The Portland Japanese Garden

We visited the Portland Japanese Garden as part of the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling. I wouldn’t put Japanese gardens at the top of my list of favorite gardening styles. However, I’m very glad I was able to spend some time in this tranquil place.

Trees of the Pacific Northwest tower over the entrance to the Portland Japanese Garden.
Trees of the Pacific Northwest tower over the entrance to the Portland Japanese Garden.

The Portland Japanese Garden is actually five different gardens on 5.5 acres surrounded by protected woods. While the gardens are traditional, trees native to the Pacific Northwest are also included so as to blend in with the natural surroundings. This creates a larger sense of scale than is generally found in this type of garden.

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The five gardens are the Flat Garden, the Strolling Pond Garden, the Natural Garden, and the Tea Garden. Throughout, stone and water matter just as much as the plants.

The Strolling Pond and Natural Gardens were the ones I found most enchanting

The upper pond of the Strolling Pond Garden. I wanted to steal these bird  (heron?) statues.
The upper pond of the Strolling Pond Garden. I wanted to steal these bird (heron?) statues, they seemed incredibly lifelike.

The Strolling Pond Garden actually has two ponds. The upper pond is shaded, smaller, and the more peaceful of the two.

The lower pond with waterfall.
The lower pond with waterfall.

The lower pond is in more sun, at the base of a waterfall.

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In summer there is not a great deal of color, though there are a few irises blooming – and koi.

Small stream in the Natural Garden.
Small stream in the Natural Garden.

The Natural Garden has a primeval feel, a sense of quiet that makes the problems of the world seem unreal. At least for a brief time.

Stone steps from above.
Stone steps from above.
And below.
And below.

I loved these stone steps, there was something hypnotic about them. All the moss creates a blurry, dreamy feeling.

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Just can’t have too much moss in a garden like this.

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This was in the Sand and Stone Garden. I may be exposing myself as a yahoo, but I’ve got to say this sort of thing leaves me cold. All I can think is, “OK, nice gravel. What’s next?”

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This is more like it. I forget where this fountain was exactly, but it’s very cool.

Do you enjoy traditional Japanese gardens?

41 Comments on “The Portland Japanese Garden

  1. I can enjoy being in them but like you wouldn’t search them out. The rocks and gravel have lots of significance if you are Japanese but I think you have to be from the culture to appreciate them; I’ve seen identical (to me) ones in many other gardens.

  2. Only recently did I start to learn to appreciate Japanese gardens. Having watched a documentary by Monty Don, where he traced the origins back to the Yellow Mountains of China and explained the influences of the artists who climbed these mountains on Chinese and then Japanese gardens. There is also a wonderful gifted Japanese designer Kazuyuki Ishihara who has produced several Japanese gardens at Chelsea in the Artisan category, they are gardens I can’t stop looking at as they so very beautiful and peaceful. I love the photos you have taken of the mossy banks too.

  3. I’m not sure I really understand the difference between Japanese and Chinese gardens. I appreciate the peacefulness and harmony with nature that the garden creates but it is not a style that I can translate into my own backyard. I like the textures of the stones and greens in the garden. The moss is fantastic.

  4. There are certain elements of Japanese gardens that I like such as the moss, water… Sometimes it can be a bit too peaceful for me.

  5. I have come to love Japanese gardens–one of my favorite places to visit! No, it’s not a style I would try to imitate at home, but there’s something so peaceful about these gardens–as you say, all your cares just seem to drop away–that I find myself drawn to them every time I find one nearby. The Portland garden is still my favorite, even though the Anderson Garden in Rockford is beautiful and bigger. The birds, by the way, are cranes, the Japanese symbol of longevity. Not trying to be a know-it-all, but I did a little research on these types of gardens for a blog post on this garden after my first visit several years ago. When my friend and I visited the Anderson Garden I found a little crane in the gift shop, just perfect for my miniature Japanese garden at home. When I got home, though, and looked closer, I realized it was a duck! Not sure what that symbolizes:) Great photos!

  6. It is a really beautiful and tranquil garden. I can’t look at the pictures, though, without remembering how much patience it took to get pictures without dozens of garden bloggers in them. It’s actually quite a small space – or at least confined by the paths it is – and there were bloggers everywhere.

  7. I could never be so disciplined as to have a Japanese style garden but I love moss and stone and I am so glad you shared this! Beautiful! I suppose it’s the discipline that makes this style of gardening so peaceful and tranquil. I would like some gravel in my garden but not to rake – maybe I’m a little yahoo, too, ha ha. Those crane sculptures are stunning.

  8. My favorite visit to the Portland Japanese Garden was during a wind storm. We sat for a long time on the deck of the pavilion and watched as the trees seemed to be dancing. Whenever the stresses of modern life intrude, going there can effect a cure.

  9. Thanks for the review. I particularly liked the stream in the Natural Garden. I was able to visit many of the well known (and the occasional little known) gardens when we lived in Japan. My favorite was the Moss Garden in Kyoto, a world class masterpiece.

  10. Lovely photos. I visited many gardens (mostly at temples) while living in Japan, and my overall impression was one of peace and harmony with nature. Unfortunately most Japanese gardens outside Japan try too hard to look Japanese and cram much too much in. I think this garden has managed to capture that calm atmosphere though. And I agree, the gravel gardens are something I will never “get” either!

  11. It looks so tranquil there. Perfectly designed for a Japanese garden. The gravel garden really is a meditative place, but I can see you not being that fond of this garden element.

  12. I found this garden to be a very calming place, with a lot of interesting elements. The images you captured are really lovely. I especially appreciated the moss there — you captured it and the stone steps beautifully.

  13. Lovely photos. I like looking at well designed Japanese gardens. I have no desire to have one of my own though. Even if I knew how to create one, which I don’ t. They are just too controlled and disciplined for me. All that raked gravel. No thanks.

  14. I’ve never been in a Japanese garden. I could do without the koi and the little pagodas, but parts of it do project serenity and I’m all for that. I also like the stone steps and the moss. I wonder how long it took them to get that moss to grow there. I imagine that it was a while.

  15. I’ve haven’t been around a Japanese garden in a long time, they are ever so restful aren’t they? I imagine they are extremely time consuming and that you’d never have a chance to contemplate in one.
    I did enjoy this post, what a very beautiful garden.xxx

  16. I agree with some of the comments above. I never truly appreciated Japanese gardens until recently. I think the award-winning Anderson Japanese Garden in Rockford and the Japanese garden in Janesville’s Rotary Gardens have inspired me more. It could be an age thing, too. I enjoy the peacefulness of a Japanese garden now and then. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy other styles of gardens just as much, but time spent in a well-executed Japanese garden can calm the soul a bit. From your photos, it looks like the stone pathways, steps, and walkways are fabulous in the Portland Japanese Garden. Thanks for sharing!

  17. This is a lovely space. The stone steps and moss are indeed fabulous. Love the Sand and Stone Garden too. I think I could be at home in a place like this.

  18. While this is not my personal garden style, I would not want to leave this garden…the views, the stairs, the water, the sand/stone would have me in a zen, meditative state….this is an absolutely beautiful spot.

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