The Portland Japanese Garden

I almost have to apologize that it has taken me so long to mention the Portland Japanese Garden in anything more than a passing remark. This garden is truly a work of art, a garden that fulfills all of the senses and can be a place to recharge your batteries. I have been visiting the gardens ever since I started to visit Portland in the 80’s and then many times since I have lived here. I have seen it change, in part because someone decided to make it change, and in others because of forces of nature that decided to test the skill of the gardeners.

While I love to see the garden in spring and fall when the colors add another dimension to the garden, it can also be beautiful in summer and winter as well. In summer it takes on a tranquility, where many things blend in a perfect harmony. In winter you get to enjoy the bones of the garden and the magnificent structure of some of the trees.

In other blogs, I will focus on specific parts of the garden, but this first one, I just wanted to provide an overview. For a start it is a great place to view the city from. Also if you can catch one of the free tours, I would highly recommend that as it will enhance your understanding of many of the more subtle aspects of the gardens. If you have never been to a Japanese garden before, then I think this is a mandatory introduction.

The gardens cover 5.5 acres and are composed of five distinct areas. Some of threes are quite small and contained, such as the sand and stone garden and the tea garden. Others are much larger such as the strolling pond garden and the natural garden. The flat garden kinds of hold the others together.

Just like the Chinese gardens, there is a balance of hard and soft in the garden, but the Japanese garden is perhaps more restrained. There are many small vignettes as well as large sweeping vistas and while many of the plants are spectacular specimens, they also blend into the complete picture rather than being more dominant.

Now before you go, be warned that many people find the admission price of $9.50 a little steep and it is if you are just expecting to walk around, see the sights and be done. It is a garden that has to be taken in and appreciated. This is not a garden for you if you cannot handle steps. Also when it is rainy and wet, some of the paths can be slippery so caution is advised. They do have a few free days during the year if you don’t mind sharing the garden with half of Portland, or there was a Groupon for a 2 for the price of one admission. In the pavilion there are often exhibitions of plants, crafts or other artifacts. These are generally very interesting, so perhaps time your trip to coincide with one of those.

Brought to you by Brian Bailey

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