Debra Prinzing

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Autumn Gardens in Oregon

October 27th, 2008

An early morning scene outside the guest room window at Mary-Kate Mackey’s in Eugene

October in Oregon – you can’t beat it. Earlier this month, I traveled there to lecture to the Hardy Plant Group of Willamette Valley.

Returning to my beloved roots, in the Pacific Northwest, was such a treat, especially since it is still wickedly hot down here in LA and I am desperate for some moist, cool autumnal weather.

And oh, the gardens!

Mary-Kate Mackey, fellow garden writer and a gifted journalism educator, met me at the airport. It was fun to fly into this sleek, modern, small airport and arrive via Horizon Airlines (they serve complimentary Pacific Northwest ale on board and, oh, by the way, one of my articles appears in the October issue of Horizon/Alaska’s in-flight magazine, so I was able to grab lots of extra copies from the seat-pocket in front of me, etc.!).

Upon disembarking in Eugene, I was impressed by the changing autumn light and saturated foliage palette. Oh, it’s autumn in Oregon! It took away my breath and captured my heart.

The evening began with drinks at a nifty bistro with Mary-Kate, followed by dinner with my dear friend Jennifer (we were editors together at “Seattle Woman” magazine in the 80s).

On Tuesday, after a restful overnight in Jenny and her husband Tim’s comfortable home, I met up again with Mary-Kate.

Since I missed out on the one-day garden tour in Eugene that followed last month’s Garden Writers Association’s annual symposium, I had a special request for Mary-Kate: Can I have my own mini-tour of the best of the best Eugene has to offer? [Above: Mary-Kate inspects the craftsmanship of a stunning stone wall hand-built by Allen Bosworth (right) of Bosworth Landscaping.]


Leaves from Oregon – oaks, maples, and more! I received the maroon heart-shaped Cercis leaf in an envelope filled with Seattle foliage, a gift from my recent visitor, Lorene

As soon as we hopped out of her minivan and started walking through Eugene’s University neighborhood, I gleefully began collecting leaves: scarlet, copper and gold – little bits of the season, which had sprinkled the sidewalk after a blustery morning. I filled my pockets with these mementos so I could bring them home with me.

Fantastic examples of landscape design, plantsmanship, stonework, and garden architecture appeared around every corner and down every garden path. From the GWA reports, three busloads of writers and photographers were not disappointed when they took this tour last month. Mary-Kate and Eugene wowed everyone! [Above: A glorious “portal” at the entry to Marcella and Glenn Moore’s Eugene garden.]

Later, after lunch, Mary-Kate brought me back to her house and 30-acre landscape – out in the woods. Exurbia! She and her husband Lou Fauvre bought this property about 17 years ago (they left Los Angeles for Oregon). They fell in love with the ancient white oak grove on the property and the beauty of the Northwest. Separate, quiet, and verdant, their home and garden provided welcome and rest for me.

I loved seeing what these two have created over time, situating the garden to optimize the views beyond every window of their comfortable home.

As the signature elements of Mackey-Fauvre garden architecture, the many handcrafted, peeled-pole arbors, arches and pergolas succeed in tying together this huge landscape and bringing it to human scale amid the firs, pines, and other towering conifers.

Images of MK’s gorgeous and inviting grape arbor have appeared in numerous magazines, books and calendars (she jokes that is the most-photographed grape arbor around).

Later, before my evening talk, we met up with several members of the Hardy Plant Group board for dinner at Beppe & Gianni’s. It was pure indulgence to order the wild salmon entrée and sip some Oregon wine. Felt like (my previous) home.

We arrived at the University of Oregon’s Agate Hall in time to fiddle around with the technology (ugh, PowerPoints – I so miss my Kodak “carousel” projector). It was fun to share Bill Wright’s terrific images of the most stylish sheds around the country, and to share my anecdotes, design tips, and inspiration with Eugene’s gardening community.

After the talk, while I was signing books, I had a cool surprise when Jayme Jenkins, a Twitter friend of mine, came up and said hello! She decided to attend my lecture after we met online and exchanged a few tweets with each other. Jayme writes a cool modern gardening blog called and she is developing an online store called aHaModernLiving!

What a treat to put a face to a name. Jayme is a creative GenX gardener with vitality, ideas, and enthusiasm for bringing her savvy eye to the web. Mary-Kate and I dragged Jayme out with us for drinks after my talk and we had such a great time swapping stories, brainstorming, listening and learning from this young, talented gal.

I woke up on Wednesday morning and peered beyond the window of my “suite,” which doubles as MK’s charming writing studio. The misty ground fog floated above the garden, softening the scene. A sweet songbird was breakfasting at the seed tray mounted just outside the bedroom window. It was lovely to step outdoors in my REI raincoat and waterproof Keens in order to snap a few photographs of that beautiful, chilly, glorious October morning.

The very last thing we did before racing to the airport was hike to the oak grove. Led by “Try,” Mary-Kate and Lou’s friendly pup, we made our way from cultivated garden, through the gated opening in the deer fence, into their forested land.

Beneath the canopy of beautiful foliage splashes of sunlight broke through and illuminated our faces. I collected leaves here, too, filling my jacket pockets with precious specimens to press once I returned home.

This was a horticulture field trip that brought me to one of my favorite corners of the west. The gardens and spending time with some of my favorite people made for an unforgettable three days. I can’t wait to return.

5 Responses to “Autumn Gardens in Oregon”

  1. Jayme Says:

    Thanks for the nice write up Debra! I had such a great time chatting with you and Mary Kay. Best of luck to you as we finish the rest of this year. Still working on the nitty-gritties of the website. I will let you know when it goes live.

    Take care,


  2. Jayme Says:

    Oh, one more thing…I am super jealous of Mary Kay’s super garden views! I have a long way to go before I am able to create something like that. I just love how your book has inspired me to think about my own backyard differently!

    Thanks for your comments, Jayme. You are the lucky one, living in Eugene – the perfect gardening town! It was so much fun to meet you in person and to make a “real” connection beyond cyberspace. Thank you for taking the time to come to my talk and to share your passion with us! Debra

  3. Lorene Says:

    You know what you have? The best of all worlds. You’re thriving in the brilliant light (& heat of So Cal) and yet you retain the misty, foggy, verdant green of the greater Pacific Northwest. Congratulations my dear friend, you are home in both places. Thank you for a lovely, lovely weekend…pigeon, persimmons and all. Much love, and grate-full-ness Lorene

  4. Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" Says:

    You know how to live, woman! Always the adventurer. MK’s garden is enviable.

  5. Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden) Says:

    What a wonderful guided tour through the Oregon gardens! I think I do recognize the beauitful grape arbor. I adore the ambiance of special outdoor seating areas.


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