by: Vern Uyetake, Jan Goodwin strolls the railroad tracks near her yard. Five times a day riders on the train can appreciate Goodwin’s glowing yard near the shores of Oswego Lake. Goodwin put more than 35 years of expertise into the project, which started her new gardening business called Jewel Box Designs.

Jan Goodwin says there are several different angles from which to appreciate the garden she built at her home on Lake Bay Court in Lake Oswego.

From the garden railing you can receive the 'riot of color' that Goodwin loves to wake up to every morning.

Another nice view can be gained from the backyard.

But the best view of all may be from the railroad tracks just beyond her property. From there you can appreciate just exactly what Goodwin has accomplished.

Flanked on both sides by barren hills, Goodwin's creation bursts forth like the Garden of Eden in the Mojave Desert. It's stunning, and many of the people who pass by every day - dog walkers, parents with kids, strollers, joggers and railroad workers - have told her so.

The blooming of some 70 varieties of perennial flowers tends to have that effect on folks.

'This is the friendliest neighborhood,' Goodwin said with her ever-present big smile. 'Everyone stops and talks about the garden. I've had some very long, involved conversations. This garden has evolved into quite a social center.'

Goodwin has heard some interesting tales from long-time residents of the neighborhood. Like how the location of her garden used to be the dumping ground of the entire neighborhood, a monstrosity featuring many old cars and old license plates.

'When they cleaned it up they had seven truckloads of debris,' Goodwin said.

A beautiful garden emerging from such a spot seemed to be the unlikeliest thing. But that was before Goodwin, with her prodigious energy and talent, came along.

It was two years ago that Goodwin and her husband Robert decided to move to the modest 1,300-square foot ranch house, located along Oswego Lake and between Lake Oswego City Hall and Millenium Plaza Park near the water. The couple was downsizing because they had retired from their business and their children had moved away and married.

'For 35 years we had lived in a 5,000-square foot home on an acre of land,' Goodwin said. 'I moved all my stuff to a warehouse, and I don't miss it at all. We had our nationwide computer business (Vision Business Products), and we were ready to retire. Downsizing wasn't easy, but it was a great learning experience.

'But I was used to working 8 to 5, and I had all of this nervous energy. So I just went out and played in the dirt. Doing this was very therapeutic. It was a great way to meet neighbors.'

Goodwin's lifestyle may have been downsized, but her ambition was vaulting. She saw a priceless opportunity to put her education and lifelong avocation to work.

'When I looked at that yard I knew I had a prize out there,' Goodwin said. 'It was always in full sun, and any gardener will tell you that's a dream come true.'

From February to May of 2006, Goodwin put in six-hour days of labor. Then this year she ripped everything up and redesigned it.

'I saw where my mistakes were and where I could improve,' Goodwin said. 'Gardens are always moveable feasts anyway.'

Goodwin was able to get her garden blooming in a remarkably short time because, she said, 'I'm a big believer in great soil. These flowers were able to reach maturity in one year, not three.'

Goodwin is not in feasting mode, at least for now. These days she works on her garden for just an hour early in the morning.

'I wander around with a cup of coffee and enjoy it,' Goodwin said.

She also basks in the compliments of those who have seen the former trash pile become transformed to a thing of beauty with daisies, black-eyed susans, roses, lilies, and so much more.

'People have been so nice,' Goodwin said. 'I've been thinking about having an al fresco summer party out there.

'One day I came out and found a woman sitting on a rock. She said she was having a bad day and needed to sit down and relax. Some people request to have their pictures taken in it.'

But Goodwin has gained more than a beautiful garden and admiring neighbors; her work received such great word-of-mouth that she has started a new garden design business, named Jewel Box Designs because 'people said it was such a community jewel.'

She is now working on three professional projects.

'It's nice to do something that's your passion,' Goodwin said. 'A plan for a garden just comes into my head, like a painting. I look at it like a blank canvas. So far it's worked out.'

It all amounts to a very busy retirement. But Goodwin can always stop and smell the flowers.

For more information about Jewel Box Design, call 503-789-5111.

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