Portland Japanese Garden
A very special space

The bus filled with garden writers climbed the hill outside of the city of Portland Oregon.

Our guide pointed out the very large and famous Rose garden immediately to our left and also suggested that we might want to climb the rather long and steep slope up to the top where there was a large Japanese garden. As there as a tram leaving for the 3 minute ride up that hill, I decided to see the Japanese garden first. What an excellent choice.

A typical Japanese styled garden is all about serenity and carefully crafted form. All those elements were here in great quantities. The forms of carefully manicured trees, placed with great effect along with rock forms and often, (as pictured right,) assembled in manicured beds of sand. This particular one was built so that it could be viewed as a whole from this high vantage point.

wisteria Leaving the manicured area, I was drawn through the most delightful arbour covered in Wisteria. Now Wisteria can be a bit of an unruly vine but here it was carefully trained and manicured to provide the clean lines and calming effect that was the standard of this garden.


Passing through the Wisteria and wandering down a short hill brought me to a location that framed the overview of a large pond with a delightful cascading waterfall. The trees around the water were not formal but were certainly carefully placed to maintain the style. The water as you can see was made to cascade over many rocks, producing the calming sound of bubbling water. It’s only after looking transfixed for several moments do you actually remember to lift up the camera.

A wooden path led through the edges of the pond where large Koi were serenely swimming and brought me to a small structure that served as a gateway leading you from the slightly more formal area and inviting you into the natural area. The late afternoon light was already starting to do magical things and any thoughts of rushing through to get to the Rose garden were quickly dissipating.

path, moss

The descent down into the informal area was a study in the many different kinds of moss that where used as groundcover and the changing textures of the pathways that lent a different feel to each section of this enchanting space. The light you can see at the bottom of this path is now a significant feature and the carefully created natural space starts to reveal its design. High open canopies that filter and direct the light to make the understory and mosses seem to glow in the semi-shade.

We now often find ourselves sitting on the various benches carefully tucked into these areas and just absorbing the craftsmanship and design that have created this magical space. All sense of time and hurry and worry about the outside world seem to have dissipated. Huge trees and miniature mosses share equally in the creation and the varying paths and steps draw us slowly up and down through this garden. We saw many wonders in Portland but this Japanese garden is the one place I have on my list to revisit if I’m ever back there.

If I lived in Portland I think I would organize my time to spend at least an hour there each week to dissolve the stresses of our everyday lives.

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