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The Short Version: Spanning more than 80 acres and showcasing the botanical beauty of the Willamette Valley, the Oregon Garden has quickly become a shining gem in the Pacific Northwest’s already impressive landscape. The venue, which opened nearly two decades ago, features more than 20 specialty gardens as well as a variety of annual events, narrated tours, and everything in between. It’s home to both a resort and sits next to the only house in the state designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The Oregon Garden’s diverse natural landscape creates a wonderful romantic backdrop for spending time with a loved one.
The Willamette Valley extends some 150 miles along the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It’s said by many to be the cultural and political heart of Oregon, and it’s home to nearly three-quarters of the state’s population. So it’s no wonder that one of the most celebrated botanical gardens in the world resides in this organic slice of paradise.
The Oregon Garden, which is located approximately 12 miles northeast of Salem in historic Silverton, boasts 80 acres of lush flora along with 20 specialty gardens and an events calendar full of romantic date ideas. The venue was conceived by The Oregon Garden Foundation, a nonprofit organization that broke ground and began building on the site in 1997.
“On average, we have more than 300,000 people come through the garden each year,” said Allie Woodson, Regional Marketing Manager at the Oregon Garden. “Our demographic is far-reaching, but our annual members tend to be ages 45 and older and locals to the area.”
The Oregon Garden is continuously winning awards for its beauty and sustainability, and it’s a top proposal locale and wedding venue for couples looking to create long-lasting memories together.
The Oregon Garden is more than just a passive landscape featuring wild lilies, roses, hibiscus, and Japanese maples. In fact, its mission is “to welcome and inspire all visitors with an appreciation for the extraordinary ecology of the Pacific Northwest.”
One way the Oregon Garden entices new visitors is by hosting small- and large-scale events and programming geared toward a wide audience. It’s a tactic that the staff has found immensely successful.
“We have events like movies every Thursday, July through September, a July 3rd Celebration, Christmas in the Garden, BrewCamp, and Art in the Garden, among others,” said Allie. “The best ones for a date would be the movies and our Christmas event, which features 1 million white lights, ice skating, snowless tubing, and fire pits.”
Other date ideas include Petal Pedal, an annual bike ride around the Silverton area that starts and finishes at the Oregon Garden. Autumn events, like the Barn Dance, feature line-dancing lessons and a pig roast, while Art in the Garden shows off stunning installations.
If you’re looking to impress that special someone, check out BrewCamp, a three-day craft beer, wine, music, and camping festival held in mid-June that has grown in popularity over the years.
“Our events are always expanding. We just added a lot of new signage in the garden to make it easier to navigate, and we’re working on some other exciting ideas for the near future,” Allie said.
Overlooking the Willamette Valley, the Oregon Garden has become one of the most popular spots in the Pacific Northwest for first dates, proposals, and nuptials. With 80 peaceful acres and a plethora of manicured gardens, whimsical forests, a refurbished barn, white gazebo, and ballroom, the gardens offer a memorable setting for those important days in your life.
”It’s such a romantic place any time of the year, with indoor weddings in the winter and a beautiful backdrop of the gardens in the spring, summer, and fall,” Allie told us.
Located on the grounds is the Oregon Garden Resort, a full-service hotel featuring a soothing spa, swimming pool, and on-site restaurant. The resort serves as a wedding venue that highlights Northwest-inspired foods and fine wines, and offers sweeping views of the valley. Plus, guests of the resort enjoy complimentary garden day passes.
“My husband and I celebrated our one-year aniversary here. We enjoyed walking through the beautiful garden — even though it was February — and look forward to seeing it in the summer. The staff at the resort was great, too,” wrote one guest on the resort’s website.
When American explorers Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark passed through the continental divide to reach the Pacific coast, little did they know that a garden would be dedicated in their honor. Today, the Oregon Garden features the Lewis and Clark Garden, a living museum showcasing the many botanical finds that the duo documented on their journey more than 200 years ago.
The Lewis and Clark Garden — filled with flora such as Ponderosa Pines, Vine Maples, and Salmonberry bushes — is just one example of the 20 specialty gardens open to the public. Additional plots include the Pet-Friendly Garden, Northwest Garden, Rose Garden, Sensory Garden, and Train Garden.
“These gardens showcase the diverse botanical beauty that can be found in the Willamette Valley and throughout the Pacific Northwest,” Allie said. “Our horticultural team is amazing, and we have a strong, dedicated group of volunteers that keep the gardens looking fantastic.”
Other notable specialty gardens include the Honor Garden, which includes plants of interest, such as Rhododendron, Century Plant, and Burning Bush, and is dedicated to the 165 donors who helped establish the organization in its formative years. There’s also the Medicinal Garden, which is full of rosemary, wall germander, lavender, oregano, and other plants with healing properties.
While a unique and diverse landscape featuring an array of Pacific Northwest ecosystems is the Oregon Garden’s big draw, its approximately 300,000 annual visitors have many reasons why they come to this organic wonderland.
“It’s diverse. There are a lot of things to see and do. Grab yourself a beer or glass of wine from the Visitor Center’s Garden Café and take it through the garden with you as you explore more than 80 acres of lush flora,” Allie said.
Tram tours are another great way for you and a date to experience the garden. The 25-minute narrated tour — complimentary with paid admission — stops at six points throughout the garden and runs Friday through Sunday, April through October. There’s also the popular Conifer Garden, which boasts one of the largest collections of dwarf and miniature conifers in the US, as well as Rediscovery Forest, managed in partnership with the Oregon Forest Resources Institute.
“We’re also next door to the Gordon House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house in the State of Oregon,” said Allie. “You could easily spend an entire day here in exploring the garden and nearby attractions with a date or loved one.”