Despite it being only 2 ½ acres, L&S Gardens is a place you could spend all day looking at the different plants, buildings or simply sitting on the porch talking with Linda and Sonny Stephenson.
The nursery and antique shop sits just outside LaPine, Oregon and is the go-to place if you want plants that will survive the Central Oregon climate.
“If you get plants here, they will survive just about anywhere,” Linda Stephenson said sitting in her favorite rocking chair. “Our climate is pretty cold, so if you get plants here they will be OK in just about any North American climate.”
Stephenson, who says she has always been a “dirt farmer,” said what you see at her store are things you won’t find at big box stores. She is a master gardener and hand picks the plants you find at her nursery, which is the very picture of a family-operated business.
She also plans and hosts Oregon’s only Rhubarb Festival every June – an event that attracts thousands.
The business started when Stephenson’s hobby greenhouse got too full and she advertised she was having a plant sale. That sale, which attracted a lot of people, turned into the couple purchasing the lot next door and turning it into a full-fledged nursery and gift shop.
“I love playing in my greenhouse,” she said. “Now here I am 24 years later doing it full time.”
The lot next to their home was overgrown, and has taken years to build up, with several greenhouses and outbuildings, numbered in the order they were constructed.
“My husband has built these as we have needed them,” she said. “This place is a work of love.”
And the several greenhouses show just how much she loves working in with plants – and keeping an amazing garden in her backyard next door which customers are allowed to tour. The range of colors, smells and variety of different plants can keep you busy for hours, looking at tags and talking with people on where to plant specific species.
But L&S is about more than just greenhouses and plants, it’s also a wonderful place to find unique gifts, outdoor decorations and antiques.
“Sometimes we get things in and I don’t know what it is,” Stephenson said with a laugh. “That’s one of the best parts of being here, seeing the grandparents tell their grandchildren what an antique tool did or how it worked.”
On the side of many of the buildings are tools used for equestrians, tack, farming and other items from a bygone era.
“One day my husband saw this chicken coop he liked and it fit, so now we have an old chicken coop,” she said. “That’s the eclectic type of stuff we have around here. It’s interesting and I’m here every day and see something new.”
Stephenson is filled with knowledge and you she doesn’t shy away from helping people at the counter or showing people one of the several books she has written. While gardening and helping people is obviously her passion, she has other interests too.
“I competed twice at the world Dutch oven championships,” she said. “I have even written several books with Dutch oven recipes.”
At the store you can also purchase Dutch ovens and even plan your trip around a time when she has friends over to cook in the old cast-iron pots.
Stephenson is a fifth-generation Oregonian and her family came to Oregon on the Oregon Trail – which explains her love of Oregon agriculture, history and Dutch oven cooking.
About L&S Gardens: A 2 ½ acre garden store that features greenhouses, antiques, tips and a wide arrange of gardening tools and supplies. They even deliver dirt, gravel and barkdust to local customers, but for those out of town visitors, you can find unique gifts and plants that will thrive in just about any North American climate.
What to bring: Comfortable shoes will help, especially if you are planning on exploring the entire garden. Also, as this is a mostly-outdoor attraction, like always in Oregon, make sure you dress for the climate.
Tip: Don’t rush through the garden and make sure to ask questions. The lot isn’t that big, but there are many nooks and crannies that hide all different types of treasures. My first stop was in the greenhouses, and while they are certainly colorful, the many antiques and garden decorations are also worth a look. If you are looking for a specific plant or decoration, Linda and her great staff will take the time to find what you are looking for.
Season: The store is open March through September.
Getting there: Take Highway 97 into La Pine, Oregon. Turn east onto Finley Butte Rd. (beside the Sugar Pine Café). Take a SHARP right onto South Huntington Rd. (behind the Sugar Pine Café). Proceed 1¾ miles. We are on the left side of the road. The address is 50808 South Huntington Road, La Pine.
By Patrick Johnson