Lan Su Chinese Garden, a downtown Portland oasis


While vacationing in Portland last month, we visited Lan Su Chinese Garden in downtown Portland. It was my third visit, and I find I enjoy it more each time I see it. Chinese gardens have had to grow on me, so different do they seem from the Western or even Japanese garden traditions I’m used to, with a city-like emphasis on architecture — which is, at Lan Su, ornately beautiful.


Pavilions and a tea house with swoop-edged roofs offer sheltered garden-viewing spots throughout this walled urban oasis.


Rather than extensive garden beds or an open lawn, the heart of this garden is a large pond with waterlilies and lotus.


This small pavilion along a zigzagging bridge was a popular spot to enjoy the garden.


A mysterious grotto of rugged limestone rocks can be seen just beyond the bridge.


From this arched bridge…


…you see a waterfall fountain inside the grotto. Outside, etched and painted Chinese characters offer…a short poem? The name of this garden feature? No climbing on rocks, please?


Semi-hidden views are a theme of this garden, with cut-out windows in organic shapes offering glimpses of or entry into intimate courtyards.


A square lattice window


A quatrefoil doorway


This moon doorway with a view of a craggy standing stone is my favorite. Called Tai Hu rocks, according to the garden’s website, the limestone is mined from Lake Tai in China. “They are prized for their four virtues which are: the holes that allow life force to flow freely, the rough texture, their slenderness, and being top-heavy. More than 500 tons of rock was shipped from China for the Garden.”


The pebble mosaic paving is a work of art.


Beautiful pebble mosaic paths lead through the garden rooms.


This pavilion is positioned to enjoy a view of the koi pond.


Covered walkways with lattice detailing lead a winding path along the garden’s outer perimeter.


Vertical layers of lattice


And lattice windows


A wooden boat floats at one end of the pond, as if awaiting a boating party.


Foo dog finial


A Chinese poem is carved into the wooden wall of one pavilion.


Downtown buildings rise over the garden, but inside the walls is this serene oasis.


Lotus was in bloom during our August visit.


Inside one of the pavilions were demonstrations of Chinese arts. A musician plucked the strings of a zheng, or Chinese zither.


And a calligrapher wrote out a humorous poem, something about drinking too much wine…


…and offered it to our language-learning daughter.


We enjoyed our visit to Lan Su, a lovely glimpse into classical Chinese culture.

Up next: Thicket, an urban boutique nursery in Portland. For a look back at the Columbia River Gorge, waterfalls, and flower farms, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Columbia River Gorge, waterfalls, and flower farms, a scenic Oregon drive — before the fire


I debated about writing this post right now. During our August road trip from San Francisco to Portland, we made a day trip along the majestically scenic Columbia River Gorge, the “playground of Oregonians” that’s currently on fire. As the Eagle Creek fire has raged for a week along the waterfall-festooned gorge, threatening historic structures and torching 33,000 acres, even raining ash on the city of Portland, I’ve been saddened to think that the natural beauty we marveled over just a month ago may be blighted for years to come.

And yet wildfire is a natural occurrence (even though this fire was human-caused), and perhaps the fecundity of northwestern Oregon will soon hide the burn scars. People’s homes, of course, are a different story, and every loss there must be difficult to bear. As a tribute to the region, I decided to go ahead and post about our recent day spent exploring the wonders of the Columbia River Gorge.

Waterfalls


Streaming from high cliffs along the Oregon side of the Columbia River, more than 90 waterfalls make this a spectacularly scenic area. A number of big ones can be easily viewed from pullouts along the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway, and trails take you to others, like Bridal Veil Falls, pictured here.


Latourell Falls, spilling straight down from a cleft in a lichen-covered basalt cliff face, is especially beautiful.


Wahkeena Falls sluices down a curving drop and then fans out into a wide sheet along the trail…


…creating a chilly breeze for those who get close.


The most famous of the waterfalls is Multnomah Falls, a 620-foot cascade with a picturesque footbridge between the two drops.


We climbed the trail to the bridge and admired the view along with throngs of selfie-taking tourists.

Hood River


All that waterfall viewing made us hungry, so when we reached Hood River we headed straight to Full Sail Brew Pub for burgers and a tasting flight of their beers (delivered on a sail-shaped stand, no less) on the deck overlooking the colorful sails of kite and wind surfers on the river.


Afterward, we walked along the river to see the kite surfers and wind surfers doing their thing.

Fruit Loop


Next we headed south along the Fruit Loop, a 35-mile loop in the scenic Hood River Valley, where dozens of orchards and flower farms offer their wares at roadside farm stands. We stopped at the picturesque Gorge White House for cherries, drinks, and a stroll through their you-pick flower field.


Snow-capped Mt. Hood floats in the distance — rather otherworldly to this Southerner. I could hardly tear my eyes away from the mountain…


…until I spotted the flower field.


Dahlias in summer glory glowed in the late afternoon light.


Black-eyed Susans too


Mesmerizing


Ahh, look at them!


Tall sunflowers blazed against blue skies.


I admired their friendly faces.


And so did the bees.


Gladiolus flying colorful pennants


By the time we left, all the farm stands were closing for the day, but we stopped at Lavender Valley Farm anyway because of an amazing view…


…Mt. Hood rising over roadside meadow grass and Queen Anne’s lace.


That sky!

Columbia River


As we drove back along the Columbia River toward Portland, the sun was gilding the river and cliff faces. At a pullout, we stopped to admire the view and get a few golden-hour shots. That’s Vista House, an observatory atop a sheer promontory, where we’d stopped for a bird’s-eye view earlier that day.


What a majestic view


I’m grateful to have experienced the beauty of this place for a second time. Click here to read about an earlier visit I made in 2014, with lavender fields in bloom below Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams.

Up next: Danger! My return visit to the Danger Garden of Loree Bohl. For a look back at the Eugene, Oregon, garden of Rebecca Sams and Buell Steelman, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Japanese Garden and garden art at Hillwood Estate: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


I almost missed the Japanese Garden, my favorite part of Washington, D.C.’s Hillwood Estate. It was hot and muggy on the first full day of touring during last month’s Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling, and after exploring for about 45 minutes I retreated to the gift shop to cool off.

There, a fellow blogger mentioned the Japanese garden as being particularly fine, and I realized I’d missed it altogether. That wouldn’t do! Back out I went to find it.


And there it is, hidden in plain sight alongside an open lawn, a leafy screen of clipped shrubs, burgundy Japanese maples, and weeping willows promising both shade and a gorgeous tapestry of foliage.


Water is a playful element in this Japanese-style garden, as Hillwood describes it. Spouting arcs of water appear to leap alongside a wiggly “floating” path of carved steppers resembling millstones.


A path like this just begs to be crossed — with a little thrill — and so I did.


Pagoda sculpture with colorful foliage


Roofed gate


A pretty waterfall tumbles through boulder-strewn ledges from the top of the garden.


Arching bridges cross a green lily pond…


…accompanied by more arcing spouts of water.


Stone lantern


Another view, with the pagoda in the distance


Foliage is the star of this garden, with rich colors and texture. Waterlilies add a dash of floral ornamentation.


As I exited the garden I stopped to admire a rusty-leaved, artfully contorted Japanese maple with a (surprising because not on-theme) St. Francis statue tucked amid boulders at its feet. Simply lovely.


Speaking of sculptural garden ornament, Hillwood’s gardens are studded with classical pieces, like this charming faun with cymbals…


…another faun with a horn…


…and even a sphinx whose female half resembles a kerchiefed and corseted 18th-century dame!


Regally at ease alongside the expansive Lunar Lawn, this stone lion marked the spot where we Flingers were to have our group photo taken.


Arraying ourselves on the steps of the Hillwood Mansion, we stood as still as statues for this picture taken by Wendy Niemi Kremer. Want to know who all these bloggers are? Check out the Capital Region Fling attendees page, organized by state — and by country for the handful of international Flingers.


Next I explored the French parterre, a formal garden designed to be enjoyed from an upper-story window of the house. Hidden behind ivy-covered walls, Diana the Huntress with her hound stands as focal point at the end of a limestone rill that connects to a central pool.


Scroll-like swirls of clipped boxwood grow in four symmetrical beds divided by gravel paths.


A pretty container combo


Next I found the rose garden, which is also the final resting place of the estate’s founder, art collector and heiress to the Post cereal empire Marjorie Merriweather Post.


The cutting garden was a favorite of many of the garden bloggers…


…perhaps because it felt more attainable than the grand formal gardens.


And it was very nice.


But the Japanese garden remains my favorite.

Up next: My final post about the 2017 Fling featuring Willowsford Farm, plus a sneak peek at next year’s Fling. For a look back at Brookside Gardens and a Patrick Dougherty twig sculpture in Reston, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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