Lodging Review: A Suite of Gardens on the Oregon Coast
(Seaside, Oregon) - It's one of those groovy secrets in Seaside that sit tucked away in those suburban neighborhoods behind the beachfront homes that everyone admires. Wander along Downing Street, and you’ll encounter a sudden flood of color (especially in the summertime), between the summer houses, rentals and fulltime residents. It bursts suddenly into life, as an abundance of flowers and fauna simultaneously smack you in the head and massage your color receptors, while that heady aroma of mid-year bulbs lovingly floats its way into your nasal passages.
It is Weiss' Paradise Suites, a literal oasis of a small lodging, which also includes a handful of nifty vacation rentals. Around ten rooms make their own little waves a ways beyond the beach, built more like rustic little cottages that forgot they were rustic and went straight into the luxury category. Each of them comes armed with a garden hanging from its deck, while inside things like hardwood floors, classy furniture and vibrant color designs make for a feel that’s upscale yet not overbearingly so, in fact very much inviting and homey at the same time.
This is all the brainchild of Donna Weiss, a firespark of a local woman of whom it could be said is Seaside’s “mad gardener.” Walking up to each unit is a bit reminiscent of that surreal scene in “L.A. Story,” where Steve Martin and his late 30-something love interest suddenly leave reality and enter some massive, lush garden, as stone lion statues bow their heads and the grand music of Enya sweeps you into the dreamy moment.
As you approach, the flower aroma hits you, like you’re walking into a wall of it. And on both sides, you’re surrounded by these most pleasant plants as you walk into your door. Enya never appears, nor any animated statues, but whatever. It is rather intoxicating. Hanging out on the deck is also a major kick in the pants.
Weiss knows it too. She said plenty of people slow down when they drive by and take photographs, and numerous folks will stop and chat with her about the bevy of flowers.
Weiss first bought the place in 1990 – but her roots in Seaside go way back, all the way to World War II.
“My too older sisters were born in Seaside,” Weiss said. “But the family moved to Portland in the late 40's, and I was born and raised in Portland. In 1986, I met my husband Art and moved to Encino, California. Being an Oregonian, I did not like California. When I showed Art Seaside, he said we are moving here.”
The rentals were purchased a few years into the 90’s, while all kinds of remodeling happened throughout that decade. At one point, the decks were built, but Donna thought there was something missing. Color – she thought to herself – and then started adding planters. When she discovered something a little more practical, called Granny’s Garden Socks, the mad gardener of Seaside was born.
“They were perfect to cover the railings and give privacy to the guests,” she said. “Each year I added more and more, constantly experimenting with different flowers. By 1998, I had reached the present flower display.”
Now there are approximately 1500 – 1700 bulbs lacing the property, consisting of dahlias, lilies and gladiolas. Another 1500 to 2000 perennials like wave petunias and verbena add their presence.
The inventory of material includes:
125-150 Hanging Bags (Granny's Garden Socks)
If Weiss’ plant population were an army, they’d conquer anything in their path. In fact, she does take these to plant shows – and often kicks major plant-growing butt, snagging lots of awards.
What’s her gardening secret?
“Extensive drip watering system helps, but with the ever changing weather at the coast I still need to spend several hours each day making sure plants are not too dry or too wet,” she said. “Caring for my flowers takes about three to five hours a day. Always pruning, clipping - a necessity to keep things healthy and looking their best.”
She uses a product called Messenger, containing a harpin protein that she says does wonders (made by Eden Bioscience in Washington State).
“Not only does it make the flowers larger and brighter, I almost never have a problem with disease or insects,” she said. “I also use their product called Mighty Plant.”
“The process actually starts in March when dividing the bulbs takes place,” she said. “Then depending on the weather and growing season, starting baskets and bags takes about four to six weeks usually, late April to early May.”
She has another home, on the water, at the Portland Yacht Club in Portland. That too, she said, is covered in flowers.
The vacation rentals lurk just around the corner and cover about a block all their own. A series of duplexes, they include two floors, some awesome architectural nuggets and a backyard area that comes complete with barbecue stuff and play equipment for kiddies.
All of this is mere blocks to the beach itself, around two or three to be nearly exact. You can even hear the waves at night. It’s also close walking distance to Seaside’s downtown area. 741 S. Downing, Seaside, Oregon. (503) 738-6691. 800-738-6691. www.SeasideSuites.com
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