Portland Japanese Garden: Portland Garden Bloggers Fling


The second day of the 7th annual Garden Bloggers Fling, held in Portland in mid-July, began in the renowned Portland Japanese Garden, often described as the most authentic of its kind outside of Japan.


I had visited a few days earlier with my husband on a hot, sunny morning. It was a pleasure to see it again, and I already knew where the cool, shady places were — like under the skirt of this Japanese maple.


It’s a good garden for hot weather. Water trickles from bamboo fountains throughout the garden, offering its cooling music.


Ponds, streams, and waterfalls abound as well, surrounded by a tapestry of greenery.


While water is absent from the dry garden, raked white gravel represents the sea surrounding mossy islands. The scene, I learned, is meant to be appreciated as you would a painting, from a single perspective. You do not enter the garden but view it from a veranda.


The overhanging roof of the veranda frames the view, blocking out the tall native firs in the background and bringing the scene down to human scale.


Just as the teahouse roof does for this mossy garden


A peaceful scene


In other parts of the garden, bright sunlight beautifully illuminated the leaves of hundreds of maples like stained glass.


This glowing Japanese maple shelters a stone lantern.


Nearby a dramatic waterfall cascades into a koi-filled pond.


Wending its way across one end of the pond is a traditional wooden zig-zag bridge. Koi trail along beside you, like pets expecting a treat.


The last of the irises were drooping on their stems under the hot sun.


A garden worker was clipping the spent flowers and placing them in a basket. I asked what she was planning to do with the flowers, thinking a few might be floated in a fountain or something, but she told me no, they would be discarded. A pity — they were still quite pretty in the basket.


A covered gate marks the passage between the pond and the teahouse garden.


Sunlight was gilding the garden.


Here’s Helen Battersby, host of next year’s Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto, on the moon bridge, taking in the view.


Pagoda sculpture


A carved image half-buried on a mossy hillside looks like an ancient relic.


The stone paths and bridges throughout the garden entice you to explore, but slowly, stepping carefully so as not to rush through the garden.


Here a casual stair of flat boulders meets a more formal, cut-stone stair…


…which serpentines down a gloamy slope between moss-draped boulders.


The stair is itself a work of art.


Moss, shrub, and tree wrap you in a green glow here.


Mossy boulders give a sense of timelessness to the scene, even as a stream trickles by and flowers bloom and fade, illustrating the passage of time.


I caught the end of a guided tour by Sadafumi Uchiyama, the Garden Curator, and immediately regretted not hearing his entire tour.


Mr. Uchiyama spoke eloquently about the purpose, symbolism, and techniques involved in Japanese gardens, giving me a much greater understanding and appreciation of the style than I’d ever have gotten on my own.


Here’s the zen garden, a garden composed entirely of stone, meant to be viewed, as with the other dry garden, from a single perspective. A wall encloses the scene, focusing your gaze on the gravel “water,” with raked ripples around seven floating stones, all seeming to point toward a tall, figure-like stone at the rear.


The scene is meant to be harmonious and pleasing to the eye, Mr. Uchiyama explained, but it also represents a Japanese legend about the Buddha sacrificing himself to save a starving tiger and her cubs, illustrating the virtue of compassion.


I’ll conclude with another glowing bouquet of sunlit leaves.


After leaving the Japanese Garden we walked over to the Rose Garden amphitheater, where we had a group picture made. Here we are, the Portland Flingers — what a fun group!

Up next: Fling co-host Loree Bohl’s spikylicious Danger Garden. For a look back at the John Greenlee-designed Westwind Farm Studio gardens, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Westwind Farm Studio: Portland Garden Bloggers Fling


Both buses filled with 80 hot, tired bloggers bumped into a lavender field at the end of the first touring day of the Garden Bloggers Fling in Portland, Oregon, in mid-July. I tiredly thought, “How nice, a lovely field of lavender.” But what I didn’t realize was that a breathtaking garden awaited just down the hill, perched on an overlook with the hazy, blue undulations of mountains in the distance.


After the appetizer of lavender rows and a hillside stroll through grasses and past olive trees, we paused under a tree where a server stood behind a table, pouring wine. One of our party, a man wearing a straw hat with bouquets of grasses and flowers tucked in the brim, began talking about his recent redesign of sections of the garden. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized ornamental grass expert, nursery owner, and author John Greenlee had been touring with us all day.


I reviewed John’s book The American Meadow Garden in 2011 and am a fan of his inspired work with grasses. Seeing his work in person was a treat.


After admiring the tall grasses of the hillside entry…


…I stepped through the portico between driveway and house…


…and entered the “civilized” house garden, zenlike with the clean, angular lines of a yoga house, swimming pool, and rectangular lawn. All my tiredness fell away as I took in the scene.


A flowery, grassy garden flowing down the slope above the pool, which attracted all eyes except those with their feet in the pool, is anything but zen. I love its frothy exuberance.


Where the lawn abuts the garden, it takes on the look of a mown space in a meadow — a neat trick. Steps lead up from the lawn to a patio with a vine-draped, stacked-boulder fireplace. From there, a path serpentines its way up the slope to a greenhouse and then back down a different route. The garden, said Greenlee, always wants to revert back to forest. It’s a battle to keep it at bay, he told us, in order to create sunny spaces for flowering perennials and meadowy grasses.


I like how boulders are used to “soften” the angular lines of the steps, blending them into the garden and holding soil in place as well.


On the patio, there’s the amiable Jim Peterson, publisher of Garden Design, his wife Val, and Kate, a Portland blogger.


A dahlia-and-sedge vignette by the patio


The view up the slope


And down to the yoga house


A hidden, tea-stained pond surprises amid grasses and ferns.


A small stream tumbles down the hill to feed the pond.


Starting up the hill — shazam! A daylily and lamb’s ear gauntlet!


Jean braves it, as colorfully clothed as the daylilies themselves.


Sweet peas — still blooming in mid-July. I’m used to seeing them in spring in Austin.


Of course our daylilies are mostly done too, but those in the Pacific Northwest were just getting their groove on.


They segue into beebalm, one of my favorites, further up the hill.


A quick peek inside the greenhouse rewarded me with this succulent and cactus combo.


Making my way back down to the pool, I stopped to admire a monumental, rusty steel sculpture placed so as a frame a view of the distant mountains from inside the yoga house. (I wish I’d thought to walk around for that view myself. I only notice it now.)


It color coordinates with the rudbeckia quite nicely.


It’s a pool party!


Though we’re looking at the back of people’s heads, this image gives you a sense of how the uphill garden relates to the pool area.


Turning the other direction, the view opens up to Mother Nature’s garden. The sun-warmed meadow that allows enjoyment of the view is part of Greenlee’s design, which involved clearing out a lot of Douglas fir. There are plenty remaining, he pointed out.


A fiery stand of beebalm attracted not just me…


…but a busy hummingbird as well.


Crocosmia and Russian sage — fire and ice — edge the overlook.


Ghostly eryngium and butter-pat blooms of Jerusalem sage


Looking back, a mown path curves between abundantly planted perennial borders.


A winding drive leads further down the hill, through tawny grasses…


…and Italianesque olives and cypresses (I think?).


Grapes trained along steel arbors are echoed by a blue, steel sculpture of grape leaves. This is part of what makes Westwind a “farm studio,” I expect, along with the lavender field just above. It was a gorgeous and calming end to the first day of the Portland Fling.

Up next: The serenely beautiful Portland Japanese Garden. For a look back at the hillside splendor of Old Germantown Gardens, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Old Germantown Gardens: Portland Garden Bloggers Fling


The first private garden on the Portland Garden Bloggers Fling tour last weekend was, at 2 acres, large enough to accommodate our entire group of approximately 80 bloggers. Old Germantown Gardens, created over 23 years by Bruce Wakefield and Jerry Grossnickle, is a masterpiece of a garden built on a steeply sloping hillside.


The garden drops off sharply behind the house, and a 2nd-floor deck overlooks the sunny spaces below. Here’s a slightly different view. Just look at the wonderful use of form — all those spheres, pillars, and cones — which adds structure in counterpoint to billowing perennials.


Also, I’m smitten by the golden hues of the conifers used in such abundance throughout the garden.


Undulating terracing laid by the owners tames the slope. They designed, built, and planted the entire garden themselves and unbelievably still maintain it as well, which takes 20 hours per week from each of them. (See Portland Monthly‘s 2009 story about the garden’s evolution.)


Eighty people can find solitude in this spacious garden, or they can enjoy numerous seating areas strategically positioned high and low.


Looking the other direction from the upper deck, you see a narrow lawn surrounded by English-style flowering borders, with a backdrop of tall evergreen and deciduous trees.


A conical punctuation mark echoes the golden tree in the background.


It’s reminiscent of this smaller-scaled scene in the entry garden, so let’s go back out there and start our tour, as I did, along the front walk and onto the patio hugging the rear of the house.


Sunlight floods this area in the afternoon, turning yellow dahlias into miniature suns, their dusty-black leaves adding dark drama below.


In a shady bed by the front door, a sleek cat sculpture stands watch.


The garden spreads out behind the house, accessed via a spacious patio that contains a plunge pool and a large greenhouse. The pool would have felt wonderful on this hot day, but it was more fun to explore.


Bold, tropical foliage and luscious blooms demand one’s attention.


A few steps down, a bistro table and chairs offer an invitation to rest amid tropical lushness.


Lilies scent the air.


Now it’s time to take the plunge, down into the terraces. This is a garden you can explore for hours and still not see everything — but I did try.


As you descend, thoughtful focal points, like this bench and sun under an arching hedge, are placed so as to entice you onward. Anyone who thinks they don’t like formal elements in a garden might take a close look at how these columnar and rounded plants are used for structure amid looser planting beds. You just know this garden is equally stunning in winter.


On the hottest, sunniest slope, a dry garden reminded me of Austin, with Yucca rostrata, agaves, euphorbia, grasses, and drought-tolerant perennials.


Below that, however, golden conifers showed that we weren’t in Texas anymore.


Hot-colored flowers soaked in the sunshine.


As did peach dahlias


Continuing to descend the sloping paths, I entered a shady, forested garden. Curving gravel-and-timber paths lead down and down…


…past stacked-stone walls crested by waves of lush greenery…


…surrounded by luxuriant groundcovers and shrubs…


…and along a sinuous line of precisely stacked firewood. Seriously, is this an art installation? It’s too far from the house to be useful on a daily basis.


Soon the path climbed again. As the sunlight increased, daylilies appeared.


From shade to sun — a golden aura


Lilies rose above chartreuse grasses, their golden flowers filled with sunlight.


Sparklers of allium heads seemed to sizzle amid golden-flowering perennials.


Steely blue globes — so touchable


I’m a sucker for red though, and crocosmia and daylilies along this path stood out so beautifully among the green foliage.


More crocosmia — like the inquisitive heads of a flock of birds


One more


This arbor leads down to the shady forest garden. To the right is the path to the crocosmia.


Oh, okay, one more!


Lavender clematis is awfully pretty too.


Banana-yellow lilies overlook a small pond and wetland garden.


Water lilies offer their starry blooms, and a bench a place to enjoy them.


These copper-finned fish stood in the water and turned in the breeze.


Looking back up at the house from here you see the deck from which I shot the first pictures in this post.


But plenty of smaller vignettes along the paths were awaiting discovery as I made my way back up, like this giraffe sundial…


…and textural, walnut-colored pot half-hidden in greenery.


I loved this combo of pink spires and mossy-brown magnolia.


Just when you think you must have seen all the major features in this garden, this appears: a pair of variegated yuccas in pots flanking a short stair, their spiky shadows etched on the paving.


Looking down you see a hidden conversation area with a pair of blue Adirondacks sheltered under an arching, iron gazebo.


The yuccas, glowing in late afternoon sunlight, were magnificent.


More clematis


And now we’re looking back up toward the entry garden again, a weeping cypress (maybe; I know better than to attempt plant IDs away from home) marking the edge of the driveway. Wow, what a garden! I could have spent another hour or two here, as I had time for only one pass through.

But we were off to the last garden of the day, and could it possibly be as amazing as this one? Come along and find out.

Up next: Westwind Farm Studio gardens, designed by ornamental-grasses guru John Greenlee. For a look back at the bucolic gardens of Joy Creek and Cistus nurseries, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.