Explore the Great Gardens of the USA in Oregon and Charleston

This week will see the return of the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, the world’s largest flower show. Guests can expect gorgeous gardens, fabulous florals and fantastic shopping in an unforgettable setting.

Amongst all the flora and fauna will be a dash of stars and stripes as the Great Gardens of the USA showcase The Charleston, South Carolina Garden and The Oregon Garden, both designed by Sadie May Stowell, an award-winning garden designer and landscape architect.

So why Oregon and why Charleston?

Meanwhile, Charleston is on the far right of the thermostat with its humid climate and sweat-inducing temperatures. The city also has a strong connection to its past, which is evident in its architecture and its gardens being interweaved as a pivotal part of its history.

My west to east coast garden adventure began at the Oregon Garden in the Willamette Valley in Silverton, Oregon. The Oregon Garden resort opened in 1999 and is a leafy paradise with a stunning 80-acre botanical garden featuring more than 20 speciality gardens.

It’s a place waiting to be discovered with its adventure trails and exciting display features such as its Sensory Garden, where the sounds of waterfalls will be music to your ears.

The Oregon Garden’s Rediscovery Forest offered a peaceful respite in the shade of Douglas-firs and provided the opportunity to have a lesson in reforestation and forest management while hiking through its different trails.

Meanwhile, in the Conifer Garden, I instantly fell in love with the striking sight of the Picea pungens ‘Ruby Teardrops’, a conifer that provides a vibrant colour display with emerging red to magenta cones, contrasting vividly against teal-blue foliage.

Our favorite shady escape right now in the Garden.

A post shared by The Oregon Garden & Resort (@oregongarden) on May 23, 2017 at 3:38pm PDT

Another highlight of my tour included having a snoop of the Gordon House, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is open to the public.

As night dawned on this botanical wonder I stayed in the Oregon Garden’s Resort & Spa hotel which has a rustic décor to fitted perfectly with its surroundings.

Guests can also find a bit of tranquillity by relaxing in your own personal garden at the back of the room or by taking a dip in the Moonstone Spa pool.

The perk of going on a horticultural adventure in Oregon is being able to able to explore the Williamette Valley.

It can be quite overwhelming attempting to visit all of its plentiful lush fields and vineyards on your own. So I joined Louis Moss from Garden.Tours on her Williamette Valley Garden tour.

As the saying goes it’s not what you know but who know and Louis is a great asset to have on this tour because of her local expertise and insider connections

The two-hour and a half scenic route included driving past the rolling hills of the valley and the uniform fields of hazelnuts, grapes and berries.

Our pit stops included the Sebright Gardens, which is one of the largest garden nurseries in North America that specialises in hostas, which is a big leaf, and hardy ferns.

We we’re greeted by Sebright Gardens owner Kirk Hansen who over the past 20 years has opened up the four acres of botanical display gardens to the public.

Both him and his partner Thomas have grown over 1000 hosta varieties as well as companion shade tolerant plants and by the looks of it there is so much more planting variations to come from this duo.

There was a time in Oregon’s garden history when female landscape architects were practically unheard of.

However this all changed when Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver became the first women in the Pacific Northwest to own and operate their own landscape architecture firm.

They designed over 250 landscapes and gardens in the region between 1929 and 1969 and became pioneers at creating a year-long interest in their gardens, using a variety of flowering shrubs, annuals and perennials.

During the tour I was able to have a look at examples of their work at the historic gardens at Deepwood Museum & Gardens in Salem. Around the corner is Gaiety Hollow, which was the home, offices and garden of Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver.

When I arrived at Gaiety Hollow, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, it was being tended to by a volunteer from the Lord & Schryver Conservancy . In 2015 the Conservancy acquired and began restoring the garden and opening it to the public.

From my observations of the garden its small in size but large in character as it has managed to retain the design and integrity of its history to this day. The flower beds aren’t plenty but just enough to show what a homeowner can accomplish even on a small property.

The Rogerson Clematis Garden is another landmark garden in the area as it boasts the most comprehensive collection of the genus Clematis in North America in a public garden.

The collection is set in a bucolic setting around the charming 100-year-old Luscher farmhouse. Guests are always bound to find something blooming at the garden as there’s Clematis for nearly every type of climate and condition.

Brewster Rogerson, founder of the collection, was first drawn to clematis because of their incredible diversity.

While still a professor of English at Kansas State University, he bought a few vines on impulse in 1971 and ended up spending the rest of his life collecting specimens from all over the world. Brewster’s affinity or this flower was endless and you’ll find 600 varieties of clematis at the garden.

My favourite part of the tour was heading to Red Ridge Farm to indulge in the many sensory pleasures of the Williamette valley.

This Durant family institution is located on top of the Dundee Hills and consists of 135 acres of land, which is used for areas including a Herb Knot Garden, a Durant Vineyards tasting and a Lavender field.

The farm is also leading the way for innovative olive oil production which is unheard of in the area as its a Mediterranean crop. The site’s Oregan olive mill is the first commercial Olive Mill in the Northwest and has seen Paul Durant, the site’s owner, usher in the production of 25,000 litres of olive oil per year.

At the gift shop I had a taster session of Red Ridge Farms exciting and unique Olive Oil flavours which include Basil, Blood Orange Arbequina and Koroneiki. 2018 is set to be big year for the farm as they will be celebrating their 45th anniversary with the introduction of more products.

Exploring Oregon’s Willamette Valley is a memorable experience and one worth venturing to. Luckily, for the foreseeable future the Willamette Valley will remain the same as each urban area in Oregon is required to define an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).

The blooms of Portland awaits

Driving to Oregon’s capital city Portland was a bit of a shock to the my system as it only felt like moments ago that we were rural bliss.

But city life in Portland isn’t congested, it’s far from it as Portland carries a laidback charm of stillness and sophistication.

My garden adventure still had much steam in it, as and this was clearly evident as I touched down in Washington Park. The 59-acre park offers up a zoo, two museums, a spectacular rose garden and one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in the world.

The Portland Japanese gardens is a haven of serenity, with stone pathways, iconic Japanese maples and authentic lanterns tucked among eight garden styles. It was the perfect place to start the day with a bit of zen and shade from the glaring sun.

Wandering through the gardens became an educational eye-opener for me as I learnt how the way trees grow and how moss forms on stone. But most importantly I learnt about the lives and culture of the people who designed and nurtured this enduring art form.

Portland is often nicknamed the City of Roses, and this city has long been an incubator for the scented beauties. Near to the Portland Japanese gardens is the International rose test gardens, another garden of amazement which I coulld smell from a mile away even before I reached the entrance.

Portland International Rose Test Garden is a repository for rose varieties from a war-torn Europe and an evaluation site for the scientific testing of new varieties by breeders and rose growers.

The site is nearly 5 acres and is arranged in tiers and acres. Distinct sections include the Royal Rosarian Garden, Shakespeare Garden, Test Garden, Minature Rose Garden , Gold metal rose and the Portland Rose.

Walking through the beds of roses was an immense experience as I was hit by a riot of colour of blood reds, mellow yellows and softly fragrant pink blossoms.

With more than 10,000 rose bushes representing more than 650 rose varieties, there were endless photo opportunities for me and other visitors to capture our rose infused moments.

The Peninsula park Rose Garden is another Oregon landmark of pride, as its intricate European-influenced garden marked a high-point in the burgeoning city’s love affair with the rose.

The Peninsula park Rose Garden is another Oregan landmark of pride as its intricate European-influenced garden marked a high-point in the burgeoning city’s love affair with the rose.

One of Washington Park’s most impressive sites of opulence is the Pittock Mansion, the city’s grandest 100 year old home.

It was built by Henry Pittock, the founder of the Oregonian Newspaper and has now become a City of Portland Museum and Park.

My visit here gave me a key snapshot of Oregon’s history and it was one of the lovely gardens to have a stroll through.

Outside of the house, I had the best vista of Portland and its mountains as the mansion is tucked into the trees 300 meters above the city.

A hot spot for locals is Mt.Tabor Park which has an extinct volcano within its mist.

I went on a gruelling hike on to the top of the park, which was worth it as I was rewarded with a staggering view of the majestic peak of Mount Hood, a dormant volcano in the Cascade range.

It’s a great place where locals meet to watch this amazement of a natural wonder in their city.

I ended my whirlwind Oregon garden tour at the Lan Su Chinese Garden, a walled oasis occupying an entire city block in Old Town Chinatown.

The name Lan Su Chinese Garden represents the relationship between Portland and Suzhou, the city’s sister in China’s Jiangsu province that is famous for its beautiful gardens.

The Lan Su Chinese Garden is identical to an authentic Suzhou-style garden as it incorporates the five elements of a traditional Chinese garden, plants species, water (Lake Zither), stone, architecture and poetry.

The beauty of visiting the Lan Su Chinese Garden is its much more than another beautiful garden, a visit here will leave you enlightened on Chinese culture, history and their way of thinking.

Entering this courtyard of tranquillity was like crossing over into a spiritual utopia filled with serpentine walkways, ponds, bridges, sculpted shrubs and the mesmerizing sound of distant rushing water.

After having a glimpse of the eastern side of the world in Oregon it was time to head to the America’s east coast.

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