COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: This week can be nature’s best-kept secret

The first week of September is the start of the best kept secret when it comes to Northwest Gardens – this is the month that celebrates the most perfect weather for gardening and garden inspiration.

Inspiration awaits just a few hours drive south where you’ll find the spectacular Oregon Garden, an 80-acre show garden near Salem, Ore.

You can join me in September for a dirt-cheap weekend escape to the Oregon Garden by getting more information about this trip from my website at We’ll be taking a private coach from Sumner on Sept. 23 and returning Sept. 25. This visit to the Oregon Garden includes a seminar, two nights at the resort, tours and free time to explore the town of Silverton and Silver Falls.

“Gardening for Four Seasons” is the hot topic for cool autumn and winter landscapes at the Oregon Garden and their Garden University series, but you don’t have to sit in a seminar to learn from the Oregon Garden experience. There are more than 20 different theme gardens at this horticultural haven and finding examples of year-long beauty is as simple as wandering through the conifer garden, tropical house, wetlands garden, pond and waterfall gardens, children’s and train garden, home demo garden and fantastic foliage, tree and shrub collections.

September is the month when both summer flowers and fall colors create colorful chemistry. The Oregon nursery industry wanted to display the best in new annuals, trees, shrubs, perennials, roses and vegetables and it was this goal that created the Oregon Garden project. This new tourist destination showcases year-round outdoor beauty displayed with a dramatic flair. Call it plant lust for new introductions, creative longing for artistic plant pairings or just appreciation for natural beauty, but now is the perfect time of year to visit show gardens or to just look around your neighborhood for ways to add year round beauty to your own landscape.

Take Home Ideas from The Oregon Garden

Inspiration for the coming winter season: Don’t let winter be the forgotten season. Here in western Washington we can grow conifers and evergreens that require little or no maintenance. Contrasting colors and rich textures of steely blue, yellow gold and rich green foliage create a tapestry of color and form in the conifer display garden and the use of rock, stone and gravel help frame the rugged good looks of these cone-bearing trees.

The secret of well-behaved conifers that won’t outgrow their welcome is to choose from the many dwarf and naturally compact varieties. Our neighbors in Oregon grow more conifers for nursery stock than anyplace else in the world. You’ll meet small trees with big, royal purple cones, weeping shrubs that act as weed-suppressing groundcovers and tiny dwarf spruce, pine and cedar that can fit into the palm of your hand – and promise to grow less than one inch a year.

Designing a winter garden involves more than just adding evergreens to the landscape. Landscaping for the forgotten season also means using the white bark of birch trees and the bright red berries of holly, cotoneaster and viburnums. To really enjoy the winter landscape choose a location that will be easy to view from inside the house.

Inspiration for

Autumn Color

Autumn is another one of the forgotten seasons in the garden but at the Oregon Garden you will see fabulous layers of rich color used in a way that even the smallest garden can borrow. For the best fall displays use maximum contrast of color by placing deep reds and burgundy leaf colors in the background and bright yellow foliage in the foreground. This design trick will give even a small garden space more depth.

Inspiration to use with your Japanese maples

If you already have a brilliant Japanese maple in your landscape, highlight the leaf color by adding a companion color nearby. Grow beyond the familiar maples that display red leaves. Try the more unusual plant and tree specimens found at The Oregon Garden but offered now at area nurseries. You might include the bronze and purple leaves of the perilla plant the metallic-looking berries of Pernettya or some of the native plants written about by Lewis and Clark and displayed in the history garden.

Inspiration for rocky soil

Rock solid design is the other secret unveiled at The Oregon Garden as this show garden showcases the creative use of stone, gravel and boulders as a backdrop to plant material. Something as simple as placing a large rock next to an interesting plant can change the way you see your landscape and start your own garden down the path towards a garden for all seasons.

Fall is in the air and autumn is ripe for a fresh start in the garden. Make this the season for inspiration, improvement and year round interest.


To join Marianne Binetti on this weekend escape to the Oregon Garden send a check for $360 for each person to Oregon Garden Trip, P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Include your name, e-mail, phone and address. You will be contacted with more trip details. The price of this trip includes transportation, two nights at the Oregon Garden resort, welcome dinner, two breakfasts, seminar, tram or walking tour of the gardens and some stops at Oregon nurseries. The price is based on double occupancy so include the name of a roommate.

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