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.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, part 2: Succulents, Ocean Trail, and Dahlia Garden


In my last post I showed you the Perennial Garden and Heath and Heather Collection at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Ft. Bragg, California, which I visited in early August. Today let’s continue the tour, starting with the Succulent and Mediterranean Gardens.

My first thought upon seeing this beautiful garden of agaves, cactus, and other dry-loving plants was, Not fair! How is it that they can grow cool-summer plants like fuchsia and heather and heat-loving desert plants? The gardening world lacks justice, but I enjoyed the scene all the same.


Both succulents and Mediterranean plants appreciate good drainage, and mounded and gravelly planting beds keep their feet dry — a trick we can use in Austin too, to keep desert plants from drowning in rains like Hurricane Harvey just delivered.


Spikes and hot color!


Variegated agave and a winecup-looking flower, with Australian peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa ‘Jervis Bay Afterdark’) in the background.


Aloe, aeonium, and pig’s ear (Cotyledon orbiculata) succulents


Agave stricta, I think, and its fish-hooked, black-flowerbud bloom spike


A closeup of the agave flowers. Most agaves bloom once and then die, going out in a blaze of glory.


Houseleeks (Sempervivum calcareum) in bloom


On the Mediterranean side of the path, Australian beauties like grevillea spread their feathery foliage and curlicued, peach blossoms.


Touchable texture


Now at last we were ready to take the ocean trail to the Pacific, a half-mile walk through an extensive natural area populated by deer. This rustic gate made of branches helps keep deer out of the main gardens.


The ocean trail leads through a lush wooded area with ferns and a trickling stream. Crocosmia were growing wild here.


Farther along, a coastal pine forest of craggy trees makes an essential windbreak that protects the main gardens from the punishing wind and salt air of the ocean. I spotted a trod-on flower, pressed into the trail as if pressed between the pages of a book.


It was a pleasant stroll to reach to the coastal bluff offering views of the Pacific Ocean. In winter and spring you can spot migrating gray whales, I read. The trail meanders through a coastal prairie atop the bluff before circling back past an event lawn and then to…


…the Dahlia Garden, which was in full bloom in early August. The garden is located outside of the deer gate because dahlias are deer resistant, according to the garden’s website. I used their photos to try to identify the dahlias I photographed, starting with peachy-orange ‘Marmalade’.


‘Victoria Ann’ dahlia


An unknown pink ball dahlia


‘James Albin’ dahlia


‘Honka’ dahlia


An unknown red


‘Gonzo Grape’ dahlia


‘Victoria Ann’ dahlia


‘Crossfield Ebony’ dahlia


‘Ryan C’ dahlia


Hot-colored beauties


‘Bright Star’ dahlia


More ‘Bright Star’


Unknown red dahlia


More ‘Ryan C’?


A bee doing a split to get in there.


Unknown yellow


Unknown red


Unknown pink and white dahlia


‘Sterling Silver’ dahlia


Shades of red


One last closeup of these gorgeous flowers


Heading back to the main gardens, I spotted some naked ladies (Amaryllis belladonna), pretty pink-flowering bulbs I’d seen blooming all along the coast at the ends of driveways and by mailboxes, clearly a popular passalong plant.


Prehistoric-looking Gunnera manicata was in bloom too, its low-growing flowers resembling spiky ears of corn.


Back in the perennial garden, my daughter found a bench to lounge on, surrounded by lush foliage including…


Melianthus major ‘Antonow’s Blue’


Richly colored flowers dazzled my eyes.


Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’


‘Harlequin’ French marigold (Tagetes patula ‘Harlequin’)


Bidens ‘Beedance Painted Red’ and Bidens ferulifolia ‘Goldmarie’


A yellow Helenium and dark-blue salvia


Lavender-headed alliums atop mossy green stems


If you’re smitten with a particular plant in the gardens, you might be able to find it in the on-site nursery, which is appealingly displayed.


I longingly browsed but did not buy for my Death Star-blasted Texas garden.


In the gift shop, I was thrilled to find a copy of my book The Water-Saving Garden for sale. Thanks for carrying it, MCBG!


Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens wowed us, and I’m so glad we were able to visit during our road trip.

Up next: Supersized trees in Redwood National Park and a hike in Fern Canyon. For a look back at part 1 of my visit to Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden, including the colorful Perennial and Heath/Heather gardens, 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

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.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens: Colorful perennial and heather gardens


I was not expecting this. None of us were. As we made our way up Highway 1 along the coast of Northern California in early August, naturally I’d planned a few garden stops, including a visit to Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in Fort Bragg, expecting little more than an hour or two of pleasant diversion from the road.


Had I paid better attention to the garden’s tagline on its website — “47 acres of botanical bliss fronting the Pacific Ocean” — I would have been better prepared to be blown away by the gorgeous displays.


Botanical bliss indeed


On this summer afternoon, with the usual fog rolling in off the Pacific Ocean just half a mile distant, the light was perfect for photographing the rich hues of the perennial garden, which greets you as you enter.


My family membership to the Wildflower Center in Austin got us a big discount on our admission tickets, which was nice. When I asked the staff member what she recommended we see, she urged us to close our eyes and pass quickly through the perennial garden and head straight for the ocean trail. “Most people never get that far,” she said. “Why close our eyes?” I asked. “Because otherwise you’ll get dazzled,” she said.


Well, I’ve never been able to shut my eyes to botanical beauty, and I wasn’t about to pass up perfect light for photography, so we wandered through the perennial garden two or three times, all of us dazzled. I especially love this combo of smoke tree, ‘Mardi Gras’ helenium, and tall verbena.


An ornamental grass and black-eyed Susans


I tried to find the name of this sculpture online but came up empty. What is she doing — dribbling two invisible basketballs?


Alstroemeria and poppies


Hypericum androsaemum ‘Albury Purple’


The perennial garden was designed by Gary Ratway, whose own remarkable garden I’d just visited at his and his wife Deborah’s Digging Dog Nursery, so I should have realized it would be spectacular.


As the garden’s website explains, “Our mild coastal climate allows herbaceous plants from all over the world to thrive….Frequent fog acts as a cooling and humidifying blanket, reducing the intensity of the full sun, while trees shield the perennials from strong ocean winds and form an attractive backdrop.”


European weeping purple beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea Pendula’) and, I think, a purple geranium


Mounded beds mitigate wet soil from a high water table, ensuring that even dry-loving plants like thyme and sedum thrive.


‘Elfin’ thyme, ‘Red Carpet’ sedum, and Scleranthus biflorus Scotch moss (Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’). (Thanks for the correct ID, Evan and Loree.)


Sedum, Scotch moss, and other low groundcovers make a colorful tapestry.


Weeping beech leaf and Scotch moss


Rich color contrasts


The bigger picture


Wonderful foliage


Stone herons fish at a small pond with pitcher plants.


Herons and fairy wand flower (Dierama pulcherrimum)


Cordyline ‘Jurred’ and Salvia transsilvanica, with a smoke tree echoing the cordyline’s rich color.


A wider view shows tall verbena and a coppery red yarrow.


Salvia transsilvanica and New Zealand burr (Acaena inermis ‘Purpurea’)


Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Spear’


Anyone know this one? Update: It’s Angelica stricta ‘Purpurea’. (Thanks to everyone who commented on it!)


Yarrow echoes a golden conifer in the distance.


Pink yarrow too


Lovely color echoes and contrasts


Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’ and Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Irene Paterson’


Red tussock grass (Chionochloa rubra)


Persicaria and amsonia Spirea thunbergii ‘Ogon’ (thanks for the ID, Evan and Lynn!)


I love this long view of twisted tree trunks and mounds of low foliage.


With fuchsia


Pink anemone


Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)


A stunning Dacrydium cupressinum (Rimu) from New Zealand


Here is where the garden’s acclaimed Heath and Heather Collection begins. “Heaths and heathers are beautiful, undemanding plants that require full sun, and cool soil with perfect drainage. Our mild maritime climate and sandy, acidic soils create an ideal environment for them,” the website explains.


“Heaths (Erica) have needle-like foliage blooming early winter through the summer. Heathers (Calluna) have tighter, overlapping scale-like foliage blooming late summer through the fall.”


‘Pat’s Gold’ heather (Calluna vulgaris) is on the right.


Set amid the mounding plants, Phoenix Tree, a welded-steel tree-like sculpture by Diego Harris, was for sale for $6,000. I saw another of his works on this trip, Time Killer at Sonoma Cornerstone.


‘Sister Anne’ heather (Calluna vulgaris) in the foreground


Moving on…


Green santolina (Santolina virens)


Gray New Zealand tea tree (Leptospermum brevipes)


Giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea) and an unknown but beautiful dark-leaved tree — anyone know it?. Update: It’s peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa ‘Jervis Bay Afterdark’) from Australia. (Thanks for the ID, Evan and Kris!)

Up next: Part 2 of my visit to Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, including the stunning Dahlia Garden. For a look back at dramatic coastal views along Highway 1 in Northern California, 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

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.

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