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.

Scenic coastal views along Highway 1 in Northern California


A road trip gives you the freedom to explore along the way, to make detours or just stop at an overlook to enjoy a view. In early August we made a family road trip up the coast of Northern California, a region we’d never seen beyond Stinson Beach just north of San Francisco. Driving up Highway 1, which hugs the dramatic coastline, gave us many opportunities to get out of the car and gaze at the wild Pacific Ocean.

Goat Rock Beach


One of our stops along the way was Goat Rock Beach near Jenner. We carried a sack of bread, cheese, and apples to a wave-smoothed log (high up and away from the water), sat in a row, and enjoyed one of the best-tasting meals on the trip. There’s just something about eating outdoors amid beautiful scenery. Out past the surf, Arched Rock invited views through its wave-carved peephole into the great beyond.


Artfully stacked beach stones defied gravity all along Blind Beach (on the north side of Goat Rock). Someone had been busy! I understand there’s controversy over these Zen-like cairns, since it disturbs the natural ecosystem and is a constant reminder of human presence. But we hadn’t seen many and were charmed.


Numerous painted rocks were placed for discovery along the beach too, including this face added to a driftwood log.


Flipping a stone over, we found a message:

Post on FB
WCPR
Keep or rehide

Searching on Facebook later, I learned there’s a group called West Coast Painted Rocks that encourages people to paint rocks and hide them outdoors for people to discover to “promote random acts of kindness.” We found a couple of hidden ones and many out in the open, and we debated keeping one but decided to leave them for someone else to discover.

Along Highway 1, somewhere between Goat Rock and Mendocino


After Goat Rock, we spent the night in charming Healdsburg, then picked up Highway 1 after lunch the next day. A highway overlook tempted us to stop, and we were rewarded with this view.


So different from the flat, sugar-sand beaches I grew up visiting in South Carolina.

Mendocino


We spent two nights in Mendocino, a tiny town of charming 1800s-era buildings perched atop a headland overlooking the ocean.


Located 3-1/2 hours north of San Francisco, it may as well be in a different time zone, so different is its slow pace and old-fashioned charm.


Along the edge of the headland, just across from town, walking trails wind through grasses and coastal scrub…


…offering dramatic vistas of sheer, crumbly cliffs and roiling surf.


A beach below was littered with water-smoothed, sun-bleached trunks of trees, many of which had been stacked by beach-goers into shelters and low-slung forts. What is it with West Coasters and their stacking mania?


Only 894 people live in Mendocino, and among the houses we saw this colorful, fenced garden. I believe the tall building may be a water tower.


Notice the driftwood flowers? I wonder if the homeowner made them.

Russian Gulch State Park


Heading out of town we stopped at nearby Russian Gulch State Park and admired the view of an arched bridge we had just crossed. The fog had rolled in, softening the light and creating a feeling of autumnal melancholy that was emphasized by tawny grasses.


We followed a trail along the cliff’s edge…


…and I stopped to admire wildflowers (California buckwheat?) clinging to the crumbling soil.


Below the cliff, a sea cave led into the bluff. See the paddock-like fence in the distance?


It encircles the Devil’s Punchbowl, a blowhole formed when the interior of the sea cave collapsed.


The tide was low, so we didn’t get to see much of the frothing and blowing that occurs during high tide, but it was an impressive sight nonetheless.


The Pacific Coast has a windswept, lonely beauty to it, and also a sense of danger. Numerous signs near beaches warn about sneaker waves, steep drop-offs, rip currents, hypothermia-inducing water, and tsunamis. These are not swimming beaches (although we saw plenty of people playing in the surf and taking their chances). As you drive Highway 1, you’re constantly entering and leaving tsunami danger zones, as indicated by signs at low points along the coast. It was all a strange and beautiful world, an unstable landscape but a majestic one.

Up next: Perennials, heaths, and heathers at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. For a look back at the garden of Gary Ratway and Deborah Whigham, owners of Digging Dog Nursery, 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

The Austin Cactus & Succulent Society hosts its Fall Show and Sale on September 2 & 3, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, at Zilker Botanical Garden (2220 Barton Springs Road). Come see rare and beautiful cacti and succulents and shop for plants and handcrafted pottery. Admission is free with paid entry to Zilker Botanical Garden ($2 adults, $1 children and seniors).

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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