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Diggin' it at the Oregon Garden

The outdoor jewel in Silverton is thriving with the help of its army of volunteers


by:  JIM CLARK / PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Oregon Garden volunteer Ed Green says hes not a gardener, but if theres a chore to do there, he's the man.

Ed Green insists he's not a gardener. But give him a chore at the Oregon Garden — spread compost, plant marigolds, groom trees — and this appropriately named horticulture helper happily picks up a shovel, trowel or pair of pruners and digs in.

"I kind of like grunt work," says the friendly 65-year-old retired police officer who lives in the Willamette valley town of Silverton, north of Salem.

Silverton also is home to the Oregon Garden, the 80-acre public attraction where Green has volunteered a couple days a week since 2011. He helps the horticulture staff, volunteers at garden events and serves as a greeter for visitors.

Green spent one April morning chopping and hauling willow limbs. When it comes time to plant annuals — 50,000 of them this spring — Green lends a hand. During the annual Oregon Garden Brewfest, he pours beer. Last Christmas, he and two other guys played Santa ("It's a blast," he says).

When Green isn't volunteering at the garden, he's often found strolling there with his dog, a spaniel mix named Duchess. Free membership to the garden is one of the perks he enjoys as a regular volunteer.

“I'm here 300 times a year,” Green says. “It's clean and it's beautiful. I like it because I can walk my dog, it's clean and safe, I don't have to worry about traffic.”

by: PHOTOS: JIM CLARK / PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - When he's not volunteering at the Oregon Garden, Ed Green likes to walk there with his dog, Duchess.

The Oregon Garden treats its volunteers well, honoring them for their work and holding events just for them, say Green and fellow volunteer Sue Lake, 65, a retired school teacher from Salem who helps with greeting, events and education.

That's because the nonprofit botanical garden, which opened in 2001 and has only 20 to 30 employees, couldn't function without its volunteers, says Brittney Hatteberg, the garden's marketing manager.

"There are about 700 volunteers just for the Brewfest," says Hatteberg, who estimates the garden draws maybe 1,200 volunteers throughout the year. They help with all sorts of chores indoors and out — in the office and gift shop, the greenhouses and forested areas; at the annual car show, Fourth of July celebration, Movies in the Gardens and other public events.

"We hope events will recruit more volunteers," Hatteberg says. "We have lots of one-time volunteers — they don't have to do it all the time — and you can earn free admission to the garden if you have enough hours and can earn garden membership, too."

Green, who first visited the garden in 2002 when he lived in Salem, didn't wait to rack up volunteer hours to get a membership. When he and his wife, Kayli, moved to Silverton, the first check they wrote was for a $75 membership to the Oregon Garden.

Since then, he and the garden keep giving back to each other. Last year, Green received the garden's Volunteer Rookie of the Year award. Duchess, his dog, was named Oregon Garden Mascot. Then Green received another award: Volunteer of the Year from the Oregon Garden Foundation.

Now Green and his wife have established a trust — 10 percent of their estate will go to the garden, “if there's anything left,” he says with a laugh.

"It's fun to be here," he adds. "The young people are great. They keep you young."

by:  JIM CLARK / PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - 'Mr. and Mrs. Pot' greet visitors to the Childrens Garden at the Oregon Garden.

The Oregon Garden

879 W. Main St., Silverton

503-874-8100, tollfree 1-877-674-2733

www.oregongarden.org

Overseen by the Oregon Garden Foundation, the garden features more than 20 specialty gardens showcasing the natural beauty of the Willamette Valley and Pacific Northwest. It's pet friendly and open 365 days a year. A 25-minute tour on the garden tram gives visitors an overview before they set out to explore it on their own.

Attractions include: the Amazing Water Garden, with criss-crossing paths and waterfall; the Conifer Garden, one of the nation's largest; the Rose Garden, featuring about 50 varieties of roses; the Northwest Garden, showcasing plants that thrive in this region; the Children's Garden, complete with a "dinosaur dig"; the 25-acre Oak Grove, where some trees are at least 100 years old (the Signature Oak is more than 400 years old); and the Bosque, a large central plaza with four reflecting ponds.

Overlooking the Oregon Garden is the Oregon Garden Resort, offering 103 guest rooms, a restaurant and spa (oregongardenresort.com).

Calling all volunteers

Interested in helping out at the Oregon Garden? Contact the volunteer coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-874-2533.