Open Gardens Project – Featuring MCMGA’s Demonstration Garden

Site Information: This habitat in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood has full sun, part sun, shade, and dry soil.

Photos courtesy of Mary Abplanalp, John Jordan and Pete Jacobsen.

What inspired you to enroll in the Backyard Habitat Certification Program?

The Multnomah County Master Gardener Association (MCMGA) is an educational organization and is part of the OSU Extension Program. As gardening educators, we were excited to join the BHCP as a way to show home gardeners the benefits of including native plantings in residential landscapes. Through achieving our own BHCP Silver certification, visitors to our Demonstration Garden can be inspired to join the BHCP too!

How would you describe your habitat?

In 2017, the MCMGA broke ground on a New Demonstration Garden after deciding to relocate from a former space that only featured edible plant gardening such as vegetables and fruits. This move to Portland Parks land at SE 57th south of Duke Street to a larger space gave the Master Gardeners the opportunity to create PNW and pollinator plantings. We use only organic gardening practices and have removed large swaths of lawn, invasive weeds, and a tree of heaven.

The MCMGA Demo Garden is a place where Master Gardeners study gardening practices and is open to the public. The site is dry and level with a number of large mature evergreen trees, including a Douglas Fir, Oregon’s state tree.

What are your top three favorite native plants and why do you love them?

  • Vine Maple with its beautiful form and lovely yellow-orange-red fall color.
  • Osoberry with its early white flowers that feed the hummingbirds along with its abundant fruit that forms after the flowers.
  • Salal with its lovely green leaves and flowers for bumble bees. It is a great groundcover or low shrub.

What changes have you observed as a result of creating habitat?

Many visitors to the garden ask about the native plants and pollinator plants, and some volunteer to help with tending the garden, which is a good learning experience and fun too.

Visually, with the addition of the PNW plant installations and the many other plants we have added, including a beneficial meadow, the Demo Garden is a pleasure to see! We have created a Willow Tunnel for children with PNW willow plants that the children love.

What were the two most significant challenges you encountered while creating habitat, and how did you address them?

The first challenges were the many weeds like bindweed and blackberry. We even had a Tree of Heaven to remove! The Master Gardeners solarized a huge lawn area in 2017 to make way for suitable planting areas.

The second challenges were PNW native plant purchases and keeping the costs down. Then once the plants were in the landscape, we had to irrigate the majority of them until they were established.

What resources did you find especially helpful?

  • Portland Plant Plant List
  • Books – Bringing Nature Home, Attracting Native Pollinators & Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes
  • Lists of PNW Native Plant Nurseries and suppliers from the BHCP

How do you enjoy your Backyard Habitat throughout the different seasons? What are its highlights in each season?

In the Spring, the MCMGA demonstration garden is filled with bright new green leaves, insects, and many birds, including migrating geese. It is then that the demo garden officially starts its season, reopening to Master Gardeners and visitors after a brief Winter closure.
Summer and Fall bring many flowers and changes to the foliage that is lovely to observe, and the garden is full of volunteers and visitors.

What part of your backyard habitat are you most proud of?

The MCMGA volunteers have transformed this area and created a much more diverse landscape. We have demonstrated how to remove large sections of lawn and weeds and replace them with PNW natives, along with other types of plantings like the xeriscape, beneficial meadow, and willow tunnel, as well as the raised vegetable beds.

What part of your backyard habitat are you most proud of?

All urban gardeners contribute to the overall environment with their landscape plantings.
The MCMGA, with our BHCP certification plus other demonstration garden features, can inspire home gardeners to use good science-based practices and create beneficial habitats in their own urban landscapes.

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