"It's warmer here at Hollinshead," Master Gardener Nancy Crossan says, "more than any other place in Bend. That's why it's called the Banana Belt, and why everything here grows so bountifully."
You mean I live in the SE frost belt? Say it isn't so!
"You can still plant asparagus," Kris Kornchild, another Master Gardener chimes in. Wait, your name is actually Kris Kornchild? Well I'll be Johnny Appleseed, and I do love asparagus. She goes on to educate me about the kinds of trees that would do well in our yard.
The Oregon State University Master Gardener Program is an OSU Extension Service program that educates Oregonians statewide about the art and science of growing and caring for plants. Here at the Hollinshead Community Garden, the plots are privately worked by the best green thumbs in Bend. And you thought we could only craft beer.
Sunflowers perk up their happy heads throughout the rows and along the fences, while educational placards bordering the outside of said garden fence describe the attributes of ornamental grasses and herbs.
Every group of nine plots has a mentor, helping brown thumbs go green, making sure everyone is attending to their plots, and arranging to donate their extra bounty to the needy. Take one look at these gardens, and you realize that whatever the method to their madness, it's working.
Though the tomato taste-off has already passed, the garden grows on. Hollinshead's group meets every second and fourth Tuesday morning of the month to discuss what needs to be done and who gets to do it. Yes, amid all the eye candy, there is dirty work involved. As my mom likes to remind me, "The weeds are free, pick them all!"
Every Master Gardener has a story to tell, and the most compelling ones are about the rich soil, and how the land came to be—at least into the community's hands. Irrigation water began to flow to this sagebrush area in 1908. Bend proper was still quite a holler away. The park passed through five withered hands before it became the homestead of Dean and Lily Hollinshead in 1939.
The Hollinsheads didn't quite settle in right away, as it was a bit of a jaunt to the Friday night square dance on Bond Street. Jim and Virginia Matson first took the bait, raising potatoes, alfalfa, a variety of garden plants, and a few kids to boot.
Bend resident Sharron (Matson) Rosengarth, daughter to Virginia and Jim, was born in the now- restored homestead house in 1939 and lived there until her family bought their own farm in 1949. Sharron opened up the homestead house for us, and described how they baked their own bread. "Everything we ate, we grew right here in this garden," she says. She sold the potatoes to the local store, perhaps in exchange for the meat to go along with them.
Lily and Dean Hollinshead lived on the land and well, off the land, from 1949 until they donated 11 acres to the Bend Park and Recreation District (BPRD) in the early 1980s. The main stipulation was that a portion of it be reserved for gardening pursuits, and that no dog shall be leashed unless aggressive by nature. Okay, I made that last part up, but it's true. (If your dog is aggressive, try less meat, more veggies). Today, Hollinshead Park comprises 16.5 acres, and is enjoyed immensely by gardeners and dog owners alike.
Tracy, with her bounty of vegetables, is winner of August's Garden of the Month. She shared the prize with her firefighting partner, though as you can guess from our smoky August, she has done most of the work. Still, like Clark Kent and Lois Lane, they have a super garden going.
"We both have a knack for growing different types of plants and veggies," Tracy explains, "so to get an all around grouping, we decided to join forces."
Hollinshead Park is off the beaten path, tucked away in an older neighborhood- a breath of fresh air from all of the new developments here. Not only are the gardens luscious, but the grounds as well: towering pines, willows, and fruit trees (now missing their plums and apples).
If you want to grab a plot for yourself to garden, be prepared to stand in line on April 25 like you were getting tickets for Sting.
Hollinshead Community Garden
Hollinshead Park, 1237 NE Jones Rd.
For more information, visit gocomga.com