Pittock Garden Tour


The rich, as F. Scott Fitzgerald noted, are not like you and me.  The novelist seemed to suggest deep philosophical differences between the haves and the have-nots.  Call me shallow as top soil but I’m more interested in garden variety differences. Literally, the variety of gardens.

It may have something to do with the fuchsia currently drooping over the flower boxes on my balcony.  They look at me, I think, a little accusingly as if they hold me personally responsible for their rather limited possibilities.  Any ambitions to burst into 3-foot shrubs are curtailed by the four plastic walls that contain them.  The ones I put them in.  They are watered (mostly) regularly.  They are admired (pretty much)  daily. They are safe from dogs and careless lawn mowers but that is not the same as stretching out roots and grabbing hold of a little terre firma.


What they need is a little R&R at the The Pittock Mansion garden.  The house tour is a treat when you have an hour but you can wander the gardens at no cost and even take a picnic on the table or benches over-looking the city of Portland.  What many don’t realize is that the garden is tended to by a volunteer crew who know their way around a flower bed and  give free guided tours twice a month. These master gardeners from Oregon State University have chosen to give back to their community in the way they know best — by dishing the dirt! They can  point out the aging birch and apple trees that have probably been around as long as the 1911 mansion.  They can lead you to the pretty rock garden recently rediscovered under a choke-hold of English ivy. And they will allow you to stop and smell the roses planted in honor of Mrs. Pittock who refused to believe that roses don’t  particularly like wet rainy climates when she helped found the Portland Rose Festival.

One nice thing about the crummy weather earlier this summer is that the garden is looking much better than usual for this time of year. The approximtely 40-minute tours take place the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month, June through September, during Pittock Mansion hours.  That’s August 27, September 10 and 24. You can simply show up and look for the volunteers near the gift shop. They are easy to spot wearing Oregon-shaped name tags.  Or, if you have a large group and would like to arrange a private tour, contact [email protected]


I enjoyed an informative and lively tour — yep, plant-talk can be lively – from master gardener Cici Polson.

“We are not trying to recreate what the Pittocks had,” she said. ” Instead, we are interpreting the garden trends that were popular during their time and using them in a public garden.  We are adapting the site using modern plants that are healthier and more interesting than what was available in 1914.”

Would it be weird if I brought my potted plants with me to visit next time?

Pittock Mansion

3229 NW Pittock Drive
Portland, OR 97212