Sunny day at Portland Japanese Garden


A trip to Portland, Oregon, wouldn’t be complete without seeing the city’s luminous Japanese garden. During our mid-August visit, we had to try twice because the first time, on a Sunday afternoon, we simply could not find any parking, even after circling for a half hour. Even on Monday at midday we waited in line 25 minutes at the admission booth to get in. This is a popular garden, y’all. (And at $14.95 a ticket, it isn’t cheap either, plus no reciprocal admissions.)


But for all that, Portland Japanese Garden is lovely indeed and well worth a visit.


Once you get past the entry hassles, you can relax and enjoy the serenity of the ponds, moss and gravel gardens, and light-filtering leaves overhead.


A zigzagging wooden bridge across a koi pond is a popular spot for visitors.


Colorful koi make their own fishy paths alongside the bridge.


We always make a game of trying to pick our favorite color patterns.


Spanning a larger pond, a gently arching bridge offers pretty views — and becomes one itself.


Nearby, a roofed gate leads from the sunny pond area into…


…a shady tea garden, framed here by a window on the tea house terrace.


The Natural Garden may be my favorite area. It’s tranquil and shady, and narrow winding paths lead you past ponds…


…and down a magical stone stair…


…through a glowing mossy hillside.


At the base of the stair, a diamond-in-a-square stone basin gracefully accepts a trickle from a bamboo fountain.


I love this.


Backlit maple leaves make a green canopy.


A board-and-slat fence opens under a rectangular arbor to invite you along a streamside stone path.


At the garden’s lowest point, a sheltered bench beckons…


…and frames a view.


A stone lantern leads the eye toward another stair.


Time to climb back up.


Midway up the hill, a karesansui garden appears, with stones set in rippled gravel that represent the Buddha (the tall stone) and a starving tigress and her cubs, for whom he sacrifices himself in an act of compassion.


Stone pagoda and luminescent trees


Another gravel garden, called the Flat Garden, extends just off the veranda of a large pavilion. Gravel waves ripple against mossy islands while carefully clipped trees and shrubs across the “sea” represent a distant shoreline.


The glare from all that white gravel reminds me that I’d love to see Portland Japanese Garden, and especially this space, in the gentler light of a different season. I’ve visited three times, always on a bright summer’s day. I long to visit on a misty autumn morning — check out Scott’s extraordinary photos from October 2013. Travel goals! And, heck, photography goals.


Inside the pavilion, an exhibit of Kabuki costumes was on view. Kabuki is classical Japanese dance-drama with all-male performers who wear elaborate makeup and costumes.


The exhibit, which ended earlier this month, “explore[d] the flamboyant and fanciful traditional performing art of Kabuki through an exhibition of seven authentic costumes on loan from Japan.”


Ironically, although Kabuki was created and popularized by a woman in the early 1600s, the shogunate later banned women from the stage to “protect the public morality,” leaving the stage to men — a tradition that continues to this day.


I wish I’d taken pictures of the new Cultural Village buildings near the entry, which opened this spring. But for some reason I didn’t, even though we admired the acclaimed contemporary architecture. I did take a couple of photos of the bonsai displayed outside, including this Ezo spruce…


…and Japanese maple. Lovely!


As is the whole garden. One day, though, I’m going to have to see this garden in the fall.

Up next: Sunset over the Pacific at Cannon Beach, my final post from our CA/OR road trip. For a look back at Portland’s boutique nursery Thicket, 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.

Como Park Conservatory and Japanese Garden: Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling


In the South we don’t have many conservatories, probably because our winters aren’t particularly bleak or cold. But I’ve visited a few on my travels to northern states, and on day three of the Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling, I got to see another one at Como Park in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Como Park’s 100-year-old glass house is flanked outside by a long, mirror-like, elevated pond bejeweled with water lilies.


A sunken garden fills one wing of the conservatory, with a rill-like pond running down the center and flowering plants on each side.


Photo by Diane McGann

Our group of approximately 60 garden bloggers posed here for the official group photo. I don’t know if it was planned, but a naked woman streaked into the photo with us and then struck a demure pose. Hah! See her?


After the photo, we had only a few minutes to see the garden before it was time to get back on the bus, and I made a beeline for the Japanese Garden. Along the way, I paused to admire several bonsai, including this large eastern white cedar, displayed on a patio.


Jack pine ‘Uncle Fogey’ bonsai


Ponderosa pine too


In the garden itself, their life-size counterparts add height, soft texture, and a sense of age to boulder-edged islands in a koi-filled pond.


A zig-zag bridge of stone planks crosses the pond.


A roofed gate with lattice-style bamboo fencing leads to (I assume) a teahouse. According to Como Park’s website, the Japanese garden’s design was a gift from the people of Nagasaki to the people of its sister city, St. Paul.


What a lovely gift!

Up next: The elegant Tudor-house garden of Marge Hols. For a look back at a streamside garden inspired by Walden, 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

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Those who play in glass houses: Conservatory and Indoor Children’s Garden at Longwood Gardens


Maybe Southerners don’t need conservatories because our winters are pretty green. Growing up in the South, I don’t recall ever visiting a conservatory until I started garden traveling to northern states. (We don’t have a culture of spring garden shows either, perhaps for the same reason.) Call me a conservatory philistine, then, but I have just never developed an appreciation for looking at gardens that are indoors. I always have a vague feeling of being in a mall. Plants should be outside!


Aechmea ‘Blue Tango’

This notion is rubbish to my friend and traveling companion Diana/Sharing Nature’s Garden (not a native Southerner, mind you), who joined me in visiting Longwood Gardens, near Philadelphia, earlier this month. She loves conservatories, and so Longwood’s cathedral-sized glass house was our first stop.


Jaw-droppingly vast, the conservatory was constructed in 1919 by Longwood founder Pierre S. du Pont (Longwood was his summer home) and been expanded over the years to its current 4-1/2 acres (!) of gardens under glass.


Conservatories are all about tropicals, of course — plants that can’t be grown outdoors in cooler climates — but for us Texans, sago palms are regular landscaping plants.


Bamboo too, although this black bamboo is particularly nice, and I like how the hanging lanterns add a little Far East flavor.


I also admired the bonsai collection, which is nicely displayed against black-framed, translucent screens, with labels on some that date the beginning of each plant’s training. I’m always amazed to see trees miniaturized into tabletop potted plants. Here, for exampled, is a pomegranate, an ornamental tree that I grow in my own garden, and look — even the blossoms look tiny-sized. How do they do that? Does it set doll-sized fruit, I wonder?


Japanese black pine, whose training began in 1949 — 67 years ago!


A fairy-sized forest is created with a grouping of loose-flower hornbeams, mosses, and tiny ferns.


A bald cypress, whose majestic dimensions are somehow recreated on a miniature scale. It all looks perfectly in scale, even the bark, but magically made small. I really want to know how this is done.


Aechmea mulfordii ‘Malva’

Moving on, there were many other wonderful plants on display throughout the 20 indoor gardens of the conservatory.


But I confess, all I could think about was getting outside to enjoy the wonderfully brisk temps (in the 50s!) of a Pennsylvania summer morning, not walk around indoors in a humid 70-something degrees.


No doubt I would appreciate it more if I could visit in the winter, when all else is sleeping under snow.


But here’s something unusual in a grand conservatory — a children’s garden! As a half-dozen tots in strollers, pushed by their mothers, converged on the area, my interest was piqued. What a surprise to discover a beautifully designed indoor play area, with at least a dozen fountains and water features that encourage interactive play.


Bronze and cast-stone animals spit, drool, and spout water in hidden nooks throughout winding, narrow pathways that encourage children’s exploration.


Little ones and adults alike delight in spouting lizards…


…a bird family in a nest…


…a pair of ibis…


…and a pelican gobbling up fish.


Grand fountain rooms…


…with interesting tilework…


…contrast with subterranean-seeming niches accessible only to children or adults who stoop, like this seascape-themed tunnel with mosaic fish.


This one, tucked under a curving staircase, elicited a happy shriek from one little boy who darted in. A trio of fanged snakes coils along the ceiling, over a smoking pool of dry ice.


Scary fun


Another nook includes a stained glass window, with a couple of small chairs and and baskets of books to curl up with.


The secret heart of the garden is the Drooling Dragon fountain, with a red-lit roaring mouth and a crown of asparagus fern.


You know you’re getting close when you spot this slinking, scaly dragon stair rail.


A phoenix and viper locked in epic battle adorn a low window grate.


And steampunk-esque metal bugs rest on a wooden door. I was charmed by the indoor children’s garden and imagine it’s hugely popular with local families.

Up Next: A trio of top-notch treehouses, plus a native-plant meadow at Longwood Gardens. For a look back at the Rose Arbor, Italian Water Garden, and other formal spaces at Longwood, 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

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Follow