There’s something about a flower that could melt any girl’s heart. But what if, instead, you have a full garden’s worth of flowers, all blooming like there’s no tomorrow, exploding in vivid colors against a lush green background? Ahh, that’s heaven.
That was how I felt when we set foot on the famous Portland Rose Garden — also known by its full name “The International Rose Test Garden”. The garden is so named because it serves as the testing ground for different rose varieties from across the globe. Currently, there are more than 7,000 plants of more than 500 varieties. If that isn’t an overload of rosy goodness, I don’t know what is. Portland, Oregon’s largest city, will forever be known as the “City of Roses”, and nowhere can this be seen than in their Rose Garden.
You can easily get to the Rose Garden from Oregon Zoo by taking the free shuttle. The bus runs every weekday, from 7AM to 6PM. The free shuttle is operated by Washington Park, and leaves every 15 minutes. Of course, you can also walk from the Zoo to the Rose Garden, but it’s a bit of a hike.
We visited in June, which was perfect — everything was in full bloom! I am a garden lover, and a picnic lover, and this place is just perfect. I was so delighted — I felt like a child being given candy. You can see that easily by the huge smile beaming from my face. My friend Andrea and I walked most of the gardens, among the many people who were shooting pictures as keepsakes of this beautiful place. The gardens were large enough that you can easily find your space even if there are lots of people around. There was even a prenuptial photoshoot going on largely undisturbed by the throng of guests.
The bloom of colors was a spectacle of nature! I can easily imagine myself sitting on one of the benches, musing, and working on this blog. What better place to let your creative juices out than in the middle of Earth’s floral embrace?
Portland Japanese Garden
As if that wasn’t enough, right next door (across the street, actually) is the Portland Japanese Garden. In some ways, it is the opposite of the Rose Garden. First, it has a paid entrance whereas the Rose Garden was free. Also, the Japanese Garden is smaller and had more bodies of water — more “zen”, if you can put it that way. That much can be expected from the name.
That does not mean, however, that it is any less enchanting. It really looks like those gardens found in Japan — not an imitation by any measure! It has a lot of greeneries, making for a relaxing atmosphere. The koi ponds were also points of interest. It’s worth taking the walk to visit the place once you are in the area.
In the Japanese Garden, it seemed the best activity was not to go around and see the sights, like in the Rose Garden. Instead, it seemed best to just sit down and reflect, letting the peaceful vibes of your surroundings envelope your mind. It’s very conducive to thinking, and I found myself thinking about a lot of things while there. For example, there’s the fact that I and Andrea were here enjoying the trip together. That was a lucky stroke. I had posted in Facebook that I was supposed to go alone on this trip, but Andrea happened to be in a convention in Canada around the same time. Good friend that she is, she extended her ticket and we ended up here on this unplanned escapade. Funny how things happen when you least expect them!
The Japanese Garden may be smaller, but it is also a lot less crowded than its neighbor. However, that may just be because the weather was not really perfect the day we were there. The sun was crazily playing hide-and-seek with some rain clouds, and there were some slight drizzles after a dose of sunshine. During the drizzle, most people flocked either to the restrooms or the gift shop — now that’s where things got crowded. The rain wasn’t unforgiving, and we still had our fill of the garden. We were finished in time to catch the bus back to Oregon Zoo, and take the train back to the city.
I’m a simple girl at heart, and the twin experience of the Rose Garden and the Japanese Garden made my day. Nothing but good old strolls in the heart of beauty — what could be better? Of course, doing that while on a date with someone — but that’s another story!
Lan Su Garden
Right by the town area, the Lan Su Garden is a lot easier to get to compared to the other ones. This makes the garden much busier, especially since it is quite small. However, strolling through the garden is still a pleasure.
It came as a surprise to me that Lan Su was not simply any Chinese garden. It was inspired by China’s own Suzhou city — which turns out to be Portland’s sister city. Located in the Jiangsu province, Suzhou is known for its artful Mind Dynasty gardens. Lan Su was created by the same Chinese artisans.
I also enjoyed the koi pond, where you can actually feed the fish. This is one of those places where you can just sit down and relax on a slow afternoon. But of course, that’s not ideal when it’s as busy as it was during the time I visited. Adults can buy tickets for $9.50, while children under 5 are admitted for free. Seniors and students get discounts. If there are two adults and two students in a group, they can get the Family Pass for $28.
The Gardens in the Grotto
If you are looking for somewhere you can just sit quietly and reflect, there is nowhere better than here. The Grotto itself is a Catholic shrine, so that in itself says a lot about the atmosphere. The clean and serene surroundings of the Gardens are decorated with wooden, stone, and brass carvings of Biblical scenes. There is also a Christian chapel, a meditation room, and an observation room at an upper level. However, you have to pay $6 to go there.
I’m a simple girl at heart, and the quartet of the Rose Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Lan Su Garden, and the Gardens in the Grotto can make my day anytime. Nothing but good old strolls in the heart of beauty — what could be better? Of course, doing that while on a date with someone — but that’s another story!