The Ravine

The Ravine enhancement project began in late 2017 with the decision to improve a desirable but neglected area of the park and concluded with a public opening on May 11, 2019.

The Ravine itself is a narrow gulley formed by a seasonal seep and winter runoff. It runs about 200′ from the upper pasture downhill to an informal amphitheater with Oregon white oaks. It forms a boundary line between the more cultivate areas of the park surrounding the Bush House and Barn and the more natural parts of the park. Over the years, ornamental plants have been added to the Ravine, including an impressive hedge of mature mountain laurels, several deciduous magnolias, Japanese maples, rhododendron, a bank of mixed evergreen azaleas, and deciduous Exbury azaleas. One of the Ravine’s most prominent features is a Mexican (or Montezuma) Bald Cypress that blew down in a storm and now grows almost horizontally. Its accessible trunk and branches prove irresistible to children.

The Ravine enhancement project slightly widened the existing stream channel and placed several tons of Willamette Valley basalt boulders on its banks. The boulders not only improve the appearance of the stream but slow down the water and allow it to percolate into the ground. The seasonal stream ends in small bioswale well backed by a berm. These improvements reduce the amount of water that pools at the base of several Oregon white oaks each winter. A small flagstone terrace was installed near the bioswale.

Once the stonework is completed, volunteers will plant a range of ground covers that will include ferns and ground orchids. They will also plant several trees, including an ‘Emerald Pagoda’ Styrax japonicus, an ‘Akebono’ flowering cherry tree, and ‘Jane Platt’ deciduous magnolia, and a Sieboldii deciduous magnolia.

Ron Miner designed The Ravine enhancement with contributions and plant selection by Mission Street Parks Conservancy members and city horticulturist Tom Beatty. Willamette Valley Vineyards donated the clay boulders thanks to the help of Betty O’Brien of Elton Vineyards. MSPC’s generous donors funded the project. The Tuesday Gardeners installed the plants and will help the City of Salem maintain the area.

Key features include:

  • Placement of additional Willamette Valley basalt boulders along the stream’s course, complemented with a planting of flowering perennials and native ferns.
  • Construction of a small bioswale backed by a low berm to help reduce the seasonal flooding in the amphitheater.
  • Installation of a flagstone terrace with natural boulders for seating.
  • Planting of several ornamental trees, including magnolias, flowering cherry, and weeping Japanese maple.
  • Addition of numerous ornamental shrubs and ground cover.

A rock scramble for children will be installed just east of the path through the Ravine. The scramble will also create additional seating for children and parents.

View the project’s photo album.

Interpretative Signage Project

In the past, visitors could experience the park yet be unaware of the historic significance of its unique features. To address this problem, FOBG led a project to design and install six interpretative signs at strategic points throughout the park, which now ‘bring to life’ the evolution of the natural and cultural history of the park. As part of the project, FOBG produced a new map and guide to the park. The project’s final phase is the addition of QR codes to each sign. QR codes will allow park visitors to access significantly more information than the interpretive signs can contain.

This project is the culmination of a partnership between Friends of Bush Gardens and the City of Salem Parks with the support of grants from City of Salem’s Transient Occupancy Tax, The Oregon Park Foundation, the local Christian Science Church, and contributions from our greater community. It is our hope that the addition of this interpretive overlay will enhance your experience of this unique landscape and bring an increased ‘sense of place’ to the fabric of Salem.

The Bush Conservatory

Built in 1882, the Bush Conservatory is the oldest in the Pacific Northwest and second oldest west of the Rockies (with the oldest being the Golden Gate Park Conservatory in San Francisco). Asahel Bush II built it for his daughters, Sally and Eugenia. Sally was hostess for his father’s guests, and she frequently used flowers from the conservatory in arrangements for her table and her father’s bank. Sally also ‘grew on’ vegetable starts in the conservatory for her garden, as well as mushrooms under the benches.

The Bush Conservatory has undergone several rehabilitations. In the early 1930s, the family installed a Moninger Iron Frame and Truss House on the original ‘single-wythe’ brick walls, added a boiler room to the northeast, replaced the wood stove with an oil-fired burner circulating hot water through newly installed registers. In 1977-78 members of the public organized to save the conservatory from demolition. Once volunteers repaired the superstructure and replaced broken glass and all the wooden benches, Salem Art Association put out the call for volunteer gardeners to maintain the interior of the structure. This was the beginning of the Bush Conservatory Gardeners, which in 1991 became Friends of Bush Gardens (FOBG). In 2008, FOBG began a capital campaign to raise $220,000 for a proper restoration of the conservatory in partnership with Salem City Parks. They completed total restoration of the conservatory in 2011. Today, Mission Street Parks Conservancy maintains the plant collection, which represents plants common in conservatories during the Victorian period.

The Victorian Style Gazebo

In 1968, several years after the installation of the Municipal Rose Garden, Alice Brown Powell gifted the City of Salem with the Deepwood Spring House to place at the focal point of the rose garden. In 1978, once Deepwood was saved and the Friends of Deepwood formed, the City returned the gazebo to its historic site. At that point, the City invited a Scout Troop to build a ‘pergola’ on the site. Their design consisted of a half-circle of elevated planks on posts, planted with vines, and enclosing a brick hexagonal surface containing a large bench. Rot eventually overtook the structure, and the City invited FOBG to build a proper gazebo for the rose garden.

With financial support from the Salem community and TOT funds, FOBG hired an architect who designed a gazebo inspired by the architecture of Bush House. FOBG oversaw the building of the current structure, which is consistent with the Victorian style rose garden. The gazebo is the site of many weddings, frequent solo musicians sending their melodies out over the roses, and anyone seeking a quiet spot to catch the breezes and ‘gaze about’.