Themed Garden Beds

Themed Gardens

A real-life example of plant layering and diversity that provides wildlife habitat

To support wildlife and also demonstrate a pleasing naturalistic style of landscaping, two maintenance levels are most visible from spring until leaf fall. We regularly weed invasive plants in all of the beds. We water weekly from the first extended drought to when regular rains return. The two levels are:

Maintenance Level 1

Low to no maintenance or clean-up. For beds on the edge of the forest, we maintain only eight feet in from the path so the forest duff is left intact year to year. Some hallmark signs of Level 1 are allowing plants to grow into each other to provide safe nooks and crannies for a healthy ecosystem. Natural mulches and dead leaves are left in place to decompose. Trees and tree branches are allowed to die, break, and fall naturally. 

Maintenance Level 2

Mimic nature with increased clean-up in the spring to encourage new growth and shape trees and shrubs. Some hallmark signs of Level 2 are removal of dead wood and leaves, selectively arborize trees to allow more light, more pronounced margins around plants, and use of wood chip mulch in bare areas. Plants are combined to show naturalistic and informal design options within each themed garden. 

Carkeek Park Demonstration Garden Map 

1. Dogwood Garden: Level 2

With a flowering dogwood anchoring the bed, Joe Pye weed, daisy, thistle, Spirea, sage, Labrador tea, Russian sage, and lavender provide a dramatic flower show that lasts into early winter.

2. North Garden: Level 2

Oregon crabapple spreads its canopy on the eastern corner above highbush cranberry, and red flowering currant. This is our largest drift of Hellebore that blossoms in late winter into spring and provides year-round interest.

3. Ethnobotany Garden: Level 2

Many of these plants provided food and common-use materials for indigenous people. An ancient hazelnut tree anchors the bed, with a smaller layer of elderberry and serviceberry. Evergreen huckleberry, Nootka rose, salal, tall Oregon grape, snowberry, red flowering currant, Rhododendron, Arctic Willow, sword fern, and false Solomon’s seal are mixed with sedges and iris.

4. Shady Woodland Garden: Level 2

Ninety-nine percent native and dry under the majestic Austrian pine, vine maples, and Western red cedar, this bed is most representative of a native forest. A beautiful red flowering currant with a white blossoms  enhances the picnic area. A deep layer of needle mulch feeds and protects plants that thrive in these dry and shady conditions.

5. Hazel Wolf Garden: Level 1-2

Just north of the maintenance yard is the largest contiguous bed dominated by hazelnut trees and named after the environmental activist. East to west, the mossy section (2017) near the path is cleaned and regularly encouraged under a mass of salal. Moss-covered wood debris has been added for nutrients and texture. Black pine, Western red cedar, and grand fir branch out along the path. 

The bench and plaque are dedicated to Hazel Wolf and offer a view of the Oak Tree Garden to the north. Behind the bench is a screen of thimbleberry (2024) which softens the fence when leafed out. Stinging nettle provides ground cover among huge drifts of sword fern and slough sedge. This bed ends at the wild edge of the forest and park trail to Pipers Creek. Notice the standing tall stumps that provide food and shelter for woodpeckers. 

6. Butterfly Garden: Level 2

At the eastern end, winter honeysuckle bookends the honeysuckle in the Ethnobotany Garden across the pathway. You’ll find chokecherry, rugosa rose, lilac, Carolina allspice, mock orange, and ninebark in the understory, and a drift of hardy geranium and sedum ground covers. The northern exposure offers more sun and ongoing experiments with plants that support the four stages in the life cycle of a butterfly.   

7. Prairie Garden: Level 2

Created in 2019 as a prairie-style garden, this bed has evolved to include Blue false indigo, goldenrod, beeblossom, Arkansas bluestar, camas lily, lupine, yarrow, and a collection of grasses large and small. Most plants provide fall color, winter texture, and nest and food for birds. The tall evergreen and deciduous trees that surround the meadow provide the backdrop to this colorful grouping.  

8. Oak Tree Garden: Level 2

Anchored by a Garry oak on the sunny side are salmonberry, daisies, and sedum. At the top of the berm, you’ll find blue-leaf rose, oak leaf hydrangea, tall and low Oregon grape, peony, and iris. Under the oak tree, where shade is deep, we have planted sword and ostrich fern and a shade-loving sedge. A spectacular Pacific ninebark, sourwood, and mallow weave in and out of a stand of serviceberry.

9. ELC Garden: Level 1-2

The ELC beds were planted for the Environmental Learning Center opening in 2003. From the entrance traveling west, winter honeysuckle, false holly, vine maple, fragrant sweet box, cascara, crape myrtle, silktassel bush, Port Orford cedar are supported by native understory and ground covers, including a gorgeous drift of giant sword ferns in the south bed. Also on the south side of the building are Trillium, a beautiful old red huckleberry, and one of two Western hemlocks. The west section along the wooden fence hosts berries—salmonberry, thimbleberry, huckleberry, blueberry, and gooseberry.  

Other areas of interest: Levels 1-2

The parking lot island is planted densely (1996) with silktassel bush, Douglas maple, Alaska yellow cedar, and vine maple and filled in with native shrubs and ground covers. The stone path provides a shortcut for pedestrians.

The Visitors Center landscape (1996) complements the entrance, front brick-lined patio where a Western azalea partners nicely with a large stand of evergreen huckleberry. The arbored patio to the north is bordered in hardy fuchsia and the Dogwood Garden. The broken concrete retaining wall along the east side of the building features Douglas Hawthorn, the tallest of tall Oregon gape, manzanita, and an array of native understory plants. A stately Japanese snowbell tree to the right of the Visitors Center entrance reaches out to greet all visitors. Toward the maintenance yard, a small bed softens the fence with vine maple, Rhododendron, evergreen huckleberry, Euonymus, and a well-established drift of ginger. 

To the north of the parking lot, in the bed along the split rail fence (2021) you’ll find elderberry, Douglas maple, Staghorn sumac, serviceberry and an array of native understory and ground covers taking hold. As you follow the path north surrounding the meadow, a rock river provides an outcrop for succulents and Douglas aster. Madrona, Douglas fir, and vine maples are all present here at the dry hot edge of the forest where needles blanket the soil. Toward the northern end, a drift of red-twig dogwood (2024) and sedges thrive in the run-off from the hill above. 

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