Monday, May 19, 2014

Portland (Oregon) Japanese Garden: Five Gardens, Four Seasons

Last week we were out in Oregon for our son's graduation and took some time to tour the coast and see  Portland's sites. Number one on my Portland list is always the Japanese Garden. Having been there only in the fall, it was spectacular to see it in full spring glory!

Up in the hills above the city, what is always shocking is the height of the trees in Oregon, and the understory they allow. The majesty of this is awe inspiring to the East Coast dweller.

It was a great time of year to view the garden, as the rhododendrons and azaleas were in peak bloom. Here is the Flat Garden, with plantings symbolizing the four seasons. The Japanese laceleaf red maple to the right representing Fall, the black pines around the central lantern being Winter, the weeping cherry standing in for Spring (out of the picture to the left) and the gravel with islands of moss representing water for Summer.

This 5.5 acres is laid out with five distinct gardens. The Flat Garden, the Tea Garden, The Strolling Pond Garden, the Natural Garden and the Sand and Stone Garden are designed with the key Japanese garden elements of stone, plants and water in mind. Arbors, bridges, lanterns all add the finishing touches. 

Everything represents the natural world and our place in it. Designed by Professor Takuma Tono in 1963, he used concepts from Shinto, Buddhist and Taoist traditions when deciding on the elements. Considered to be the "most beautiful and authentic Japanese Garden in the world outside of Japan", this garden incorporates many native plants to Oregon and not Japan. This emphasizes the philosophy behind Japanese gardening, which is about incorporating all the elements in the natural world in a harmonious way, without being about specific plants.

Sculpture in a  reserved way adds a moment of reflection at the Strolling Pond Garden.

The Natural Garden is a wonder for moss and shade garden lovers. Dappled sunlight and tended moss create the idyllic setting but which takes an artists eye to cultivate.

Having my mother-in-law take the tour, she said they talked a lot about the pruning. They do most of the big pruning in summer, right after the blossoms fade. These Azalea hedges look in peak shape.

Water is found everywhere, from trickling brooks to waterfalls. Sound and reflection add to sensory experience. The journey is completed with fragrant blossoms and leaves with a variety of textures. Even on their busiest day of the year (Mother's day) we enjoyed it without feeling like the people took away from the experience. A must see next time Oregon way!

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