Downtown Gardens are Living Works of Art

BY: Marilyn Gilbaugh
The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon
The Seattle Times, Seattle, Washington
Coast Weekend Spring Section 2010

Seaside has its riches: the every changing ocean, long stretches of sandy beach, the surrounding mountains...and Pam Fleming's gardens.

Located in the heart of the city, from the landmark Lewis and Clark turnaround on the beach, uptown Broadway and in the downtown historic Gilbert District blocks, there are approximately 100 garden plots of marvelous plantings, each pocket uniquely individual but blending into the next, creating a unifying total effect.

The gardens are under the auspices of the city of Seaside, but Fleming is the artistic genius responsible for creating and maintaining them. Concentrating on the flowing and flowering along Broadway and adjacent surrounds, Fleming works with a crew of two.

Utilizing thousands of different plants, the gardens are made up of largely self-sub staining shrubs, tress, and perennials, filled in with seasonal natives.

Denise Fairweather, of fairweather house & gallery located in the Gilbert Building on Broadway, and, like Fleming, a master gardener, said, "Pam is able to break down concepts. Her gardens are constantly changing. She makes the gardens appear effortless, but of course, we all know better."

he Broadway Project, or the Downtown Seaside Grid, as it is also known, billed as the million-dollar mile, Seaside's beautification project is city garden contract awarded to Fleming, and comes up for renewal every four years. For more than 15 years, Fleming and her company, Nature's Garden, have envisioned theme gardens, laying a plan that reflects the city. Seeing the work as one big estate, she is able, at times, to blank out everything but the vision to create. The themes make you pause, make you smile, and make you glad that the city is sharing the gardens with you.

The challenge of planting and maintaining the different micro climates in such limited spaces is ever-present. The Turnaround is fully exposed to the beach, Fleming pays special attention to maintaining a colorful "garden welcome". Just a few blocks down on Broadway, the micro climate has changed dramatically, requiring a different approach and tolerance.

A restaurant's garden grid contains a herb selection. A sweet shop's theme garden featured chocolate cosmos and "tutti-Fruit ti" lupine. The pubic restrooms plot...what else? At times you'll find the color of the blossoms for ladies and blue for the gents.

So when you have a visit to Seaside, take a deep breath and smell the roses- or thyme or jasmine. Whatever your time at the beach dictates, spend some time admiring the gardens of Seaside.