From the ground up: Oregon Garden Foundation welcomes Holden to board

May 2018 Posted in Community, Garden, People
Verl Holden (7)

Verl Holden dedicates a bench at the Oregon Garden in honor of his wife Florence Hardesty, who passed away in September. Holden is a new Oregon Garden Foundation board member, as well as one of the very first. A poem by Hardesty is inscribed on an accompanying stone, right.

By Brenna Wiegand

Verl Holden of Holden Wholesale Growers near Silverton has been appointed to the Oregon Garden Foundation Board.

The seat is one of two recently added to the board, increasing it from five to seven, with one seat still open.

“The Foundation, Marion County and Moonstone Management must work together on the Garden’s management; namely, come up with a plan to make it more self sufficient,” Delen Kitchen, assistant general manager and membership coordinator for Moonstone Management said, adding the Garden Foundation and Moonstone share relationship unique in the world of
public gardens.

“It allows us to accomplish together things we might not be able to individually,” Kitchen said. “Moonstone’s day-to-day operation of the Garden allows the Foundation to focus its efforts on development, including fundraising, curation and programming, which in turn benefits the Garden as a whole, increasing its capacity for outreach and education.”

Allison Pennell, development director for the Foundation, said its mission is to support the Garden through fund raising, the plants and promotion.

“Verl brings a huge amount of knowledge of the Garden and the industry,” Pennell said. “He brings a great amount of knowledge and is well respected in Oregon horticulture. He also brings a lot of funny stories about its history and lots of great enthusiasm.”

Holden and his wife Florence Hardesty were among the founders of the Garden and involved in the Silverton community for decades.

“When the Silverton Girl Scouts collected $1,000 from can deposits and presented it to the Foundation, Florence whipped out her checkbook and said, ‘I’ll match it,’” Holden said.

Nobody has covered as much ground at the Garden as Verl Holden, who initially mowed all the pasture grass – 65 acres of grass and rocks – so surveyors could set elevation stakes.

He was tireless in advocating for a
conifer garden.

“It’s world class,” Holden said. “When
I had the International Plant Propagators Society board meeting here a few years ago they simply walked around with their mouths open and kept asking how we
did it.”

In the Conifer Garden’s formation Holden mixed seven or eight dump truck loads of custom soil – gravel, pumice and river pebbles – for the Alpine section and grafted several trees throughout the Garden.

Holden Wholesale Growers on Hazelgreen Road has been in business more than 50 years and produces 100,000 manzanita groundcovers and 80,000 hazelnut trees annually.

Oregon nurserymen have kicked around the idea of a display garden since the 1970s but undertook the project in earnest in the 1980s and started shopping for a location.

A spacious chunk of land on 12th Street in Salem was turned down by the city and is now multifamily dwellings. Next was Minto Island, a public park that remains a grassy expanse.

They inquired about a state-owned retreat in Wilsonville with nice buildings and several acres of ground.

“The City of Wilsonville turned that one down and it is now Coffee Creek Correctional Facility,” Holden said.

However, Silverton’s city manager at the time – the late ‘80s – attended that Wilsonville City Council meeting.

“Silverton needed a way to offload its treated wastewater; it could no longer dump it into Silver Creek,” Holden said. “The area was much larger and having the City in back of us and needing us as badly as we needed them made it ideal.”

The city secured millions of dollars in grants from the EPA, DEA and others to finance the garden’s infrastructure, including an extensive series of ponds constructed on what would become 33 acres of wetlands and a valuable teaching tool.

“They constructed a 14-inch pipeline from the wastewater treatment plant up to the top of the Garden,” Holden said. “When the pump was turned on everyone rushed to the end of the pipe to watch the water come out. Well, it didn’t come out for six hours – it took that long to
fill the pipe.”

Holden recently donated a granite bench to the Garden in honor of his wife, who passed away in September.

They met 40 years ago after Oregon Health Sciences University recruited Hardesty, a Pennsylvanian, to start its doctoral program in psychiatric mental health nursing.

She was also on the National Nursing School Accreditation Committee, traveling to colleges all over the U.S. to spend a week examining each school’s coursework and documentation to award accreditation.

Among her many interests and pursuits Hardesty wrote four books including a book of poetry that includes a piece that begins “I love flowers, but I hate dirt” and ends “So I sally forth with clippers, trowel and hoe to take care of the flowers that give me joy.”

This poem is inscribed on its own piece of granite next to the bench.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.