Old Hurlburt School Gardens in Corbett

Kathleen Shelman

I met Kathleen Shelman when we both worked the HPSO booth at the Yard Garden & Patio Show. She’s warm, fun and funny and knows her plants. I’ve long been meaning to visit this garden. My long-time friend Tim Mackiness is the son of Faith, whose garden this was originally. Faith was instrumental in the formation of HPSO. Tim’s wife Judy Nylin was my first gardening mentor. In other words, the stories and connections go way back, criss-crossing all the way.

big flower and shrub border

I’m kicking myself for not taking more long shots of the garden as a whole. This is the first garden room (showing about a quarter of the border surrounding a large grassy area). There are two more, divided by clipped hedges like the one you see at the back here.


The borders are deep, densely planted and perfectly maintained.

more border

Most of the plants are familiar. The genius of this garden is the masterful juxtapositions and manipulation of color.


Kathleen graciously walked around with me. She said that precious little weeding is needed because of the density of the plantings and the biggest job is staking everything early on. You have to look hard to even see the rusted metal structure holding up the tall plants. Even when you do spot it, it fits in with the scheme of things. Those giant evergreens in the background add a majestic touch.


Plenty was in bloom, but always set of by a background of foliage, as with this Eryngium aglow against a symphony of greens.


other side of the hedge

Looking back toward the house from the other side of that hedge we are in the veggie garden, which I failed to photograph. Here, you just see some of the flowers that surround the garden shed, but believe me: this is a vegetable patch to be reckoned with.

vine covered cottage

If, indeed, you can call a vine-covered cottage like this by so humble a name as “shed”>

shady seating area

Back near the house an inviting shady seating area is decorated with vignettes like this…

towering trees

and surrounded by towering trees.


My photo doesn’t come close to doing justice to this slender shrub, but I hope I got the name right: Cephalotaxus. I’m going to be on the lookout for this one.

crocosmia emerging

I find Crocosmias at their most seductive when they are just emerging.


And as if Kathleen’s personal attention were not enough, her darling duckling ambassadors were there to give me a proper send-off. It’s a bit of a drive to reach this garden, but a beautiful one along the Sandy River, and having just visited Jane’s garden, I was well on my way. This was the last open garden for this year, but next year I urge you to watch for it. You could even use it as a springboard for a drive up the Gorge.

10 thoughts on “Old Hurlburt School Gardens in Corbett

  1. Peter~Yes indeed, but I was sorry that hurrying off prevented me from visiting with you and Alison at Jane’s.

    Jane~It shows up every year in the HPSO Open Gardens book. Maybe we should plan a field trip?

    Mark & Gaz~You’re right…it does have the feel of an English garden with a PNW twist.

    Sarah~I will never get there either, but it’s fun to look.

    Loree~It was a day packed full with delights. (see my comments to Jane & Scott about a field trip in the future)

    Scott~As I mentioned to Jane and Loree, the drive would be more fun if we got a few of us together. Then we could stop at Portland Nursery and Viscaya on the way back to town.

  2. Ricki – I just saw this post yesterday. I love your blog! Thanks for the kind words and beautiful pics. It really cheered me up, as this time of year when I look out the window I often focus on watering, .regrettable color combinations, and work to be done. It IS a long way out to Corbett but there are 2 other amazing gardens both within a mile of mine. I’m going to lobby to get them to open up next year – we’ll see.

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