A conceptual plan of The Ravine at Bush’s Pasture Park

Oregon White Oak Study

Oregon white oaks (Quercus garryana) are the iconic tree of the Willamette Valley and Bush’s Pasture Park. The park features hundreds of these magnificent oaks distributed throughout the park, but most are grouped in an upper (west) and lower (east) woodland. Some of the white oaks clearly pre-date the arrival of Europeans in Oregon while others were planted just last year.

Trees do not always thrive in the artificial environment of parks. For example, management practices such as leaf removal and summer irrigation create an abnormal environment while regular human activity such as walking and running compact the soil.

To address ongoing community concerns about the park’s Oregon white oaks, MSPC engaged arborists Brian French and Will Koomjian, and ecologist Matt Stone, to assess the trees’ environment, particularly the soils, and make recommendations for improvements if needed.

They reported back in May 2019. (Read the report here.) A highly summarized conclusion is that (1) trees in the lower grove inhabit good growing conditions while (2) trees in most of the upper grove inhabit compacted soils that would benefit from remediation.  Both the upper and lower groves would benefit from protection against further compaction by human use, including vehicles.

The authors provide a set of overall recommendations for the park:

  1. Reduce or cease irrigation within the Oak woodlands to the extent possible
  2. Retain leaf debris within the Oak woodlands to the extent possible.
  3. Mulch compacted areas to the extent possible with high quality wood chips.
  4. Mulch critical root zones and plant native understory plants to the extent possible.
  5. Create policies and enforcement mechanisms to control soil compacting activities.
  6. Retain dead wood in the trees and on the ground to the extent possible
  7. Identify suitable areas to replace turf with well-defined zones of native understory plants around the driplines of mature Oregon White Oaks.

The authors also identify and provide specific recommendations for five discrete subsections of the park where white oaks grow.

The City has implemented many of these recommendations to improve the Oaks’ chances for continued survival.

A conceptual plan of The Ravine at Bush’s Pasture Park

The Ravine

The Ravine enhancement project began in late 2017 with the decision to improve a desirable but neglected area of the park and concluded with a public opening on May 11, 2019.

The Ravine itself is a narrow gulley formed by a seasonal seep and winter runoff. It runs about 200′ from the upper pasture downhill to an informal amphitheater with Oregon white oaks. It forms a boundary line between the more cultivate areas of the park surrounding the Bush House and Barn and the more natural parts of the park. Over the years, ornamental plants have been added to the Ravine, including an impressive hedge of mature mountain laurels, several deciduous magnolias, Japanese maples, rhododendron, a bank of mixed evergreen azaleas, and deciduous Exbury azaleas. One of the Ravine’s most prominent features is a Mexican (or Montezuma) Bald Cypress that grows almost horizontally. Its accessible trunk and branches prove irresistible to children.

The Ravine enhancement project slightly widened the existing stream channel and placed several tons of Willamette Valley basalt boulders on its banks. The boulders not only improve the appearance of the stream but slow down the water and allow it to percolate into the ground. The seasonal stream ends in small bioswale well backed by a berm. These improvements reduce the amount of water that pools at the base of several Oregon white oaks each winter. A small flagstone terrace was installed near the bioswale.

Volunteers planted ground covers, including  ferns and ground orchids. They also planted several trees, including an ‘Emerald Pagoda’ Styrax japonicus, an ‘Akebono’ flowering cherry tree, and ‘Jane Platt’ deciduous magnolia, and a Sieboldii deciduous magnolia.

Ron Miner designed The Ravine enhancement with contributions and plant selection by Mission Street Parks Conservancy members and city horticulturist Tom Beatty. Willamette Valley Vineyards donated the clay boulders thanks to the help of Betty O’Brien of Elton Vineyard. MSPC’s generous donors funded the project. The Tuesday Gardeners installed the plants and help the City of Salem maintain the area.

View the project’s photo album.

a beautiful rose garden

Hybrid Tea & Floribunda Rose Garden Rehabilitation

Following the appearance of ducks swimming in several of the rose beds in the winter of 2016, the City held a meeting to decide how to address the poor drainage in the main rose garden. The result was a decision to raise many of the beds by 11” with a combination of clay loam soil and garden compost. The hybrid tea and floribunda rose collectionwas also rejuvenated by digging, dividing, and replanting 23 beds worth of roses and the purchase of over 600 new roses.

City horticulturist Tom Beatty, rosarian Bill Meltzer, and MSPC’s Gretchen Carnaby managed the project with considerable help from MSPC’s Tuesday Gardeners and the Marion County Corrections crew. MSPC and the City shared the cost of new roses. This project has been completed.

Brochure of Bush’s Pasture Park

Interpretative Signage Project

In the past, visitors could experience the park yet be unaware of the historic significance of its unique features. To address this problem, MSPC’s predecessor organization led a project to design and install six interpretative signs at strategic points throughout the park. These signs now ‘bring to life’ the natural and cultural history of the park. As part of the project, we produced a new map and guide to the park.

This project is the culmination of our partnership with the City of Salem Parks with the support of grants from City of Salem’s Transient Occupancy Tax, The Oregon Park Foundation, the local Christian Science Church, and contributions from our greater community. It is our hope that the addition of this interpretive overlay will enhance your experience of this unique landscape and bring an increased ‘sense of place’ to the fabric of Salem.

Bush conservatory

The Bush Conservatory

Built in 1882, the Bush Conservatory is the oldest in the Pacific Northwest and second oldest west of the Rockies (with the oldest being the Golden Gate Park Conservatory in San Francisco). Asahel Bush II built it for his daughters, Sally and Eugenia. Sally was hostess for her father’s guests, and she frequently used flowers from the conservatory in arrangements for her table and at her father’s bank. Sally also ‘grew on’ vegetable starts in the conservatory for her garden, and grew mushrooms under the benches.

The Bush Conservatory has undergone several rehabilitations. In the early 1930s, the family installed a Moninger Iron Frame and Truss House on the original ‘single-wythe’ brick walls, added a boiler room to the northeast, and replaced the wood stove with an oil-fired burner circulating hot water through newly installed registers. In 1977-78 members of the public organized to save the conservatory from demolition. Once volunteers repaired the superstructure and replaced broken glass and all the wooden benches, Salem Art Association put out the call for volunteer gardeners to maintain the interior of the structure. This was the beginning of the Bush Conservatory Gardeners, which in 1991 became Friends of Bush Gardens (FOBG). In 2008, FOBG began a capital campaign to raise $220,000 for a proper restoration of the conservatory in partnership with Salem City Parks. They completed total restoration of the conservatory in 2011. Today, Mission Street Parks Conservancy maintains the plant collection, which represents plants common in conservatories during the Victorian period.

a beautiful rose garden

The Victorian Style Gazebo

In 1968, several years after the installation of the Municipal Rose Garden, Alice Brown Powell gave the City of Salem the Deepwood Spring House to place at the focal point of the rose garden. In 1978, once Deepwood was saved and the Friends of Deepwood formed, the City returned the gazebo to its historic site. At that point, the City invited a Scout Troop to build a ‘pergola’ on the site. Their design consisted of a half-circle of elevated planks on posts, planted with vines, and enclosing a brick hexagonal surface containing a large bench. Rot eventually overtook the structure, and the City invited the Friends of Bush Gardens (FOBG) to build a proper gazebo for the rose garden.

With financial support from the Salem community and funds from the Transient Occupancy Tax, FOBG hired an architect who designed a gazebo inspired by the architecture of Bush House. FOBG oversaw the building of the current structure, which is consistent with the Victorian style rose garden. The gazebo is the site of many weddings, frequent solo musicians sending their melodies out over the roses, and anyone seeking a quiet spot to catch the breezes and ‘gaze about’.