Monday, January 4, 2016

Winter in the Connie Hansen Garden

In 1973, a widowed lady purchased a somewhat swampy and blackberry-tangled lot in Lincoln City. She moved into a small house located on the property and embarked upon a 20-year gardening project. As most gardeners would, she began near the house, where the saplings she planted remain as perfectly pruned specimen trees. She then expanded further into the property, grubbing out berry vines and creating flowing perennial beds. Her beloved iris plants were joined by a wide variety of primulas, euphorbias, hellebores, and ornamental grasses. Rhododendrons, magnolias, and other shrubs took root. As time went on, the garden filled her lot and pushed into an adjoining property. After her death in 1993, the Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy was formed to continue Connie's gardening vision.

Of course, gardens are living things, and as such they grow and change over time. A vacant lot at the northeast corner of the garden has been cleared, drained, and planted with heathers, bergenias, and other low-growing beauties. A spring snowstorm several years ago seriously damaged many of the venerable trees and shrubs, leading to creative pruning and increased sunlight in parts of the garden. Connie was well-acquainted with the ways of plants and landscapes, so she would doubtless approve of the changes that have taken place on her little spot of land by the sea.

Dwarf Rhododendron
Cranesbill, a Wild Geranium
Thanks to the mild coastal climate, this garden is never completely dormant and is well worth a visit any time of year. We were peppered with sleet on our last visit, but we found a sprinkling of brave flowers among the garden's framework of lush evergreen foliage. We explored the entire one-acre property with only an occasional sprint to huddle under the porch. During the winter, look for cyclamen, primulas, hellebores, snowflakes, camellias, and a few hardy rhododendrons. Of course, the rhodies take center stage as spring approaches, reaching their peak in April and May, followed closely by the iris. As the spring flowers fade, however, the summer                                                                   perennials come into their own,                                                                                                         taking the show right into fall.

The garden is about one block west of Highway 101 in Lincoln City. 33rd Street is one of those blink-and-you-miss-it roads; the Conservancy's directions may or may not be helpful. 33rd is just north of the feed store, across from an antique mall. Look for a parking lot on the north side of the street, partially screened by plants. If you are driving a large vehicle, we recommend that you park on the street instead of attempting to negotiate the small lot.

This wonderful garden is free and open to the public every day, thanks to the efforts of the Garden Conservancy. They maintain an excellent website which details the garden's history, gift shop hours, and contact information. Their garden map shows an overview of the property, including an accessible loop. Everyone is welcome here, including the family dog (please be a dutiful owner and keep the garden pleasant for everyone). The Conservancy sometimes has plants for sale next to the porch, so you may even be able to take a small piece of Connie Hansen's dream home with you.


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