Serenity Now: Portland’s Japanese Garden

As promised, here are a few images from my Feb 2006 trip to the Japanese Garden in Portland Oregon. I defy you to feel Holiday angst while browsing these images. I may need to print one out wall-sized and hang it directly behind my computer.

I’m sorry I waited so many months to say something about my visit to this wonderful garden because my feeling for the place isn’t up at the surface. However orderly, misty, and calm comes to mind. I enjoy visiting a garden like this in part because the contrast between my own gardening practice and a garden like this is so extreme and direct. I can’t help but be in awe of such constrained tidiness. It is not the kind of constraint that makes the muscles in a certain rear area tense up, but the kind of restraint that freaks you out with its intelligence and sense of purpose. There’s a feeling that places like this carry that make me hyper-aware of my behaviour.

Stay calm. Be quiet. Walk slowly. Don’t break anything. Good thing I am showered and wearing clean underwear.

I wanted to run around and express my excitment as I usually do when I’m surrounded by new plants and landscapes, making me feel like a keyed up kid in church who’s got to stay quiet for a whole fifty-nine more minutes. And despite the twitchiness and the certainty I would stumble on a smooth rock and knock over a 300 year old bonsai, I was surprised that despite our frenzied tourist rush I did become calm, and filled with The Deep Thoughts.

    I am amazed by this staking technique.
    Moss and lichens everywhere. It’s adds another level of interest to leafless trees.
    The Sand and Stone Garden
    I took this one while resting on a bench inside a pagoda. Sitting here made me wish we had a garden like this in Toronto that I could visit and sit in quietly for hours on end. Alas we had things to see and places to go which is kind of contrary to the contemplativeness of the Japanese Garden.
    I love the sleek stones against the mossy green ground.
    More moss. More GREEN.
japanesegarden7.jpg japanesegarden8.jpg
    I tried to be quiet but this camera shutter lands with a deep “thud.” I think I may have upset this vistitor’s solitude. Sorry dude.
Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla

9 thoughts on “Serenity Now: Portland’s Japanese Garden

  1. The garden reminds me of my regular trips to the Japanese Garden at the Brooklyn Botonical Gardens. I lived three blocks from the BBG. I spent hours and hours of quiet time there. There was always a treat for my eyes, heart and my soul whether I visited during the summer, winter or fall. Thanks for the pictures.


  2. Holy Moly! Talk about landscape gardening. These photos are phenomenal. I really enjoy your website. Being a landscape and gardening lover myself, I can really appreciate all the marvelous photos. Keep up the good work.

  3. I was wondering if you had visited the Japanese Gardens during your stay in Portland. Good thing you didn’t miss out! They look so beautiful!

  4. Wow, lovely photographs. By the way, will there be a calendar for January available on this site? I have really enjoyed putting a freshly printed sheet up on my notice board every 1st day of the month but in December there wasn’t one to print.. Thank you for a brilliant site!
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Gardening Year!

    Lina in Sweden.

  5. These are beautiful photos. This is a wonerful garden for sure, any time of year. I live in Portland and found my love of plants here. I was lucky enough to intern and work at the Oregon Garden, a wonderful place you should have gone to while you were here!! A must-see for your next visit.

  6. Gayla: Ok! It looks really good, so I will see if I can get the new, printed one instead. Depends on the shipping costs, taxes etc as I live in a faraway land (Sweden). Thank you for a brilliant forum :-)

  7. thanks for sharing these lovely photos! i love the sand and stone garden and the pagodas. i recently visited the japanese gardens in san francisco and san diego, also very beautiful, pristine, and serene.

  8. I tried visiting the Japanese Tea Garden in San Fran… was standing right outside the gate but we had so little time I opted for a trip down to Ocean Beach instead.

Comments are closed.