Growing up in India, Elaine Hutson never dreamed of cultivating a beautiful garden. But after moving to East Multnomah County with her husband Oscar, Elaine discovered her passion.
Plus, she wanted something beautiful to look at from the windows of her home near Corbett.
"I love to walk around and look at everything," Elaine said. "I designed it so when you look out from any place in the house you are able to enjoy all the parts and drama of the garden."
Now 41 years later, Elaine's two and a quarter acre lush paradise has been named the 2017 Oregon Garden of the Year by the Federation of Garden Clubs.
"I was completely surprised when I found out," she said.
Walking through the garden leads to new discoveries every time you round a corner.
Humming birds flit through the air while bees and other pollinators dive onto blooms, a garter snake slithers along a hedge while a red-tailed hawk perches high up in the branches surveying everything. Elaine, 66, also keeps an eye on everything, walking along the paths in the mornings to make sure no blackberry vines or ivy find a foothold.
There is an open space in the middle where her four children used to invite people over for a yearly party and later where her daughter got married in front of 150 guests. A trellis lined walkway cuts through raised vegetable beds created with cement roof shingles. In front of the home a path winds through a woodland section dedicated to native plants.
A grove of cedars, which were only shin-high when Elaine first planted them, now tower over the driveway leading up to the home.
There's a new conservatory on the side of the house where tropical plants, like orange trees, thrive. Benches and statues have been placed among the azaleas and rhododendrons.
Oscar's pride and hobby is a pond filled with brightly colored koi.
"I think I enjoy working in the garden because it keeps me out of mischief," Elaine said with a laugh.
Things have changed over the years. Sick trees have been removed, the east wind knocked things down and sometimes Elaine decided a different layout would be better.
That Elaine spends about two hours every day working in her garden is impressive with everything else on her plate.
She's a member of the local Columbian Garden Club, a group she has been with for 32 years, and runs Landscapes in Living Color, a landscape consulting business.
Elaine also is heavily involved with local organizations and community projects.
"To be a gardener you must be able to manage a piece of property," she said. "It will be work — but it will be beautiful work."
Elaine was nominated for consideration of Garden of the Year last year. Her submission was put together by Colleen Foster, assistant district director of the Garden Federation, who helped create a book of evidence showcasing Elaine's vision.The award was announced in June during an event in Ashland, and though Elaine couldn't make it, she hosted several of those involved in the decision-making process at her home.
And a master gardener's tip for those looking to stretch their own green thumbs? Don't be afraid of doing trail-and-error in the beginning while discovering what works best for you.
"I read books and learned the best practices, but a lot of it comes from doing it yourself," Elaine said. "There are a lot of factors you can't account for, so talk to different gardeners and ask questions."