Summer is when home gardens begin to deliver on all the hard work we've put into them. Before long, harvesting their bounty will be a daily chore. But it's still early enough to take a few days off to feed your gardening spirit without drudgery in one of the state's most accessible outdoor attractions.

Summer is when home gardens begin to deliver on all the hard work we've put into them. Before long, harvesting their bounty will be a daily chore. But it's still early enough to take a few days off to feed your gardening spirit without drudgery in one of the state's most accessible outdoor attractions.

The Oregon Garden in Silverton, east of Salem, has been around since 2001, when it was created to showcase the Willamette Valley's diverse nursery industry. But since then it has helped foster a tourism boom in the Silverton area, whose most popular summer destination in the past was Silver Falls State Park (described in my June 8 column).

Reminis-cent of the famous Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada, but without some of that garden's intricately engineered walkways and landscaping, the Oregon Garden nevertheless has an informal, charming aesthetic with an appeal all its own. It is mostly a collection of small, distinctly themed gardens whose juxtapositions create an impression of intimacy and scope.

For the history buff, there is the Lewis and Clark Garden, which in a 20-minute walk offers visitors a tour of what the two explorers saw as they traveled from east to west through the state during their 1804-06 expedition. Dry-side plants give way to the lushness of coastal forest vegetation during the stroll, with displays along the way providing insights about the journey.

For the amateur paleontologist, there is the Dinosaur Garden featuring ancient plants such as gingko trees that were dominant long before humans came on the scene, and that survive today.

For lovers of pines and firs, the Conifer Garden, my favorite, takes you on a tour of evergreens from around the world in a walk along a curving pathway. Some of the trees, such as the famed cedars of Lebanon, have become rare in the world today, but you can see them there.

Lower in the garden complex lies the Rose Garden, with its more than 40 varieties of this popular flower.

For visitors who love aquatic plants, the Amazing Water Garden has species artistically placed in a 1-acre area of pools, not far from the Bosque, a central plaza with four reflecting ponds of its own and 40 planter boxes featuring a single tree apiece.

And if the kids are getting restless, take them to the Children's Garden, where there is a hobbit house and a whimsical family constructed of garden pots.

Some of the gardens have a mostly educational purpose. The Rediscovery Forest is a 15-acre area that demonstrates sustainable logging practices. The Silverton Market Garden is a showplace for many of Oregon's 147 agricultural products, among them berries, grass seed and hops. Produce from this garden is donated to needy families or used for the Garden Café inside the entrance building, where it shares space with a gift shop.

Placed strategically amid all this variety are long stretches of lawn with fountains and statuary on a gentle slope rising to a spot where views of the Willamette Valley stretch west to the distant Coast Range. Up there, the garden is a place of open space and sky.

And for those wanting more of a hike, the Oak Grove Trail offers another trip through history. This trail covers a 25-acre area, with many 100-year-old Oregon white oaks, including the Signature Oak, which is more than 400 years old. Intended to show how the area looked before Anglo-American settlement, this area is a work in progress because American Indians thinned out the oaks with fire periodically to make room for meadows that would attract more game for them to hunt. As some of the old oaks along the trail die, the area will approach that look more closely.

For people who prefer a riding tour, trams driven by guides set off every half-hour on a 25-minute overview of the complex. These tours, included in the admission price, are worth taking as an introduction to areas inviting further exploration.

Initially set up on 64 acres, the Oregon Garden is constantly being developed as funds permit, with a goal of filling 240 acres. By contrast, Butchart Gardens covers 55 acres. Plans already are in the works to expand the Conifer Garden, which has the largest collections of dwarf and miniature conifers in the U.S.

No photo can give the Oregon Garden its due. Its pleasures are best enjoyed amid its flowery arbors and tree groves. You'll want to return repeatedly in different seasons.

In whatever season, the garden's chief delight is its calm. There is a special area to help visitors find this tranquility — the Sensory Garden, with plantings from across the world intended to move the senses toward connection and reflection. Make your visit a leisurely one and the Oregon Garden will soothe you, suppressing any urge to rush. Soon you'll just wander, breathe in the plant-sweetened air and absorb what is offered, a little at a time.

Steve Dieffenbacher is a part-time Mail Tribune page designer/copy editor. You can reach him at sdieffenbacher@mailtribune.com.