When you walk down Broadway Street, you notice the patches of flowers planted along the sidewalk — all bursting with color, no matter the season. These gardens and the accompanying tree canopy give downtown Seaside an inviting charm. What’s less obvious is the story that each of these so-called pocket gardens tells.
The author of those stories is Pamela Fleming, owner of Nature’s Helper, a local landscape company. She and her staff of two are responsible for the design and ongoing care of more than a hundred pocket gardens in Seaside along Holladay Drive and Columbia Street between Avenue A and 1st Avenue, as well as along Broadway. There is a rhyme and reason for every annual, every perennial, every herb and every grass that Fleming has meticulously chosen to plant.
To give you a glimpse of Fleming’s wisdom and whimsy, we invite you to take a walking tour of Seaside’s pocket gardens. Perhaps they’ll inspire you to plant a little something when you return home.
As you depart the Visitors Bureau at Highway 101 and Broadway, cross the highway and walk down Broadway Street toward the ocean. You’ll be strolling through the historic Gilbert District, the oldest part of Seaside.
The Maroon Garden
In front of 734 Broadway
Once the site of the First State Bank, the building at 734 Broadway has maintained its stately facade. Fleming chose purple asters, plum heuchera and burgundy dianthus for this pocket garden to play off the building’s maroon trim. It’s one of several examples where Fleming has drawn inspiration from a building’s color palette to create a garden to complement its surroundings.
The Apothecary Garden
In front of Beach Books
As you walk west, you’ll come to Beach Books on the corner of Broadway and North Holladay Drive. Years ago, this location was the site of Seaside’s drugstore. Paying homage to the previous occupant, Fleming planted a garden of plants that not only are attractive but have medicinal properties, such as salix, a willow whose leaves can be soaked to make a tonic to relieve pain and fever, and witch hazel, widely known for easing inflammation and soothing sensitive skin. You’ll even find the showy phygelius used in voodoo medicine.
The Tavern Garden
In front of Bridge Tender Tavern
Fleming continues her themed gardens just over the bridge in front of the Bridge Tender Tavern. Here you’ll see a wine-colored smoke tree with tobacco planted at its base. Look carefully to spot nigella, nicknamed Love-in-a-Mist, which Fleming jokes can be found in a tavern. And she’s planted thyme because “that’s what you lose if you stay in a bar for too long.”
The Edible Gardens
In front of Dooger’s & Pig ’N Pancake
Much of what you see planted in the pocket garden in front of Dooger’s Seafood & Grill actually is edible, including Cuban oregano, lavender, parsley, rosemary and viola flowers. At Pig ’N Pancake, the menu expands to include blueberries, melissa lemon balm, lovage (tastes like celery), sanguisorba (tastes like cucumber) and borage, a blue star-like flower that can be used in salads, desserts or cocktails (again, tastes like cucumber). If you’re not sure what’s what, pick a small leaf, rub it between your fingers and then smell it.
The Asian Garden
In front of China Collection
The building at the corner of Broadway and North Edgewood Street, across from Dooger’s, used to look much different. It had a red roof, similar to those in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Fleming turned its pocket garden into an Asian garden with a focus on texture — a coastal pine, boxwoods, grasses and rock. While the red roof is gone, the building does house an Asian gift shop.
The Chocolate Garden
In front of Phillips Candies
Granted, you really need to know your plants to pick up on Fleming’s decadent chocolate garden just to the side of Phillips Candies — chocolate geraniums, coco grass, chocolate cosmos and stewartia, a tree with a striking brown bark. Sorry, no sampling here!
The Seaview Garden
At the Turnaround
As you approach the ocean, you’ll notice that the pocket gardens change. The plants have a lower profile to survive the strong winds, and they’re naturally resilient to salt air. At the Turnaround, you’ll find a pocket garden tucked between the Seaside sign and the statue of Lewis and Clark. Here heathers of all different colors create a rich tapestry, and bright-pink sea thrifts add pops of color. Make sure to take a photo at what’s arguably Seaside’s most Instagrammed location.