A few blocks west of busy Highway 101, at the north end of Lincoln City on the Oregon coast, I step from the car and suddenly I’m in an oasis of calm. It’s the Connie Hansen Garden, a lush hideaway I go to when I want a quiet moment, or to check again which plants grow happily near the ocean, where the climate is cool (usually) and the air salty and damp.
The 1-1/3 acre garden isn’t exactly a secret, but you have to watch for it, tucked into a residential neighborhood behind shrubs and trees. To get there, I turn west from Highway 101 on NW 33rd and find the entrance gate half a block down the road. There’s a donation box, a stack of brochures, and a table with a few plants for sale, and then paths winding through grassy gardens with more than 300 rhododendrons and azaleas. In spring, it’s an overflowing bouquet of red, pink and purple. Every season has its blooms, from splashes of primrose and purple iris to pink cyclamen, sweet-scented lilies, and a patch of multi-colored heather. Magnolias and maples arch above them. Wooden bridges cross a stream, and benches are strategically located for stopping to admire the scene.
Connie Hansen moved to the coast and started gardening here in the early 1970s. She was a botanist and expert gardener, interested in rare plants, who dedicated herself to creating a place of beauty. After her death in 1993, a conservancy took over to keep the place vibrant, and now a host of gardeners continues Connie’s legacy. They operate a shop where you can buy seeds, plants, t-shirts, notecards, even hand creams, and every June they host a festival that draws garden-lovers from near and far. I’ll be back to admire the rhodies next spring and maybe purchase an exotic plant or two.