In the summer of 2010, I visited the Portland Japanese Garden for the first time. I wrote a 3-part article (1 2 3) that became the most-read post on my blog. This past weekend I made a return trip to Portland to photograph the fall colors.
I took over 300 photos and even after thorough editing I have almost 70 photos that I want to show you. I’m breaking this post up into three parts, each one covering different areas of the garden. Since my initial 3-part post already went into the history of the Portland Japanese Garden and Japanese garden design in general, I’m going to keep my commentary to a minimum and let the photos speak for themselves.
As you will see, some trees were at their peak, while others were just past and yet others had just started to turn. Overall, though, the garden was so beautiful that I stopped a time or two just to remind myself that this was a real place, not some computer-generated fantasy land. With far fewer people to contend with than last summer, I fell into an almost hypnotic state as I was photographing one stunning scene after another. Truly, this is one of the most serene and quietly spectacular places I’ve ever visited.
In part 1, I will take you from the Antique Gate at the parking lot level to the main entrance, and down through the Strolling Pond Garden to the Tea Garden. This map on the Garden’s web site will help you visualize the layout.
|Antique Gate at the base of the hill where the parking lot is located. From here you take a short (500 ft.) but fairly steep trail through the forest up to the actual entrance.|
|Caution sign at Antique Gate|
|Just inside the Antique Gate: bamboo fence in the ryôanji-gaki style…|
|…mileage marker from the ancient road from Kyoto to Edo (now Tokyo)…|
|…and a water basin in the shape of a lotus flower. Each entrance typically has a basin for the symbolic act of cleansing, which serves to calm the senses of visitors as they leave the outside world behind upon entry to the garden.|
|Trail up to the entrance gate|
|Coast pine (Pinus contorta) at entry gate. |
Pines are revered in Japanese culture as symbols of courage.
|Coast pine (Pinus contorta) in front of the restrooms|
Walking down the hill from the Sapporo pagoda, you enter the Strolling Pond Garden comprising an Upper Pond and Lower Pond. They are connected by a stream spanned by the Moon Bridge (which in my rapture I forget to photograph up close).
Strolling Pond Gardens allowed the wealthy to go on leisurely strolls through a tightly controlled landscape that represented an idealized representation of nature. On large estates, the ponds were small lakes, and the gardens were often viewed from boats.
|At the top of the Strolling Pond Garden, this lace-leaf Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum’) is one the most beautiful specimens I’ve ever seen|
|The same lace-leaf Japanese maple up close. |
As you can see, the branch structure is incredibly intricate.
|Detail of low bamboo fence seen above, with ground-cover bamboo (Pleioblastus sp.)|
|View of Moon Bridge and Upper Pond in the Strolling Pond Garden|
|Bronze cranes on the edge of the Upper Pond|
|Filigree trunks and branches of unidentified conifer|
|Beech tree and Western sword fern (Polystichum munitum)|
|Harp tuner lantern (kotoji doro) at the stream that connects the Upper and Lower Pond in the Strolling Pond Garden. One leg of the lantern is in the water, the other is on land, symbolizing the interconnectedness between the two.|
|Lower Pond in the Strolling Pond Garden with snow-viewing lantern (yukimi doro) on the right|
|Lower Pond with Heavenly Falls|
|Japanese maple ablaze above soft mounds of shrubbery|
|Buried-post lantern and lotus-shaped water bowl|
The Tea Garden is a quiet, contemplative space leading from the outside world to the Tea House within. The Tea Garden consists of an outer and inner garden; walking along the path with its carefully placed stepping stones allows visitors to get into the proper frame of mind for the spiritual ceremony waiting in the Tea House. (For a more detailed description of both the Tea Garden and the Tea House, click here.)
|Gate allowing visitors to view the Tea House up close|
|Bamboo next to the tea house, which—like the Inner Tea Garden—is off limits to the public|
|Stone well in the Outer Tea Garden. Notice the traditional pulley apparatus and the bamboo cover. The pulley would have been used to haul water from the well, to be used for the tea ceremony.|
|Beautiful specimens of Japanese maples abound…|
|…like here in the Outer Tea Garden|
|Gate leading from the Outer Tea Garden back out to the Strolling Pond Garden|
|The same gate up close. The granite slabs came from the entry steps to the Portland Civic Auditorium which were removed as part of a renovation project.|