History of the Garden
Constance P. Hansen was raised in Oregon but later moved to California where she attended the University of California, Berkeley, graduating with a degree in Botany, then marrying and raising a family while pursuing her passion for plant collecting and gardening. In 1973, retired and a widow, she returned to Oregon to look for a damp and sheltered piece of property where she could grow her favorite plant, the Iris. In Lincoln City, she found and purchased her dream location, a small home surrounded by swampy land, originally owned and developed by local artist and painting teacher Maud Wanker in the 1950's. Some older plants remain from this time, including Rhododendron 'Cynthia', now a tree, along with an ancient native Sitka spruce and alder.
Her first plantings were near the house. Connie planted Styrax japonicus and Japanese maples, as well as Magnolia 'Alexandrina'. These trees have grown tall now and are still to be seen in the Garden. There is a remnant of the original garden on the east side of the house as well, near the garden shed, where you will find a planting of Himalayan maidenhair fern and Cyclamen hederifolium with its silvered leaves and delicate pink and rose flowers.
Next she began to create beds along the southwest side to house the many plants she was growing from seeds of all kinds. Between the street and the house there was a large lawn. Mrs. Turner, a well-known gardener herself, once asked Connie “Isn't there too much lawn?” Connie must have been stung by this remark for she began to garden in earnest. She cleared the land along the little creek which meanders through the Garden on the north side of the property. Here you can find iris and primula beds, and many rhododendrons and other plants adapted to damp soil.
Connie developed an ongoing interest in rhododendrons, scalping away the sod and creating bed after bed for her newfound treasures, collecting the common hybrids and unusual species whenever she ran across a new name. Azaleas and heathers caught her eye as well, and combined beautifully with her beloved rhodies. She also planted more magnolias, maples, dogwood and other shrubs and trees.
During the same time, Connie began to seek out, propagate and plant unusual perennials, making a large bed of euphorbia, Siberian and other iris, ornamental grasses, cardoon, poppies and many other showy plants, through the middle of what had previously been lawn. Grass was now relegated only to paths which she kept meticulously edged and bordered with pinks, sea thrift and other low blooming plants. Some of the original plants are still in the perennial bed and others have been added to keep the swath of color as it was.
Late in 1986, Connie acquired the adjoining lot to fill out the southeast corner of her garden. She had casually pushed her garden into the vacant property, making neat beds in which to grow a few vegetables and a lot of experimental seedlings and bulbs. Now she was able to expand her Japanese iris collection, planting a stream of color from white through deep purple that flowed through a damp drainage area.
Through the twenty years of gardening on this site, day in and day out, she transformed nearly all of the property into planting beds with only the grassy paths on which to pull along her rusty garden cart. From her garden journals, which are available for visitors to read at the Garden, we know that she truly loved planting and growing. And from her Garden, we know she had a wonderful artistic talent as well.
During the final years of Connie's life, the Garden fell into neglect due to her illness and advancing years. Several months before her death in 1993, Connie sold, and moved from, her residence at the Garden. Few gardens outlast their owners, but the neighbors in the community wanted to preserve the Garden and the Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy was created. Generous bequests allowed the Garden to be purchased from the real estate investor to whom it had been sold, and today it is maintained by a small group of dedicated volunteers.
With Connie's passing, the Garden took on a new chapter in its life. As the trees, rhododendrons and other plants grow, the Garden becomes more mature and increasingly shaded. But with annual pruning and plant replacement, the Garden continues to be maintained with an eye to Connie's style and plans.
An additional lot adjoining the northeast border of Connie's Garden was donated to the Conservancy several years ago and has been developed to complement the older Garden and make even more space available for visitors to enjoy.