The Oregon Garden blooms into its own

On a cool spring or summer day, residents of the Willamette Valley and beyond can take a day trip (or overnight it) to the bountiful Oregon Garden in Silverton and lose themselves among the 80 acres of botanical beauty. 

Started in the 1940s by a group of botanical experts called the Oregon Association of Nurserymen, the Oregon Garden has become a favorite family friendly destination for both locals as well as out-of-town guests. 

Since its humble beginnings, the nonprofit has undergone its fair share of stakeholder switch ups. At first, the nonprofit was owned and managed by the city of Silverton and a board of directors. In 2006, Moonstone Properties reached out to the garden about forming a partnership. 

Moonstone bought property near the Oregon Garden and built the Oregon Garden Resort. Staying at the resort gives guests easy access to the Oregon Garden property. However, after 15 years of managing both areas of the property, in November 2020, Moonstone Hotel Properties ended its partnership. 

There has been speculation as to why Moonstone backed out of managing the garden, which features more than 20 specialty gardens showcasing Willamette Valley and Pacific Northwest botanicals. Moonstone still owns and operates the Oregon Garden Resort as the property the resort sits on still belongs to the company. But once the partnership between the two ended, the Oregon Garden’s foundation took back ownership of the nonprofit Garden. 

The foundation assumed management in the middle of a global pandemic so the fear of running a business as usual was real. But with more than 125 volunteers and the support of Silverton, the Willamette Valley, and its residents, the Oregon Garden has been able to function normally. 

Today, just more than a year since the foundation took the Garden back, it has been operating successfully and consistently. The property also has a gift shop, a café and a retail nursery. There are four miles of ADA paths, and it is pet friendly. The Garden is the site of many public as well as private events. See the site’s wedding rental section for some great details.

The responsibility on how everything is run and the success of the Garden is all held once again by a board of directors, which is chosen by the city of Silverton. All the board members are volunteers who dedicate their time to making the Garden successful by keeping it beautiful year-round. 

In addition to the board, there are other volunteers who serve to make the garden a beautiful place. Some grow the garden, some maintain it, others greet visitors and educate them, and there are so many more.

The director of operations at the gardens, Delen Kitchen, has seen the benefits of the return to the new/old situation. 

“Since the foundation took over again, we are truly operating as a nonprofit without any caveats,” Kitchen said. Additionally, the diverse operation of the Garden has been helpful with a relationship with the Oregon Association of Nurseries.

Residents of the Willamette Valley and visitors of the Oregon Garden have also responded well to the transition of management operations. 
“We get a sense that people are excited that the (local) power is back at the helm,” Kitchen said. “We’re really happy about that.”

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