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.

Long views and classic garden rooms in Brinitzer Garden: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


Much as I love my contemporary-naturalistic garden, and enjoyed puttering in my flowery cottage garden before that, my next garden — whenever and wherever that turns out to be — is going to be more like this one: smaller, with formal garden rooms laid out along axis views, and planted mainly with evergreens for less seasonal maintenance.

This beautiful and classic garden belongs to Arlington, Virginia designer Scott Brinitzer, and we saw it on the second day of touring during the Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling in late June. We entered the garden via this long gravel path, drawn in by a striking focal point: a potted purple cordyline in a dusty blue pot in front of a pumpkin-colored shed door.


You can see the same pot in this photo, pulling double duty now as a focal point viewed from a spacious stone patio off the back of the house. Framed by a low hedge of clipped boxwood, feathery clumping bamboo, and panels of gray lattice fencing, the pot works like a visual magnet, drawing the eye into the next space along the L-shaped gravel path that connects various garden rooms.


I might have mirrored the lattice panels for additional privacy, but leaving them open provides more air flow, which is a plus in a Southern garden.


I love the color choices, which give a contemporary edge to the classic design. (Compare with the door’s previous incarnation in blue, as seen in Scott’s portfolio pics on his website.)


Here’s the opposite view, looking away from the shed toward a small circular patio and a pair of white Adirondacks. This pathway is a double axis, with carefully considered views that pull your eye toward focal points in each direction — an effective design technique for directing the movement of people through a garden and making the most of a small space.


The circular patio acts as a visual pause at the end of the path…


…as well as a turning point for a pathway to the driveway.


The old garage still sits at the end of what was once a long driveway. Scott told us that he kept part of the driveway up by the street and converted the rest into a water-permeable gravel path and garden, helping to cut down on water runoff from his property. Yes, that makes it a water-saving garden!


Heading back to the stone patio, wire chairs take up very little space, visually, as they cluster around a lion’s-head wall fountain.


I love how the fountain is cloaked with moisture-loving moss and softened by a clematis vine. A yellow hosta echoes the yellow-themed container planting at left…


…filled with ‘Color Guard’ yucca, variegated Solomon’s seal, and (I think) ‘Moonbeam’ coreopsis.


Lion’s-head fountain and purple clematis


Other patio pots contain caramel-colored plants, for an interesting change of pace.


New Zealand sedges, I think


Enveloped by the garden, the house is shaded by lovely trees, which Scott planted in his own and his neighbors’ yards as part of a streetwide beautification effort. A swooping wall of concrete aggregate encloses the front garden and the front porch — the creation of the home’s former owner.


Built-in urns are planted with a variety of succulents.


Scott’s dog, a cute Norwich terrier named Kobe, hung out with us as we toured the garden and enjoyed the wine and snacks the owners generously provided.


He seems pretty happy living here, doesn’t he?

Up next: My visit to the Smithsonian Gardens and U.S. Botanic Garden on the National Mall. For a look back at the pollinator-friendly Casa Mariposa garden of Fling planner Tammy Schmitt, plus a winery and garden center visit, 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 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.

Blue fantasy in the garden of Linda Hostetler: Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling


I saw some truly wonderful gardens during the Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling last week, and one of my favorites was that of landscape designer Linda Hostetler in The Plains, Virginia. From the street you admire a handsome farmhouse-style home at the end of a wide, curving lawn hugged by lush mixed borders accented by burgundy Japanese maples.


There’s much to see here, but like everyone else, I hustled into the side-yard path, eager to see everything before we had to get back on the bus.


I paused to admire this shade-loving combo of ferns, heuchera, and sedge, framed by a pretty groundcover.


The path leads to a comfortable stone patio in the side yard, which overlooks a froggy pond. White hanging lanterns, concrete ornaments, and variegated and white-flowering plants brighten and set a serene mood in this shady space. Beyond the dining table…


…two chairs offer a spot for quieter conversation.


From the patio, you look on a charming pond freshened by a stair-stepping waterfall nestled into a heavily planted slope.


I spotted several frogs floating lazily in the pond…


…seemingly as content as this napping sprite.


An opaque glass orb pairs with creamy variegated grasses, ferns, and hostas to light up the shade.


Adding rustic charm at one end of the patio is a barn-like shed adorned with hanging pots, pieces of wrought iron, a birdhouse…


…and old tiller blades resembling flowers or suns.


It would have been easy to miss this back door framed by arching tree branches, but I’m glad I didn’t. It was a pretty, understated moment.


From here, the garden gets louder — in a fun way! You step down into the rear garden, a much more colorful and playful space in which cobalt blue takes center stage.


Blue umbrellas scattered here and there shade blue-painted chairs and tables. Blue pillows soften a stone bench cleverly built into a retaining wall.


Hot pinks, reds and maroons, and chartreuse yellows add even more joyful jolts of color.


Linda found these steel orbs at HomeGoods and spray-painted them blue, yellow, and orange.


The entry path curls into a yellow-brick-road-style spiral inset in a small lawn. Exploratory paths lead off in various directions, marked by blue arbors.


Here are Judy and Jason of Garden in a City. Low boxwood hedges curve along this narrow path, drawing you in.


Stone steps lead up to a hidden patio tucked under a blue umbrella.


Deeper in the garden, a blue gazebo holds court in a clearing. As you get closer you see a blue birdcage hanging in the center, with something unusual inside.


A captive agave!


Taking another path through a blue arbor…


…you discover a sunny pond flush with waterlilies. The pond is fed by a stream that winds its way across the garden, crossed by occasional wooden bridges. In the foreground, a potted cordyline echoes wine-red Japanese maples.


I adore Linda’s garden art, including these metal cattails near the pond — simple pieces of steel pipe welded to slender rods.


Linda’s garden art is also created through plants, like this fire-pit seating area, with flames evoked by the form and color of plants.


Croton provides tongues of yellow and red flame, and a small cypress (I think) adds a twisty, fire-like shape in the center. So clever!


Nearby, a carved elfin face is tucked into a piece of mossy weathered wood.


The mossy limbs give this small piece of art, which might easily have been overlooked, greater presence.


Here’s new Flinger Jen McGuinness of Frau Zinnie taking a picture, her hat echoing the crocosmia behind her.


Jen has such a great smile and is just as friendly as she looks. Meeting other bloggers is a big part of why I enjoy going to the Fling each year.


Along the stream, hostas, Japanese forest grass, and other plants create a green tapestry.


In a back corner, nearly hidden by mahonia and hydrangea, I spied that most Southern form of folk art: a blue bottle tree.


There is not a bad view in the entire garden.


Color echoes and contrasting forms make for satisfying views at every turn.


We had nearly an hour to explore, but I could easily have spent another hour or two wandering the paths.


Here’s Gryphon Corphus, a regular Flinger from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, who is always photogenic as she strolls barefoot and floral-dressed through the gardens.


I leave you with one last vignette from Linda’s garden: a heuchera perfectly echoing the blue hue of its glazed pot, set in a clipped, evergreen spiral…


…harmonizing with purple coneflowers and lilac hydrangeas.

Up next: Casa Mariposa, our host Tammy Schmitt’s garden, plus a few stops along the way. For a look back at an English-style garden of rural elegance in Middleburg, Virginia, 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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