Secret Garden | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Secret Garden

Where desert dwellers can get a green fix, right in the heart of Bend

As spring rears its temperamental head via finicky post-equinox, high-desert indecision, green thumbs are beginning to feel an irresistible itch. At first glance, newcomers to Bend might think cultivating in nutrient-poor volcanic soils, amid the shortest summer a Californian has ever seen, is all in vain. But to the trained gardener's discerning eye, there is many a lush oasis tucked behind gates and in corner downtown lots to prove otherwise.

Secret Garden
Denise Rowcroft
Part of the The Environmental Center's Kansas Avenue Learning Garden.

Whether you want to gather inspiration in creating your own green space or you want to just pass by an inspirational postage-stamp community flower plot, these are a few low-key secret gardens to know about.

Kansas Avenue Learning Garden

Ever since moving to Bend, I have loved riding my bike by the Kansas Avenue Learning Garden downtown, in small part for the sidewalk-lining "you-pick" beans and strawberries. Maintained by The Environmental Center, the space is an educational tool for local students. For the 2021 growing season, Amity Creek Magnet School is slated to care for this space through the spring, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bend through the summer. 

The garden hosts a happy hour starting Tuesday, May 4, which continues, every Tuesday, 4-6pm, through August. Plus, ongoing volunteer work parties are accompanied by donated beverages (in the form of beer and kombucha).

"It's a beautiful green space close to downtown that people use as a natural refuge. It's a place that kids have dug their hands in the dirt for the last 10 years, planting seeds, spreading compost, thinning seedlings and harvesting crops," said Denise Rowcroft, longtime garden program manager. "It's our way of connecting kids to nature through food. Since starting the garden in 2011, we are taking our collective experience and supporting schools with their own school gardens through technical assistance, small grants and garden educator network gatherings. Shout out to all the volunteers and local businesses that have supported this garden over the last decade!"

For more public gardens, check out Worthy Garden Club, Mary Jane's Park and the McMenamins Old St. Frances School compound.

Former 'Tour of Gardens' Delaware Avenue Residential Garden

First learning to garden while weathering the perils of chemotherapy, Cameron Clark enlisted master gardener Lindene Douglas to help him display certain themes in his downtown Bend garden, such as inspiration from world travel, gardening stories of ancestors, interest in the arts and a general love for beauty.

They were so successful that Clark's garden scored a spot on the High Desert Garden Tour, a self-guided tour of six beautiful gardens in Central Oregon that usually takes place late summer. 

Secret Garden
Cameron Clark
Cameron Clark's residential garden in full bloom.

"A terribly neglected house and yard, the back yard to our 1927 Craftsman was only dirt, blackberry bushes and overgrown hops," Clark described. "The front yard was no better, and there were no side beds. Together, we imagined a soul-garden, one that would celebrate favorite plants from generations of gardeners before me—my grandmother Dorothy's Rose of Sharon, my grandmother Floreine's Columbine, my father's annual ritual of planting an early girl tomato plant for my mom, and more." 

To delight the senses and give visitors the feeling of transport to another part of the world, Clark has also grown ligularia, hydrangea, day lilies and peach-scented azalea, to name just a few flowers. 

For more inventive home garden ideas, check out Bend Urban Gardens and Galveston Gardens.

K.M. Collins

A native Oregonian, K.M. Collins is a geologist-gone-writer. Covering everything outdoors and a spectrum of journalism, she's a jack of all whitewater sports and her favorite beat is anything river related. Don't blow her cover as a freshwater mermaid amongst humans.
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