7 Must-See Gardens to Visit in the Mid-Willamette Valley This Spring
Salem in Bloom
For so many reasons, the Mid-Willamette Valley is the perfect place to grow a garden or plot a nursery. Our volcanic soils are rich in nutrients, our damp autumns and wet springs provide plenty of nourishment for growing plants, our mild winters stop frost from forming, and our summers rarely sustain temperatures that scorch thirsty plants.
It’s no wonder, then, that Salem and the Mid-Willamette Valley have been home to celebrated nurseries, gardens, arboretums, and other public displays for decades. So if you’d like to see what’s growing this spring, we’ve put together a list of must-see gardens around the region—presented roughly in order of when plants will be at peak bloom this season.
Cecil & Molly Smith Garden
There's no surer sign that spring has arrived than the colorful rhododendron blooms at Cecil & Molly Smith Garden in St. Paul, with roots that date back to the early 1940s.
The garden grows more than 600 rhododendrons and azaleas, each bursting with vibrant shades of pink, purple, red, and white—as well as trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and bulbs. You can access it all from along a series of winding pathways that showcase regional flora in a captivating setting. And if the occasionally steep trails have you winded, several benches invite rest and quiet contemplation.
Cecil & Molly Smith Garden is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in April and May—except on Memorial Day weekend, when it is closed; there is a $3 admission fee to explore the grounds.
Brooks Gardens Peonies
Peony season—when the gorgeous flowers bloom to unfurl layered petals and a stunningly colorful display—is a special time in the Pacific Northwest. The plant is in high demand through florists, in nurseries, and at gardens around the region—with visitors rightfully gawking at the colorful blooms of pink, red, white, yellow, and so forth.
Naturally, a few places around the Salem area showcase and sell peonies in bloom—including Brooks Gardens Peonies, which has been growing the fragrant plant since 2000.
Peonies bloom in late April and early May—and remain at their dynamic peak until June; during that time, the garden is open to showcase the dazzling display—and, of course, to sell cut flowers and potted plants. This year, the garden is open Wednesdays through Sundays in May and early June.
Adelman Peony Gardens
Another place to see colorful peonies is Adelman Peony Gardens—which grows more than 500 varieties on about 25 acres just outside Salem.
Carol Adelman planted the farm's first peonies in 1993—and in the years since, has received international acclaim for her knowledge, care, and consideration for growing the beautiful flower.
Visitors wanting to see the blooms of yellow, red, pink, purple, and more can do so all spring long; Adelman Peony Gardens is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily between April 30 and June 15. Peak bloom is generally around Memorial Day, though interested visitors should call ahead to see if spring weather has had an impact.
Visitors can stroll all 25 acres of the family's production fields, as well as a two-acre display garden, indoor displays, and more—with the option to purchase cut flowers or potted peonies for back home. Learn more about visiting the gardens this spring.
Schreiner’s Iris Gardens
The Schreiner family has been growing irises in Oregon since 1946 and is among the largest producers in the world—so it's no surprise that Schreiner’s Iris Gardens is a popular stop during the colorful springtime bloom season.
If you're hoping to check out the fields of purple and blue this year—the garden is open daily May 6-31, 2022—you'll want to keep a few things in mind. First and foremost, admission to the 10-acre display garden is $5—and tickets (for a specific, two-hour window of time) must be purchased online in advance. Liz Schmidt, president of Schreiner’s Iris Garden, says the timed entry debuted in 2021 as a tool to prevent overcrowding—and that visitors have taken a liking to the new system. "People absolutely loved it," she says. “They felt like they were in a private garden."
Second, there's more than just irises. Schmidt says that visitors are surprised to see lupine, peonies, pansies, and other plants. “Everything is blooming at once, and it’s kind of a shock of color,” she says. “Bloom season is like Christmas for us.”
Finally, Schreiner’s is bringing back its beloved art fair over Memorial Day weekend, when a dozen or so tents will host regional artists displaying and selling glassworks, paintings, and other pieces.
Bush’s Pasture Park Rose Garden
Bush’s Pasture Park, just south of downtown Salem, has plenty going for it: walking and running paths, lush, wooded areas, open meadows, and more. (The park even has historic significance: It was the homestead of Asahel Bush, who in 1851 launched the newspaper that would become the Salem Statesman Journal—which is still in operation today.)
But what really helps the park stand out is its impressive trio of rose collections, which offer a unique—and colorful—look at Salem’s early history.
Between late May and June, the park’s rose gardens are awash in dazzling blooms of red, pink, and white—and many of those resilient flowers date back to when they were collected as cuttings from historic homesteads and local homes; several of these cuttings were brought over by European settlers in the late 1800s. In fact, one collection even features cuttings from the Bush family's own property.
Gaiety Hollow at the Lord & Schryver Conservancy
Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver joined forces in 1929 to form the first women-led landscape architecture firm in the Pacific Northwest—and the Salem-based duo would go on to design more than 200 regional landscapes and gardens over the next four decades.
Today, their home, garden, and studio—Gaiety Hollow—is managed by the Lord & Schryver Conservancy, a local nonprofit, and remains an oasis in Salem.
The garden dates back to 1932 and features seasonal blooms throughout the year. In April and May, some of the dominant plants include rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, and hydrangeas. As the growing season progresses, additional plants around the property continue blooming through September.
If you'd like to see the thoughtfully crafted garden at Gaiety Hollow for yourself, free self-guided tours are available on select Saturdays between April and September. Learn more about the Open Garden tours here.
Delbert Hunter Arboretum and Botanical Garden
Spring blooms are certainly the star at the Delbert Hunter Arboretum and Botanical Garden in the community of Dallas—but the expansive, seven-acre park offers plenty to love all year long.
The heart of the garden is the more than 1,000 native plants and trees on display—with more being added all the time. Between early April and early June, the park reaches its colorful peak—with a variety of plants in bloom. “For me, the first sign of spring is when the red-flowering currant blooms, because we have a lot of it—and it’s just gorgeous,” says Sue Rohde, whose father Delbert Hunter spearheaded the effort to bring the arboretum to life—and who volunteers around the park today.
Early spring is a great time to see the arboretum’s three species of Oregon grape, as well, and Rohde says the tree blooms tend to surprise visitors who don’t expect to see flowering trees. The dogwoods are especially colorful this time of year, she says.
That said, various species of plant, shrub, and tree will continue to bloom throughout the summer and into the fall—when the arboretum’s vine maple turns red, yellow, and orange. The park is open dawn to dusk daily, and admission is free.
3625 Quinaby Rd. NE
Salem, Oregon 97303 (503) 393-3232
SCHREINER'S GARDENS3625 Quinaby Rd. NE
Salem, Oregon 97303
600 Mission St.
Salem, Oregon 97302 (503) 363-4714
BUSH'S PASTURE PARK600 Mission St.
Salem, Oregon 97302
545 Mission St. SE
Salem, Oregon 97302 (971) 600-6987
GAIETY HOLLOW: LORD & SCHRYVER CONSERVANCY545 Mission St. SE
Salem, Oregon 97302