Public Gardens in Portland, Oregon

See a Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, Rhododendron and Rose Gardens

Rose Gardens, a Classical Chinese Garden, an authentic Japanese Garden, and a Rhododendron Garden draw locals and tourists alike for picnics, weddings or a quiet stroll.

Portland, Oregon, is blessed with a temperate climate, plus citizens who support and nurture an array of public gardens. Visitors can explore the blooms from the city’s newest Classical Chinese Garden to the century-old Peninsula Park and Washington Park rose gardens that gave Portland the name, “The Rose City.”

Here are the gardens you won’t want to miss:

Classical Chinese Garden

Completed in 2000, this walled garden in Portland’s Chinatown replicates the gardens of China’s Ming dynasty. Flower-lined walkways, lakeside gardens and bridges, water plants and buildings, including a teahouse, compose this tranquil enclave within one of the city’s busiest neighborhoods. Flowering trees, orchids, bamboos, and rare shrubs and flowers fill the space. Stones forming the walkways were hand-laid in symbolic patterns, joining with the landscaping to embody the Chinese principles of balance and contrast. Something’s blooming almost year-round. Located at Northwest 3rd Avenue and Everett Street, the garden is within walking distance of downtown and easily accessible by public transportation. An entry fee is charged.

Washington Park International Rose Test Garden

Roses are celebrated in Portland’s annual Rose Festival, and this garden has long been the test garden for new varieties. Color is everywhere in formal gardens on two levels, complete with trellises and rose-covered archways, fountains, benches, and panoramic views of downtown. Said to be one of the largest of its kind in the nation, it features nearly 7,000 rose bushes and more than 500 varieties. The Shakespearian Garden within the larger garden features flowers from Shakespeare’s works. A gift shop sells rose teacups, rose soaps, rose embroidered textiles, and other rose-themed gifts. From downtown, a short ride on public transportation takes you to the Rose Garden and Japanese Garden (below).

Japanese Garden

Praised for authenticity, the Japanese Garden is built into a hill directly behind the Washington Park Rose Garden. Designed for tranquility and beauty and shaded by towering evergreens, the feeling here is integration with nature. Five distinct styles make up the five-and-a-half-acre site: The Strolling Pond Garden, the largest, includes a wisteria arbor and koi ponds with bridges, stepping stones, and sculptures. The Tea House Garden is landscaped for harmony. The Flat Garden and Sand and Stone Garden both use raked sand as a sea image, the first broken by islands of green, the second by weathered stones. The Natural Garden features ponds, waterfalls, streams, and bridges amid trees, ferns and mosses. Covered rest areas beckon for contemplative moments. Precisely balanced plantings include Japanese maples, dogwood, magnolias, hibiscus and a stream-side bed of irises. There is an entry fee.

Peninsula Park Rose Garden

This rose garden is older but no less impressive than its Washington Park sister. Formally laid out around a large fountain and pool, the sunken gardens boast thousands of traditional rose bushes, including Portland’s official rose, the Mme. Caroline Testout. The garden was completed in 1913 and includes an octagonal bandstand that was once the site of World War I patriotic demonstrations. Now designated a Portland Historic Landmark, it’s a popular site for outdoor summer concerts and weddings. The garden is located on Portland’s north side at 700 N. Rosa Parks Way.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

At this Southeast Portland garden, paths wind through nine-and-a-half acres of rhododendrons, azaleas, and companion plants to a spring-fed lake populated by hundreds of ducks and other waterfowl. Visitors can pause on a bridge crossing to take in the sights, including an impressive water spout, or meander along the lakeshore. A large grassy area is ideal for picnics, and overhanging trees in woodsier areas invite a lazy summer afternoon with a book. Volunteers care for the gardens, which include numerous varieties of rhododendrons that bloom from early spring into summer. Fall brings the dramatic color of tree plantings. It is located near Reed College at Southeast 28th Avenue and Woodstock Boulevard. A small entry fee is charged during spring and summer.

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