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The Many Shades of Green at Portland Japanese Gardens

by Amanda

portland japanese garden
One of the many peaceful water features framed by bright green moss at the Portland Japanese Gardens.

Green. When I think back to my visit to the Portland Japanese Gardens in Oregon, green is the first word that comes to mind. Vibrant green plants surround you and everything – the ground, the rocks, the trees – is painted with green moss. Water reflects the colors everywhere.

portland japanese gardens - cherry trees
Cherry trees in bloom.

While visiting Portland, Oregon, I knew the Japanese Gardens had to be one of my first stops in the funky town. And much to my luck, they had been closed for renovations for quite some time and had just opened back up the week I was there. After being in Portland for several days, I had started to (begrudgingly) get used to the constant rain. But once I stepped foot into the Japanese Gardens I was thankful for it.

portland japanese gardens - lenten rose
I was fortunate to be at the gardens when many plants were in bloom, including these Lenten Rose.

Smelling The Gardens Before You See Them

It was early spring when I visited the gardens, with only a thin raincoat on and my camera in tow. As you climb up these gigantic stone steps to the gardens, not knowing what to expect, you can smell the moss and feel the air change before you step foot on the grounds. I was fortunate to be there at the beginning of the spring bloom time and enjoyed a variety of flowering plants, including cherry tree blossoms, azaleas, and more.

portland japanese gardens - flowering trees
One of my favorite scenes from the gardens.
portland japanese gardens - fountain
There was water everywhere to be seen in the gardens, from streams and ponds to fountains, rain and more.
portland japanese gardens - water feature
Green everywhere.

The gardens are meticulously designed and cared for, but one element that is out of their control is the most powerful: the rain. I can imagine the beauty of the gardens on a sunny day, but the peacefulness and solitude that the rain brought to my visit – not to mention the spectacular droplets on the plants – was something otherworldly.

portland japanese gardens
The rain makes everything pop in the gardens.

Five Spaces At The Portland Japanese Garden

There are five distinct areas in the Portland Japanese Garden, each more spectacular than the last.

The flat garden is designed to be seen from a single viewpoint and boasts gorgeous flowering cherry trees in the spring offset by azaleas and a stone patio.

The strolling pond garden features two distinct ponds connected by a stream. I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many variations and hues of green as I did walking through this garden.

portland japanese gardens
Part of the flat garden.

The traditional Japanese tea garden is a great place for reflection and has several wooden structures that lead to a teahouse.

The natural garden, which is one of the newest gardens, is a more contemporary garden and offers up a wide variety of plants. This garden still features much of the moss that was planted in its original version.

The sand and stone garden was one of my favorites and it boasts intricate designs etched into the sand, with stones carefully placed throughout. It was easy to get lost sitting and admiring the peace of the garden.   

portland japanese gardens - sand and stone garden
The sand and stone garden.

The Rain Gives Time To Pause And Reflect

I spent several hours in the gardens, taking cover in the teahouse or other carefully placed structures when the rain got too heavy. These moments – while taking cover – were some of my most peaceful and offered me a longer time to sit, pause and really take in the beauty of these green, colorful gardens.

portland japanese gardens - flowering trees
Everywhere you look there is something else to take in and appreciate.
portland japanese gardens - fountain
I saw some of the most fantastic trees in the Japanese Gardens.
portland japanese gardens - water feature
It took me awhile to get a good shot of these white blooms!

If you've never visited the Portland Japanese Garden – or haven’t been since the renovations last year – I strongly suggest you go. The peace of these gardens gives way to much reflection as you stroll through the grounds. And please, go when it rains! I promise it will be worth the wet clothing.  

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