Meet Priscilla Patterson, Our Garden Director and Head Horticulturalist
As you stroll through the Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy you’ll see the loving care of many volunteers working together to grow Connie’s vision and legacy. Priscilla Patterson has been volunteering at the garden since 1998 when she and a friend chanced to meet Scotty Scotton, the Head Gardener at the time, as they wandered the paths, delighting in the beauty and wonder of the landscape. Scotty encouraged Priscilla to “come back any time and volunteer”. Little did she know that, even in that moment, he was scheming to make her the next Head Gardener.
According to Priscilla, “About the first or second time I was there, the volunteers told me Scotty had told them I was to be the new head gardener! I was, as they say, gob-smacked and didn't know how to respond. All I wanted to do was pull weeds and learn about all those amazing plants that I'd never grown. I'd been landscaping professionally for 20 years but in that incredible environment, felt like a rookie. I felt like a kid in a candy store. And that feeling has never really left, which is why I suppose, I'm still volunteering and putting in the hours. The Garden is a special, magical, inspiring place and it draws me like a magnet. So whether or not I was Scotty's retirement plan really was immaterial; I knew it was going to be part of my life for a very long time.”
For the last 15 years, Priscilla has volunteered her time working with contractors, shoveling rock, prioritizing and assigning tasks to volunteers, scheduling work parties, managing irrigation, designing, planting, spraying, ordering supplies, writing grants, and even blowing the walkways, bridges and parking lot. Priscilla writes the monthly garden report for the Board and the quarterly report for the Gazette, as well as, several other articles, and even a video tour of the garden! She fields email inquiries, answering horticultural questions and ensures everything runs smoothly.
According to Priscilla, this is fairly simple. “All that's required is a working knowledge of all the variable horticultural requirements, characteristics, and environmental limitations and responses of several thousand plants, as well as the latin and common names, and there you have it.” Yes, Priscilla makes it look easy!
When you volunteer at the Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy, Priscilla will work with you to assign tasks that will suit you best so you’ll leave with a sense of accomplishment. She’s always been a big believer in autonomy and actively promotes it with all volunteers. “Once volunteers are in any way familiar with the garden, I try to let them determine what they would prefer to do.”
“To encourage new volunteers, I try to let them know that no matter what their abilities or restrictions are, there's something that they can do, that their time is very valuable to us and we appreciate whatever amount they can spare for us. We're a friendly, diverse and welcoming group and the work has that "instant gratification" element. I always try to thank everyone at the end of their day and point out the contribution they've made”.
After a day of volunteering, you might find Priscilla wandering through the garden, enjoying some of her favorite plants.
“I've loved iris as long as I've lived in Oregon, first falling in love with the wild iris that covered the banks along the edges of roads in May (my birth month). That's partly why I felt such an attraction to the Garden, I believe. I developed an obsession with hellebores before they became popular and buy new varieties every year to add to the collection there. I'm pretty crazy about rhodies too, but admit to being influenced by all the enthusiasts I run into. As far as trees go, I love Cryptomeria 'Sekkan-sugi', the red oak in the East Garden and the one I'm about to plant--a cut leaf alder, Alnus glutinosa 'Imperialis'. Areas of the garden become special to me when they undergo change and we are able to provide a new perspective, create fresh beauty, introduce a new design element or color combination, and convey a feeling of depth and movement to a stagnant and one-dimensional bed or border.
We invite you to visit the garden and experience Priscilla’s passion first-hand. The Garden is open from dawn till dusk every day. And if you would like to plan a group tour, we’re happy to schedule a time for you. The Garden House is also available to rent for events and workshops. Can you imagine a more perfect setting for a wedding or art class? We are always looking for volunteers to help us keep Connie’s legacy growing. Call us anytime at (541) 994-6338 and we look forward to seeing you in the garden!