A Spring Day in My Favorite Portland Gardens

Portland Japanese Garden

Last Updated on 10/16/20 by Rose Palmer

Whenever I page through gardening magazines, the gardens that always catch my eye are invariable located in the Pacific Northwest of the US. With a mild climate and good soil, it is not surprising that Washington, Oregon and northern California boast wonderful gardens. I was fortunate to be able to recently explore four of the best Portland gardens in the spring.

So, when I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in Portland, my first priority was to visit the city’s public gardens. It was a mild spring day in the second week of May, and I had a lovely time exploring four of Portland’s prettiest garden spaces. It turned out to be the perfect time to see the local azaleas and rhododendrons in bloom.

My Visit to the Portland Gardens in Spring

Portland Japanese Gardens

I have been fortunate to see many authentic Japanese gardens on my trips to Japan. The Portland Japanese Garden is one of the most authentic Japanese gardens I have seen outside of Japan. Its design incorporates eight different garden styles which include a Tea house, ponds with koi, streams with a waterfall, raked rock gardens, moss gardens, numerous stone lanterns, and a small bonsai garden.

As with any Japanese garden, this one is designed for strolling through and admiring the views. The orderly design successfully creates the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere that is the hallmark of a Japanese Garden.

The Flat Garden
The Strolling Pond Garden
Rhododendrons in full bloom around the stone pagoda
The Natural Garden
A bonsai Wisteria in full bloom

The Japanese Garden is part of the large Washington Park area of Portland, which also includes a zoo, the Oregon Children’s Museum, and the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum among its many attractions.

For up to date information on the Portland Japanese Garden please visit  https://japanesegarden.org/

International Rose Test Garden

Portland is aptly nick named The City of Roses. Across the street from the Portland Japanese Garden is the International Rose Test Garden. The garden was established in 1917 during WWI as a means of saving European roses that might have been decimated during the war. As a result, it is the oldest, continuously operating rose test garden in the US.

When I was there in May, the roses were not yet blooming, but the buds looked like they were only a few weeks from peak bloom. The garden may be pretty, but it is also a working research facility, testing new plants for two years and evaluating them on a number of criteria. Those that pass, go on to be introduced into mainstream gardening. Those that fail are destroyed. The garden’s 4.5 acres grow aver 10,000 individual plants representing about 600 different varieties.

Next time, I will have to visit in June so I can see the roses in full bloom.

For up to date information on the Portland International Rose Test Garden, please  visit   https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/finder/index.cfm?&action=ViewPark&propertyid=1113

The Royal Rosarian statue in the International Rose Test Garden in Portland, OR
International Rose test garden in Portland
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Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

Portland may be the City of Roses, but in this garden the rhododendron reigns supreme. This garden started out as a rhododendron test garden in 1950. The garden has about 2500 rhododendron and azalea plants, the majority of which were blooming when I visited around Mother’s Day. The garden is surrounded by spring fed Crystal Springs Lake which draws a large number of waterfowl like ducks and geese and their babies.

For up to date information on the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden lease visit   https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/finder/index.cfm?&propertyid=27&action=viewpark.

Lan Su Chinese Garden

The walled Lan Su Chinese Garden is a peaceful oasis in the Old Town Chinatown section of Portland, Oregon. The garden was completed fairly recently (in 2000), and is designed along the lines of a classical Chinese garden found in Suzhou, Portland’s sister city in China. About 90% of the plants in the garden are native to China, though they all came from gardens and nurseries in Oregon.

The garden is only the size of a city block, but with its many paths, garden rooms and garden structures, it feels much bigger. I escaped here for a few hours of calm and quiet in the late afternoon and enjoyed a cup of tea and almond cookies in the tea house after a busy day of sightseeing.

Of the four gardens I visited, I think that Lan Su was my favorite. I really liked the smaller, protected intimate space and the soothing and calm feeling of the garden. I am sure it helped that I visited toward the end of the day on a weekday when the garden was not very busy.

For the most up to date information on the Lan Su Chinese Garden please visit https://lansugarden.org/.

I loved my day exploring the public gardens in Portland, OR. Though it did make me all that much more jealous of the great growing conditions in that part of the country. Oh well – Se La Vie.

Visiting gardens in my travels is a priority for me. You can read about my visit to the Dubai MIracle Garden.

Please note that my stay in Portland was hosted by Travel Portland. All content and opinions are my own.

Thanks for visiting.



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