Here are my suggestions for the ultimate Oregon Garden experience:
• The half-day plan: Once you get to the garden, you can get the Reader's Digest version by taking the tram, which leaves on the half hour starting at 9:30 a.m. and runs until 5:30 p.m. It only takes 15 minutes and circles the main garden. This provides an excellent overview.
Upon return, you have an idea of what you'd like to see and exactly where to find it. As you get off the tram back at home base, I suggest you pick up a pad of paper and a pen at the visitor's center in the J. Frank Schmidt Jr. Pavilion. Take my word for it, as you are walking around you'll find lots of plant names you'll want to remember, and the garden has more than 5,000 plants with tags.
Maybe you'll finally be able to put a name to the face of that one mystery plant you have in your own garden. Signe Landin of Lowell, east of Eugene, and her mother met at the garden the other day. Landin got a visit and education at the same time: 'We have a pond. And I like getting plant ideas for it.'
• The dusk-to-dark plan: You get a 'two-fer' with the cost of a concert ticket. You see a great concert and also get free admission to the garden. The amphitheater opens two hours before the concert, so event director Ben Gentile suggests that you 'bring a sand chair, blanket, and make a day of it.' You can bring your own food (no alcohol is allowed), but there's plenty of grub, beer, wine, bottled water and dessert available at the food court. Stake your territory and then make your way through the garden at a leisurely pace.
• See and do: The rose garden looks wonderful right now. It's in full bloom, and here you'll witness the benefits of liquid compost used to make soil healthy from the bottom up. The wet, cold spring did put other parts of the garden a tad behind this year, but the A-Mazing Water Garden is blooming with waterlilies and irises. The fascinating 4-foot-wide spiky leaves of gunnera, also called 'dinosaur food,' are steps away from the same papyrus that ancient Egyptians grew for paper. You'll also enjoy the huge rock wall weeping water into the pond. Make a beeline for the Northwest Garden to see the flowering Cape Fuchsia 'Moonraker' Phygelius x rectus: a great and easy plant to care for. The Porcelain vine 'Elegans' Ampelopsis brevipedunculta is catching up to the other climbers on the gazebo. It's the most colorful vine of the bunch.
Don't miss the free 'Acoustical Afternoon' music on Sundays as you make your way through the Children's Garden. There are plenty of fun gardening classes for kids and adults all year long. For instance, adult education coordinator Jessica Sall has a July 12 class full of practical pointers on photographing gardens and plants in full sun. Sall points out that although morning often provides the best photographic light, 'no doubt you're going to visit that 'once in a lifetime' garden in the harsh sun of the afternoon, and you're going to have to know how to deal with that.'
• Be prepared: Give yourself a good hour of travel time. You might want to view the Web site first at www.oregongarden.org, and print out driving directions before you head out. Wear comfortable shoes. It's a walk, not a hike, but there are paths (ADA accessible) through 70 acres if you get ambitious. Take a hat, some water and sunscreen. Most of the garden is in full hot sun, but there are plenty of shady spots to sit a spell.
'Your Northwest Garden with Anne Jaeger' airs at 7 p.m. Saturday on KGW (8). Contact Jaeger at www.gardengal.tv.