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Oregon: In the footsteps of David Douglas

11 Nightsfrom £5595.00 pp

Imagine yourself in the tackety boots of David Douglas, as we set out on the trail of the sugar pine, the cobra lily and the mighty Douglas fir.

Tour Overview


Scottish botanist David Douglas was sent by the RHS on a plant hunting expedition to the Pacific Northwest in the 1820s which led to the introduction of several notable species and transformed the appearance of the British landscape. Amidst the rugged scenery of Oregon, we will follow in his footsteps.

We begin in the elegant city of Portland where we will tour selected private gardens and enjoy the Grand Floral Parade, part of the Portland Rose Festival. We then journey to the Pacific coast through the diverse landscape of Oregon, with its farms, forests, mountains and beaches. Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis), one of Douglas’s discoveries, feature in the Bob Straub State Park and in Darlingtonia State Park we will find the rare and carnivorous Darlingtonia californica. There will be surprises in store at ‘Oregon’s Secret Garden’ before we head into the mountains on the trail of the Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana).

We conclude in the unparalleled scenery of the Columbia River Gorge, where there are majestic examples of Douglas firs.

Tour highlights:
  • Dinner cruise on the Williamette River
  • Portland’s Grand Floral Parade
  • Exclusive tours of private gardens in Portland
  • Thrilling ocean views at Shore Acres State Park
  • Lunch at Timberline Lodge
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Tour Itinerary Back to top of page

Thursday 8 June 2017
We depart from London on a scheduled flight to Portland, Oregon. On arrival we will be met by our coach and local guide and transferred to our hotel in Portland. The remainder of the day is free to relax after our flight.

Friday 9 June 2017
After breakfast today we transfer to the Portland International Rose Test Garden where we will meet the head gardener for a tour. The International Rose Test Garden is one of 24 official testing sites for the internationally respected All-America Rose Selections (AARS), a non-profit association of rose growers and introducers dedicated to the introduction and promotion of exceptional roses. Since 1938 the AARS seal of approval has graced outstanding new rose varieties that have performed the best in the test gardens located throughout the country and representing all climate zones.

We then visit the Japanese Garden, a five and-a-half acre site composed of five distinct gardens – Flat, Strolling Pond, Tea, Natural and Sand & Stone. Skilfully incorporating native trees, the essence of the classic Japanese garden has been beautifully captured.

We continue with a visit to the Hoyt Arboretum and World Forestry Center. Founded in 1928 to conserve endangered species and educate the community, Hoyt Arboretum encompasses 189 ridge-top acres, accessible by 12 miles of hiking trails. More than 6,000 specimens from around the world grow here, including more than 2,000 species, 63 of which are vulnerable or endangered. Hoyt Arboretum is a living laboratory where anyone can enjoy trees and plants that are both familiar and unexpected.

This evening we will enjoy a welcome drink and dinner cruise on the Williamette River.

Saturday 10 June 2017
Today, after breakfast, we enjoy the centerpiece of the Portland Rose Festival, the Grand Floral Parade (10.00am – 2.00pm). Reserved seats in the Coliseum where the parade starts are included.

Later in the afternoon we visit Pittock Mansion and Pittock Mansion Acres. The Pittock Mansion was home to Portland pioneers Henry and Georgiana Pittock from 1914 to 1919. During the late 1800s and the early 1900s, their lives and work paralleled the growth of Portland from a small Northwest town site to a thriving city with a quarter million population. With its eclectic architectural design and richly decorated interior, including family artifacts, the Pittock Mansion stands today as a living memorial of this family’s contributions to the blossoming of Portland and its people. The lush, fragrant gardens, complement the Mansion’s historical elegance.

Evening at leisure.

Sunday 11 June 2017
This morning we have a special treat as we visit the private garden of Jane Kerr Platt, one of the most significant 20th century gardens in Portland. Developed over many years by the late plantswoman Jane Platt, the garden features stunning mature specimen plants, thousands of naturalized spring ephemerals, and a glorious rock garden. The garden has been lovingly maintained and restored by her son and landscape architect grand-daughter.

Later we visit the Crystal Springs rhododendron garden, a serene place packed with many species of this favourite Himalayan shrub. The oldest rhododendron in the current garden was planted prior to 1917.

We round off today at the Oregon Historical Society where a local expert will give a presentation on ‘Finding David Douglas’, covering his exploration of plant life in Oregon including photographs, diary entries and routing.

Evening at leisure.

Monday 12 June 2017
Before we leave Portland this morning we will visit selected private gardens in and around the city which are open under the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon’s open gardens scheme

We then depart for Silverton, breaking our journey with a visit to Heritage Seedlings, a wholesale Nursery in Salem. The native plant division of the company sells seed and plugs of a wide variety of Willamette Valley prairie species (grasses, sedges and forbs), as well as numerous seed mixes.

We then continue to our hotel in Silverton, where the evening is at leisure.

Tuesday 13 June 2017
This morning we tour the Oregon Garden in Silverton, an 80-acre botanical garden featuring more than 20 speciality gardens showcasing the diverse botanical beauty that can be found in the Williamette Valley and throughout the Pacific north-west. These include an award-winning water garden, a conifer garden with the largest collection of miniature conifer gardens in the country; sensory and rose gardens and the Lewis and Clark Garden, a living museum of the many botanical finds Meriwether Lewis and William Clark documented on their Corps of Discovery’s journey more than 200 years ago.

We then depart for the Oregon Coast, stopping for lunch (included) in Pacific City. In the afternoon we visit Bob Straub State Park, full of sea grass, Sitka Spruce and wildflowers.

We continue to our overnight accommodation in Newport, where the evening is free.

Wednesday 14 June 2017
This morning we will visit Sea Lion Caves, home to wild sea lions and a variety of sea birds. The vast cavern, America's largest, is filled with the roar of the great Steller sea lions, the cries of the wailing birds, and the restless surge of the ocean into the cave below, forming an unforgettable experience. The Caves recently marked their 80th year of steadfastly, protecting, preserving, and making the awe and wonder of both safe for its animal residents and accessible to the people who come to learn about and cherish them.

In the afternoon we stop at the Darlingtonia State Natural Site, home to the rare and carnivorous Darlingtonia californica. Darlingtonia State Natural Site is the only Oregon state park property dedicated to the protection of a single plant species. The plants it protects are the only carnivorous flora in the system. Also called a cobra lily, the rare, strangely-shaped plant is the only member of the pitcher plant family (Sarraceniaceae) in Oregon.

We continue to our overnight accommodation at Face Rock. Evening at leisure.

Thursday 15 June 2017
We start the day at the coastal garden estate of Shore Acres State Park. Perched on rugged sandstone cliffs high above the ocean, Shore Acres State Park is an exciting and unexpected combination of beautiful natural and constructed features. Once the grand estate of pioneer timber baron Louis Simpson, Shore Acres features lushly planted gardens with plants and flowers from all over the world, along with All American Rose Selections. On the site of Simpson's vanished mansion, a fully enclosed observation building offers views of the ocean.

We move on to ‘Oregon’s Secret Garden’, the O.H. Hinsdale/Spruce Reach Island Rhododendron Garden, which is billed as being ‘unlike any garden you’ve ever visited’. Unlike the traditional, manicured English garden styles, this is very much a wild garden, though carefully planned and put together in a very specific way.

Later we transfer to our overnight accommodation in Ashland. In the evening, we hope to offer the option of attending a play as part of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (details to be confirmed).

Friday 16 June 2017
Just outside Ashland is the Siskiyou Mountain Park where we will find fine examples of the Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana), which was named by David Douglas in honour of English botanist, Aylmer Bourke Lambert.

After an opportunity for lunch (not included) in Ashland, we depart for Crater Lake, famous for its deep blue water and sheer surrounding cliffs. Formed around 7,700 years ago by the collapse of the volcano Mount Mazama, the lake is the deepest in the United States, with a depth of 1,949 feet.

We continue to the Sunriver Resort in Central Oregon, where the evening is at leisure.

Saturday 17 June 2017
We start the day at one of Oregon’s wonders, the Smith Rock State Park, located in Central Oregon’s high desert near the towns of Redmond and Terrebonne.  Smith Rock is generally considered the birthplace of modern American sport climbing and is host to cutting-edge climbing routes.  As we drive through the canyon, keep an eye out for golden eagles, prairie falcons, mule deer, river otter and beaver.

We then drive over Mount Hood and stop at the famous Timberline Lodge for lunch (included) before continuing down the north face of Mount and exploring the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, 92,500 acres of unparalleled scenery. With the scenic Vista House in the foreground and the wide expanse of the Columbia River in the background, Women’s Forum State Park is one of the most popular places to take photographs of the Columbia Gorge, while Crown Point is a spectacular promontory, providing a panoramic view of the Columbia River. The Vista House was built on Crown Point in 1916 as a monument to Oregon’s early pioneers and a respite for travelers, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The building features a marble interior, stained and leaded glass windows, and brass fixtures – as well as rest rooms, a gift shop, and an interpretive display about the building of the road.

We then return to our hotel in Portland. Evening at leisure.

Sunday 18 June 2017
After our exhilarating tour of Oregon, we have allowed a day at leisure in Portland, a chance to relax and reflect on the wonders we have seen, and imagining how it must have appeared to that young Scots botanist all those years ago.

Monday 19 June 2017
We transfer to the airport in time for our return flight to London.

Tuesday 20 June 2017
We arrive in London, where the group will disperse or make onward connections.

What's Included Back to top of page

  • 11 nights’ hotel accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis: six nights in Portland; one night in Silverton; one night in Newport; one night in Face Rock; one night in Ashland; one night in Sunriver Resort
  • Welcome drink and dinner cruise and two lunches
  • Return flight from London to Portland (regional flight connections and flight upgrades available on request)
  • Comfortable coaching throughout 
  • Visits to the Portland International Rose Test Garden, Japanese Garden, Hoyt Arboretum and World Forestry Center, Pittock Mansion, Jane Kerr Platt garden, Crystal Springs rhododendron garden and selected private gardens in Portland; Heritage Seedlings, Oregon Garden, Bob Straub State Park, Sea Lion Caves, Darlingtonia State Natural Park, Shore Acres State Park, O.H. Hinsdale/Spruce Reach Island Rhododendron Garden, Siskiyou Mountain Park, Crater Lake, Smith Rock State Park and Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
  • Reserved seat for the Portland Grand Floral Parade
  • Presentation on ‘Finding David Douglas’
  • Services of a local guide, a Brightwater Holidays guide and an RHS Host

Supplements Per Person Back to top of page

  • Single room supplement    £1155.00
  • Insurance                           prices on request

Departure Points Back to top of page

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