Essay Project 2021: The Gardens of Portland
By: Ben Wassmus
Walking in any town or city can be a lively experience. The warmth and comfort you get when walking the trails, playing in the parks, and driving down the streets of Portland are ever so delightful for your senses. As you are traveling around the city, you notice the beautiful flower gardens, including both natural or man-made ones, as you go by. The vibrant colors and unique arrangement of flowers bringing life to the small city and complimenting, what I call my home, Portland. These gardens that are found around the city, and at the homes of Portland residents, are the result of peoples’ love for gardening. Portland has its own non-profit organization called the Portland Garden Club. Their purpose is to encourage other people to grow their own passion for gardening and encourage home and community beautification. With personal experience, research, and a face to face interview with a current resident of Portland, let's walk further down this flower bed.
In Portland there are currently eight areas along the nine miles of rivertrail that runs through the city, these areas are recreational areas, parks, and baseball fields. In some of these areas, including alongside the river trail, you can find community made as well as city made flower beds sided next to memorials statues in the parks and fields. You will notice a large wildflower and plant patch that the Portland community helped grow across the entrance of The Red Mill and Bogue Flats Recreation area where beautiful blue and yellow flowers bloom in the summertime. Another place to visit one of my personal favorite places to take a run by to see the flowers would be the Verlen Kruger statue where the city regularly cleans and tends to the flowerbeds each year to beautify the statue and the pavilion it sits next to. Going down Kent St in the heart of downtown Portland you will come across Scout Park. Here, flower beds and planted flower pots decorate the tiny park. Members of the Portland Garden Club planted and decorated the park with flowers they grow in the spring with the latest planting being done in mid-september of last year. You can find their work as well as what else they do throughout the year on their Facebook page.
I had the opportunity to interview Natalia Huey, a resident of Portland with her own vegetable and flower gardens. The questions I asked her helped to give me an idea about what makes people like to garden in the first place. I wanted to get to the reason for why she gardens. I asked Natalia, “What about your gardens do you like and value the most? Why?” Natalia answered “I like going out and being able to watch everything grow and pick the fresh vegetables, it brings me peace and it's like my own kind of personal therapy!”
Wanting to know what this opportunity could do for others interested in the topic, I asked Natalia what kind of gardens she would recommend to people who want to try gardening but don't know what they should start with. Her response was that she recommended “...fruit or vegetable gardens to anyone who likes fresh organic food because there is nothing better than eating homegrown fresh food and knowing you grew it yourself.” Following up to that question I asked her what garden she favored the most. “Vegetable gardens are my favorite because they provide you with food and clean looking plants to see” (Huey) She then explained that her gardens help keep her occupied and busy throughout the spring and summer allowing her to get out and inhale the fresh air.
Paul Fleishman wrote the book called Seedfolks, a book that tells the story of a community made garden in the middle of an empty lot in a downtown city. In the book you learn how each character changes for the better when they each start getting involved with the garden, growing the plants they want and taking care of eachother. Differences faced in society today are addressed in the book and it uses the garden as the key to bringing people together despite their differences. This point brought up by the book is a great example of how great a garden is and the influences it makes on people. It isn't only about the beauty of what a garden is, it's also what you get out of it. Sometimes food, sometimes new friends and a feeling of accomplishment. Next time you need a project to do at home or to do with a friend or loved one to make a connection or whatever, try planting a garden. Visiting a garden around Portland will also help to bring a little more connection for yourself to the city we live in.
This essay is part of a writing project by students in Chandra Polasek’s ELA class at Portland High School. The project asked students to focus on elements of their own town while getting students engaged with the community. The essays were written with the intention of being published in The Portland Beacon.