Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Portland's Lan Su Garden

Portland's Chinatown gate, the official entrance to the Chinatown district, which unfortunately is quite a disappointment if you're looking for a good Chinese restaurant or market

In the middle of Portland's Chinatown sits Lan Su Garden, an authentic Chinese garden meant to represent the private garden of a 16th century wealthy Chinese family. It takes up one entire city block, and was built in 2000 by artisans from Suzhou, China, who lived in Portland for 10 months while they assembled the structures that had been crafted in China and shipped across the Pacific Ocean. Most of the materials -- more than 500 tons of rock -- came from China. Suzhou is Portland's sister city in China's Jiangsu province, a city famous for its beautiful gardens. From the 14th through the 19th century, Suzhou was considered the wealthiest and most sophisticated city in China, a city where the rich and powerful sought to retire and build elaborate gardens.

A lovely planting of Begonia grandis in the courtyard where you buy a ticket to enter

Step through into the past

The rocks in the garden are Lake Tai rocks, formed underwater, the flow of which formed their unique shapes.

The garden has some wonderful layering effects going on

The pond in the center of the garden is meant to evoke a vast lake, with the rocks in the distance serving as mountains with waterfalls and streams.

Koi swim languidly in the lake

These interesting tiles are bat-shaped drip tiles, each adorned with five bats, representing each of the five blessings -- long life,  good fortune, good health, a love of virtue, and a painless passing.

A shower passed over while I was there, and everyone scurried under the trees and into the pavilions surrounding the pond

Every little corner of the city block is used

A pretty orchid



Cutleaf Oak

At times it's hard to believe you're in the middle of Portland

According to the booklet that was handed out with my ticket, "Lan Su is a special place in the midst of the city where we can escape traffic, calm our senses and reconnect with nature."

So true!

For a few more words about Lan Su, as well as gorgeous photos with lots of plant IDs, see the following posts from local Portland garden bloggers:

Scott at Rhone Street Gardens: Portland Chinese Garden Plant Sale 

Loree at danger garden: Plant Sale! And Portland’s Lan Su Classical Chinese Garden...

And danger garden again: A quick stop at Lan Su...

That's it for gardens that I saw in Portland. Now I'm back home in my own garden, still planting like a maniac, trying to catch up with all the plant shopping I did this spring. But, don't worry -- there are more plant tours in my future.


  1. I love this place; it was the absolute highlight of my trip when I visited Portland a few years back. Having since actually been to Suzhou and seen some of the "original" historic gardens there, I have to say this one holds up well even in comparison.

  2. I especially like the pebble mosaics on the walkway. Pretty plants and foliage in a nice setting and the plants work so well in Portland's climate.

    I'm glad you had a good time on your weekend and I enjoyed seeing your tours, looks like a lot to see. Happy planting!

  3. What a beautiful place! I love the layering of the shrubs, too. It looks effortless but we both know it's not! Thanks for the tour and your kind comments on my blog. :o)

  4. A stunning place...hard to believe this is Portland those stone paths especially.

  5. I was very impressed with the Chinese gardens too, the very elaborate ornate buildings contrasting with the wildness of the natural rock formations and waterfalls. Your photos are great, and thanks for the background information. All the plants were amazing too.

  6. Definitely on our list of must see places to see when we visit Portland (cross fingers!)

  7. Wow! incredible garden!! I´ll try my best to visit it some time in my life.

  8. How beautiful! I love the elegance of the water and trees with harmonious architecture. Superb

  9. I visited this garden last spring for the first time with my daughter. I remember thinking how peaceful it was. I missed the info on the bat tiles, though. That's quite interesting.


Gardening is a solitary activity. But blogging about it is a social phenomenon! I don't make money from my blog by advertising, or use it to drive customers to a business. If you liked my post, or my writing or photography, or even just one picture or turn of phrase, I'd love to hear from you. That's how I get paid.