Wednesday, September 23, 2009

ABC Wednesday: The Portland Japanese Garden

On my recent trip to Oregon, I had the opportunity to visit the Portland Japanese Garden. Opened to the public in 1967, the garden has been described by a former Ambassador of Japan to the U.S. as "the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan."

Situated on 5 1/2 acres above the city, this magnificent garden can be reached via a free shuttle or a short climb up stone steps. If you are able, the walk through the Antique Gate and up the steeply ascending pathway is worth the exercise to give a glimpse of the beauty that lies within.

Several vantage points within the garden provide panoramic views of the city of Portland with Mount Hood in the distance.

While the garden was designed to be as authentic as possible, over time it has evolved, incorporating more plants native to the Pacific Northwest. You will find a magnificent example of a Japanese maple like the one above.

But you will also see the tall black pines surrounding the garden, providing a dense canopy of shade.

"Japanese gardens have an ancient history influenced by Shinto, Buddhist, and
Taoist philosphies. Upon entering a Japanese garden the hope is to realize
a sense of peace, harmony, and tranquility."

"Three primary elements are used in every Japanese garden design: stone, the "bones" of the landscape; water, the life-giving force; and plants, the tapestry of the four seasons. Other important elements include stone lanterns, water basins, arbors, and bridges."

Antique pagoda lantern given to Portland by its Sister City, Sapporo, Japan.
Stones at its base are in the shape of the island of Hokkaido.

The Portland Garden includes five different garden styles--the Flat Garden, the Stroll Garden, the Tea Garden, the Natural Garden, and the Sand and Stone Garden.

The Natural Garden takes the visitor down the hillside along small streams and waterfalls. Ferns, trees, and mosses grow in their natural state here.

Besides the authentic Moon Bridge (not pictured here), the visitor can walk across the Zig Zag Bridge past beds of ferns and iris.

The element of water is represented throughout the garden, most dramatically by the Heavenly Falls which rush into the koi-filled Lower Pond. In front of the falls are seven paving stones representing the Big Dipper.

The Sand and Stone Garden is the most abstract of all the gardening styles. Most of us would think of this as a "Zen Garden," but the proper name is Karesansui, meaning "dry landscape."

The sand is carefully raked to suggest the sea.

Near the Flat Garden is the Poetry Stone, which is inscribed with a haiku:
"Here, miles from Japan
I stand as if warmed by the
Spring sunshine of home."

I have visited several Japanese gardens over the years, including a newer garden on our local university campus, but I've never seen one as large or as beautiful as Portland's. While it's not a gardening style I would ever attempt at home, a Japanese garden always inspires awe in me. Walking through the gates, one cannot help but feel a pervading sense of peace and serenity.

"This is a place to discard worldly thoughts and concerns and see oneself as a small but integral part of the universe." *

* All quotes taken from the brochure provided to visitors by the Portland Japanese Garden.

For other topics on the letter J this week, visit the ABC blog sponsored by Mrs. Nesbitt and the ABC Team.

An update on my last post: Our local radio station has come to the rescue once again. The mystery swarms of bugs have been identified as soybean aphids. Apparently, our cool, wet summer provided an ideal breeding ground for them this year. And incidentally--note to Monica--their favorite place to breed is in buckthorn:)


  1. I just love Japanese gardens that are not too austere.
    As I have a Japanese connection with my family, we have ishidoro (lanterns) and things all over the place and in the house Japanese artifacts.

  2. There really is something so elegant and serene about Japanese gardens Rose and your lovely post reflects that perfectly.

    I love the Poetry Stone with its haiku, beautiful in its simplicity!

    I also loved the photo of The Heavenly Falls and the final photo with the reflections in the water sums up the beauty of the garden so well.

    How very profound the final quote is! I enjoyed sharing your visit very much Rose, thank you. :)

  3. Good to know with the soybean aphids, very interesting.
    Love the water features in a Japanese garden.

  4. What a beautiful place to visit. I don't think I have ever been to an official Japanese garden. They really do evoke peace and serenity.

  5. Hi Rose, While the order and simplicity of Japanese gardens certainly fits my interior design philosophy, my personal gardening style is willy nilly and colorful. Still, I always enjoy visiting Japanese gardens; they're very peaceful and serene, especially in a big city. It looks like a great place!

  6. Beautiful garden and photos. I like the concept of plants as a tapestry of the season. Interesting to learn of the 4 different forms of the garden. Well done post!

  7. I have seen only one "proper" Japanese garden - in San Francisco. This reminded me of it. Thank you for sharing!

  8. It is most lovely and a favorite garden style of mine. I like the lushness and water. I find it interesting about the name of Zen gardens. Makes sense to call it a dry garden yet it represents the sea. Maybe the Japanese were the first water conscious gardeners.

  9. Rose, your informative tour of the Portland Japanese Garden was a delight ... thank you, big time. I so enjoy the beauty and serenity of Japanese Gardens ... a delightful way to begin my day.

  10. Thanksfor taking us on a tour in that beautiful garden! You have explained everything so well!

  11. We both love the Japanese Garden in Portland! What a great post! Beautiful shots!

    Have a great day!


  12. Rose, I went to that garden many years ago and remember thinking it was the most beautiful Japanese garden I'd ever seen. And I've seen a few more after that one but the Portland one is still my favorite. Thanks for the lovely tour and the education.

  13. I am not the biggest fan of Japanese Gardens, because I like lots of color, and I've only seen segments of what are probably not even true Japanese gardens. What you've pictured looks amazing. Especially the waterfall and the photo with the reflection in the pond water. Lovely!

  14. Rose, first I want to say I love your new header. The colors are so vibrant, exciting.

    This tour of the garden is so nice. I can feel the serenity emanating from the photos. It must have been such a delight to visit.

  15. Thanks for this - enjoyed your visit and will put this one on my list.

  16. It does look like a real Japanese garden. Your photos are lovely and so tranquil. Just what I needed today. Thanks for the tour!

  17. Your photos definitely make me want to go visit the Japanese Gardens in Portland, Oregon. Great post and gorgeous photos.

  18. That's a truly beautiful place. Great photos.

  19. Great photos of a gorgeous garden. This is a wonderful post and I enjoyed strolling through the garden with you. I love the view of Portland from the garden...and Heavenly Falls is beautiful. Thanks for all the info, it was interesting.

  20. I have never seen a Japanese garden but it does look fascinating - and that one surely must be one of the largest and most varied!

  21. What a lovely place! There's a Japanese garden near me and pictures like this are motivating me to finally see it. Your new header is fabulous, by the way!

  22. Dear Rose,
    I also visited this garden when I visited my daughter a couple of years ago. It is an amazing place. Your photos reminded me of the afternoon I spent with my daughter in the most pleasant of surroundings. I would love to have a haiku stome in my garden.
    The gift shop was nice too!
    The bug nectaring at the jasmine in my post today was indeed a Hummingbird moth. They are pretty bugs.

  23. Rose, It looks like you had a beautiful day to tour the garden and what a beautiful garden it is. I love visiting botanical centers and always enjoy the peace and serenity that a Japanese garden has...While I wouldn't want this style of garden...too much hard maintenance. I think bringing quiet spots into a garden really help us relax. Thanks for a wonderful and informative tour.


  24. It looks so cool & peaceful. I want to go to Portland!

  25. If I ever go to Portland, OR, this will definitely be a stop. LOVELY photos.

  26. This one is on my bucket list, Rose. Thanks for showing some parts I have never seen featured before. And thanks for the correct word for the dry landscape, which reminds me I need to go rake mine and get the leaves off of it. :-)

  27. Maggie May, Maybe you could plant a small corner in your garden with your granddaughters for your very own Japanese garden?

    Shy Songbird, Thank you; you can't help but feel more peaceful in one of these gardens.

    Janet, We have an excellent entomology department at our local university, so any insects that affect the area are quickly identified!

    Susie, You'll have to visit one--they are so peaceful.

    Monica, I agree completely, and you know that "willy-nilly" is definitely my style, too:)

    Janie, I knew there was symbolism in each element of a Japanese garden, but I really didn't understand it until visiting this one.

    RuneE, The Portland garden is touted as the largest Japanese garden in the U.S. But I imagine San Francisco's is also beautiful.

    Tina, I love all the spirituality connected with Japanese gardens. They certainly do affect your spirit when you visit.

    Joey, This would be the perfect place to start the day with a little quiet meditation. So glad to have you back!

  28. Reader Wil, Thank you! There's so much more to a Japanese Garden, but I wanted to keep this rather short.

    Sylvia K, I thought you had probably visited this garden before! The Rose Garden is on my list for my next visit.

    Jean, I read up on it a little more and found out it's the largest in the U.S. Our local Japanese Garden is still a "baby" so it can't begin to compare.

    Sweet Bay, I love to visit these gardens, but it's not my style either. For one thing, I could never keep it neat-looking:)

    Lisa, Thanks on the header--I have really loved this combination in the garden this summer. It was a great place to visit, especially after spending the rest of the time helping Daughter:)

    Galloping, If you're in the Portland area, it's definitely worth a visit!

    Sarah, Wouldn't it be nice to have a place like this to visit every time we felt stressed?

    JarieLyn, Thank you, and thanks for visiting!

    Anthony, Thanks; the pictures weren't as good as I'd hoped because of the sun at midday.

    Carol, Thank you; it's a place I will visit again.

    Jay, The Portland garden is the largest in the U.S. Lots of fascinating things to see as well as just soaking up the atmosphere.

    Rose, Do go visit! Where is it? I was thinking there's a large Japanese Garden in the Rockford area; is that it?

  29. Sherry, I thought you might have visited this garden--isn't it beautiful? A haiku stone would be a perfect addition to your garden!

    Gail, Visiting this garden was a welcome respite from my working vacation:) Some day I might plant one little corner of my garden with some Japanese elements--small enough so I can maintain it, too.

    MMD, I think I went at the perfect time--no rain! With Youngest Daughter there, I plan to go back a few times.

    Roger, Thank you; definitely worth the visit!

    Frances, I thought of you when I saw the Zen garden. Perhaps I few more years of practicing raking techniques will help you to get those concentric circles:)

  30. What a lovely garden. We have a famous oriental garden here that I've never visited.

    I suppose there will be an explosion in the asian lady beetle population too match the aphids. Do they come into your house overwinter, Rose? Not the aphids but the beetles.

  31. Those gardens evoke are a lovely example of tranquil beauty. Thanks for the tour and the lovely photos. :)

  32. a lovely walk - I especially like the pagoda and the waterfall.

  33. How lovely, Rose - now have both Portland and San Francisco Japanese gardens on wishlist!

    If you're making a collection, there's a small but very special handmade Japanese Garden here in Austin ;-] Taniguchi Garden

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  34. What a beautiful garden! I love the waterfall and the Zen garden. Thanks for sharing it with us. Happy blogging!

  35. What a beautiful Field Trip! Thanks for taking us along. I especially loved the Zen Garden...maybe because just coming out of a scorcher of a summer, anything that doesn't have to be watered is appealing. But truthfully, it looks as peaceful as a Reflection Pond.

  36. Eeks! How did I miss this post??
    Lovely gardens! Just beautiful! And that waterfall! I loved the sand and stone garden too. I thought those stones were otters or beavers poking their heads up through the water.

    Thanks for taking us along. It is a very peaceful place to visit.

  37. Marnie, I just read an article about the Asian lady beetles feasting on the aphids. Yes, I've noticed them starting to sneak in. The article mentioned they are good bugs--outside the house:)

    Racquel, The tranquillity is what I like so much about a Japanese garden.

    Gerald, I only wish I could have a waterfall in my garden:)

    Annie, Thanks for the tip; someday I hope to visit many of the gardens on my "bucket list."

    Citydiggity, There are so many beautiful gardens I've visited via cyberspace:) It's nice to see some of them in person.

    MG, I think a Zen garden would be perfect for a Texas garden:)

    Wendy, I do the same thing--somehow some posts seem to hide in my blogroll:) This would be a great place to visit every day for some quiet meditation.

  38. Love the tranqility a Japanese garden creates. These images reflect just that. Oh how wonderful to have the space to have such a ZEN garden with the sand and stone. A wonderful tour that you had in this garden Rose!
    thank you for sharing! hugs
    We are making plans to go to AZ again in Mar..will you?

  39. pretty and peaceful looking, I'd be happy with a bonsi of this quality!

  40. As my dad used to say, "Clever, those Japanese!" Their order and tranquility, alas, are what I always strive for here but never can quite achieve. Too much Ogle-ing involved, I suspect. You mentioned something in your comment on my site about someone else posting about King David and Bathsheba but didn't mention where to find it. Love this post about visiting a famous garden. (Sigh) I miss MOBOT!


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