Finding treasures along the Columbia
Great nurseries and display gardens transform a Columbia River drive into an inspiring horticultural tour. Set the tone for your adventure with an overnight at McMenamins Edgefield, a whimsical resort set among 38 acres of gardens and ponds on a national historic site in Troutdale, 14 miles east of Portland.
To begin your tour, follow U.S. 30 about 30 miles west to Sauvie Island's Cistus Nursery and wander among the diverse collection of Mediterranean plants. Then go to Joy Creek Nursery in Scappoose; its 4-acre display gardens feature hydrangeas, clematis, and a trove of woody plants and perennials. For weekend brunch, drive down to Mark's on the Channel, a floating restaurant whose chef-owner, Mark Altstetter, runs the best scratch kitchen on the river; even steaks are hand-cut.
Cross the Columbia into Washington at Longview, then loop south on Interstate 5 to Woodland's Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens (peak bloom starts in mid- to late April). Finally, head to Tsugawa Nursery, where all-year Asian flavor (koi, granite lanterns, Japanese maples) is tempered by a large stock of lilacs this month.
INFO McMenamins Edgefield From $50, suites with private bath from $105; in Troutdale; 800/669-8610.
Cistus Nursery 22711 N.W. Gillihan Rd., Sauvie Island, OR; 503/621-2233.
Joy Creek Nursery 20300 N.W. Watson Rd., Scappoose, OR; 503/543-7474.
Mark's on the Channel $$; closed Mon; in McCuddy's Marina, 34326 Johnson Landing Rd., Scappoose, OR; 503/543-8765.
Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens $2; 115 S. Pekin Rd., Woodland, WA; 360/225-8996.
Tsugawa Nursery 410 E. Scott Ave., Woodland, WA; or 360/225-8750.
Santa Barbara's fashionable edge
Accessories make the outfit, as any fashion maven knows. Some of us think Italian terra-cotta pots and all of those other pretty nonessentials make the garden too. If you're one of them, drive just south of Santa Barbara on U.S. 101 ― you can spend a whole day quite happily in the adjoining Carpinteria and Summerland areas. This is garden-accessory heaven. If you're shopping for statuary or pottery, especially in classic European styles, head for Eye of the Day. For pan-Asian accessories, visit Island View Nursery. Seaside Gardens isn't big on accessories, but don't even think of missing it: Mature demonstration gardens in various styles fill more than 3 acres. Break for lunch at the Garden Market ― you'll eat in a garden surrounded by more things you can buy. Then go to Summerland. Visit Botanik for potted topiary and other decorative items, and check out the Balinese pavilions and art at the Sacred Space. Back in Carpinteria, dine at Zookers Café, the most upscale restaurant in this casual town, then tuck in for the night at Prufrock's Garden Inn, a historic B&B with very gardenly grounds.
INFO Eye of the Day Closed Mon-Tue; 4620 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria; 805/566-0778.
Island View Nursery 3376 Foothill Rd., Carpinteria; 805/684-0324.
Seaside Gardens 3700 Via Real, Carpinteria; 805/684-6001.
The Garden Market $; 3811 Santa Claus Lane, Carpinteria; 805/745-5505.
Botanik Closed Sun; 2329 Lillie Ave., Summerland; 805/565-3831.
The Sacred Space 2594 Lillie Ave., Summerland; 805/565-5535.
Zookers Café $ $; closed Sun; 5404 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria; 805/684-8893.
Prufrock's Garden Inn From $99, including breakfast; 805/566-9696.