops, who received an undergraduate degree in biology and geology from Brown University and a masters degree in plant science and horticulture from the University of Rhode Island, came west in 1999 and started working for a landscape company that planted some of the garden’s first areas. She joined the Garden staff as the wetland specialist in 2000, and in 2003, while continuing to manage the wetlands, started developing SPROut.
“We are more of a botanical display garden with rich ecosystem diversity than a than a formal garden focused on color,” Stoops said. “As we developed the wetlands, the SPROut program grew out of a desire to share and promote the possibilities of plant- based solutions and that is what I spend most of my time working on today.
“Some may have wanted the garden to be blossom driven, but I feel that its real niche value will be in the ecology, education, demonstration, research, wildlife and water of the site. The Garden’s support comes from memberships, private donors and endowments and the Oregon Garden Resort and thanks to the members, the donors and the many volunteers, we are growing a wonderful place.”
For more information on the SPROut and all of our projects, conferences, courses and resource offerings state-wide, visit www.SPROutOregon.org. For more information on memberships, volunteer opportunities, dining, lodging, concerts and other special events call 503-874-8100 (toll free 877-674-2733), or visit www.oregongarden.org
-Jan Jackson ©2011 – See Jan Jackson’s Bio
Cover photo: Renee Stoops, environmental horticulturist and director of the Sustainable Plant Research and Outreach Center, stands along the off-road nature trail that loops around the upper wetlands; photo by Jan Jackson