By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

At home in the country

Formal flower gardens and luxuriant hanging baskets showcase Melissa’s Country Gardens Nursery, which specializes in residential and commercial flower baskets, as well as her husband Joe’s landscaping business.

Roses and shrubs surround the chicken run and shed near their house. Two massive walnut trees, one English and one black, dominate the front.

Behind the house, a formal lawn surrounded by flower beds creates a peaceful gathering place, complete with a pool. Trees and shrubs at the back, and a grape trellis running down the side, form a little room.

There is a vegetable garden off to the left, flanked by a half-acre orchard. A line of blueberries runs across the top of the orchard.

But nothing is quite as segregated as it seems at first glance.

There are vegetables growing in the center of the flower bed. In fact, every planting spot seems to feature something to eat somewhere.

Meander along the garden path and you’ll find strawberries have spread themselves across it. And raspberries grow along one side of the shed.

Next to the chicken run is a spot they call the “staging area.” There, potted plants they’ve purchased await permanent homes somewhere in the landscape.

The garden will be one of five featured on the McMinnville Garden Club’s annual tour, set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 22. This year’s theme, honoring the event’s 14th anniversary, is “Bountiful Gardens.”

The annual Garden Faire is also set for June 22. It will run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the corner of Third and Cowls streets in downtown McMinnville.

The fair is free, but the club is requesting a $10 donation for each tour ticket, to fund scholarships and community garden projects. To purchase, visit the Thursday Farmers Market between 1 and 6 p.m. on Cowls Street, go to or call club member Rosemary Vertregt at 503-472-7265.

The McLaughlins dedicate roughly two and a quarter acres, by Joe’s estimate, to their yards and gardens. And it is all wheelchair-accessible, he noted.

Six years ago, when the couple’s son, Jesse, was shot by a careless hunter, leaving him a quadriplegic, the community raised money to add an apartment to the family home.

In conjunction with that, Joe carefully shaped the yard to allow wheelchair access. He also keeps the trees in the orchard pruned small enough so no ladder is required for care or harvesting.

“I figure when I’m 100, I’ll still be able to get around,” he said.

Joe likes to experiment with grafting in the orchard, which features 90 fruit trees of various types. Many are varieties of apple, as the whole family loves cider.

Beyond the orchard stand a set of greenhouses supporting the nursery operation. Across the driveway, the property features horse barns and pasture.

The McLaughlins once raised beef cattle. These days, they have meat chickens instead.

The family loves to gather to harvest fruit and vegetables for freezing and canning, to hold cider parties, or to just enjoy suppers together. The home place still supplies generous amounts of produce for all.

“Hopefully, the place speaks for itself,” Melissa said. “Sometimes it’s a reflection of what we like to do, and sometimes of how much time we have, or don’t have.”

The lovely setting has taken years to create, the couple said.

“When we moved here, the only thing here were some trees and weeds five feet tall,” Joe said. “We couldn’t see the kids when they were running around.”

Over time, they gradually added various features.

“We work well together in the creative process,” Joe said. “She’ll have ideas or I’ll have ideas, and she’ll go, ‘I can’t stand that,’ and make changes, and then I’ll go, ‘I can’t stand that’ and make changes, and then it looks beautiful.”

Melissa has recently taken up a new hobby — beekeeping. She is attending the Oregon State University Extension Service’s master beekeeping course.

Five hives, four Langstroth and one top bar, occupy a niche near the orchard.

Off to one side, screened by shrubs and trees, is a second, smaller area they have developed into what they call the meditation garden. It’s a peaceful little place where one can be alone with one’s thoughts while being serenaded by the hum of bees working their magic on the other side of the tree wall.

The hives have dramatically increased pollination in the orchard, the couple said.

A chair is positioned near the hives.

“When we had one hive, it was kind of peaceful to sit over there,” Joe said. “Now it’s a like a freeway, with all this crazy bee energy.”


What: The McMinnville Garden Club's annual Garden Tour and Garden Faire

Where: Five gardens in and around McMinnville. The fair — with vendors selling plants, garden art and other items — is held on Cowls Street in downtown McMinnville.

Tickets: Garden Faire admission is free. To find tickets for the tour, visit the Thursday Farmers Market between 1 and 6 p.m. on Cowls Street, visit or call club member Rosemary Vertregt at 503-472-7265. The club asks a $10 donation per ticket.

More information:

Five gardens will be featured in the McMinnville Garden Club's annual Tour of Gardens. Descriptions follow.

  • Garry and Marilyn Coats, 380 S.W. Russ Court. Arbors and beds of sun-loving plants combine with a pond and waterfall to create a lush environment. There isn't room enough for a full vegetable garden, but the couple grows asparagus, strawberries and herbs.
  • Alan and Glenda Wenner, 2207 S.W. Kauer Drive. Both Master Gardeners, the Wenners have created a lush and colorful garden filled with flowers and fruit trees, while raised beds provide vegetables and small fruits.
  • Dan and Ginny Upton, 763 N.W. Baker Creek Lane. A reprise from the 2007 tour, the Upton's one-acre site has undergone some changes over the years. Home to both wildlife-friendly areas and sections fenced off to protect plantings from deer, it includes an orchard, redwood grove, vegetable garden and various flower gardens and seating areas.
  • Dennis and Delores Lauber, 2445 N.E. Cowls Court. Every corner of this city lot has been utilized, with heritage plants from Delores' mother, grapes, two fruit trees, berries, kiwi, rhubarb and herbs, as well as flowers and outdoor living areas.
  • Joe and Melissa McLaughlin, 6275 N.W. Poverty Bend Road. Although the McLaughlins enjoy 50 acres, they actively garden on a little more than two acres, including lawns, flower beds, an orchard, vegetable garden, strawberry bed and beehives.
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