West Columbia Chamber invites public along on Eastside Garden Tour
by: Jim Clark Rita Alm stands on the bridge that arches over the artificial stream built by her husband, Richard. The Alms' garden, which is completely organic, is one of eight that is featured in this year's Eastside Garden Tour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20.

The east side of Gresham has a lot to offer, and Karen Schaaf, president of the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce, wants you to know it.

'The quality of life out here is amazing,' she said. 'One of the best ways to get attention from the region is to open people's gardens so people can come and see just how beautifully we live on the east side.'

To show off this natural beauty, the chamber will offer the Eastside Garden Tour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20. Attendees will receive a map to follow a self-guided tour through eight local gardens.

Garden owners will be present, along with chamber volunteers, to answer questions and socialize with the visitors. The tour will end at 4 p.m. with an 'Art of Community' reception at the Troutdale home of Linda and Terry Cook.

This is the garden tour's second year, after a good first run last year that raised $3,000.

This year, the monetary aspect is a bit different, as the chamber recently created the West Columbia Gorge Chamber Foundation. The new foundation allows community members to make donations to the chamber, something that was not possible before it formed in April.

'This is the kickoff event to put money in the bank,' Schaaf said.

The theme for this year's tour is 'The Artful Garden,' and each of the eight gardens on the tour has an art-centered title.

'I don't care what the garden is, I will turn it into an art theme,' Schaaf said. 'It (gardening) is an art form.'

One location on the tour is the Brickhaven Bed and Breakfast in Corbett, owned by Phyllis and Ed Thiemann. With the theme of 'The Arts of Hospitality and Garden Décor,' visitors can buy garden art from a number of artists, including Jean Hybskmann, Robert McGinnins, Heather Soderberg and Brad Lorang. The art will sprawl out on the bed and breakfast's enormous patio, which overlooks a stunning view of the gorge.

The Thiemanns' garden also will be an example of a 'garden in progress,' showing plans for a four-garden project the couple is starting this year.

Gresham resident Rita Alm will host another garden on the tour, themed 'The Art of Growing Organically.' Her garden is entirely organic and is an advanced certified wildlife habitat. The 2-acre property also features a number of native plants, a view of Mount Hood, a vegetable garden, an old Mount Hood ski lift chair and a manmade stream that Alm's husband, Richard, built.

The garden also offers an example of a completely organic landscape, a topic of which attendees may ask Alm for information or advice.

'One day I had just finished spraying my lawn with Roundup, and I picked up the paper and there was an article about how awful chemicals were for gardens, and I felt so guilty,' Alm said. 'I went cold turkey after that. I haven't used anything since.'

Though the tour will offer gardening tips, socializing and natural scenery, Schaaf says her ultimate focus for the event is business.

'The big thing is the economic development component of it,' she said. 'For everyone else it's another garden tour, for me it's one of the tools in my toolbox of economic development.'

Garden themes

Under the theme of 'The Artful Garden,' the West Columbia Gorge Chamber of Commerce's Eastside Garden Tour will feature eight art-themed gardens in the community.

• 'The Art of Growing Organically' at the home of Rita and Richard Alm in Gresham

• 'The Arts of Hospitality and Garden Décor' at the Brickhaven Bed and Breakfast in Corbett

• 'The Art of Hospitality' at the former Cedar Place Inn in Troutdale

• 'The Art of Healthy Eating' at the Dancing Roots Farm in Troutdale

• 'The Art of Tranquility' and 'The Art of Discovery' at the gardens of the Franciscan Sisters of Eucharist in Bridal Veil

• 'The Art of Miniatures' at the home of Gary and Jonette Lee in Corbett

• 'The Art of Preservation' at the Harlow House Museum in Troutdale

• 'Cook's Garden' at the home of Linda and Terry Cook in Troutdale

Ticket information

The Eastside Garden Tour runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at or at the following locations:

• The Harlow House, 726 E. Historic Columbia River Highway, Troutdale. (Only the Harlow House will have tickets available on the day of the tour.)

• Nancy's Floral, 620 N.E. Burnside Road, Gresham

• Burns Feed Store, 29215 S.E. Orient Drive, Gresham

• Heckmann and Thiemann Motors, 2327 S.E. Powell Blvd., Portland

• Al's Garden Center, 7505 S.E. Hogan Road, Gresham

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