Portland – Lan Su Gardens

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After four months of traveling to and from Alaska, we were ready to stay in one place for a while. Portland, where one of our daughters lives, was an obvious choice. We had stayed at Columbia River RV Park originally because of the review in one of our favorite blogs, Wheelingit. Last year we stayed for two weeks but this year we booked a month there.

During our previous visit to Portland we visited Multnomah Falls, the International Rose Garden, Portlandia, Voodoo Doughnuts, and the beautiful Silver Falls State Park. Some places in Portland bear visiting multiple times, including the wonderful Saturday Farmers market at Portland State and Powells bookstore. One of the places that we had not visited last time were the Lan Su Gardens.

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The Lan Su Garden is a treasure in the heart of the city. It is the result of the “sister city” relationship with the Chinese city of Suzhou. The garden’s name is a combination of sounds from the two cities names, Portland and Suzhou. The Chinese city of Suzhou was the home of hundreds of gardens. Many were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, but 60 gardens have survived. The Portland Lan Su Garden is considered one of the most authentic outside of China.

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A large number of workers, tons of rock, and many plants were brought to Portland from China for the city block size traditional Scholars Chinese garden. The 65 artisans from Suzhou lived in Portland for 10 months, working with structures crafted in China and the imported rock. Incorporating over 500 tons of materials and 300 plants found in Chinese gardens, the workers completed the enormous task in 2000. Note that the plants themselves were not brought from China due to import bans, but surprisingly many were found in Oregon nurseries.

Celia and I visited and were amazed at the incredible detailed terraces, walkways, arches, water features, and plants. We ended up taking two tours, one general visitor tour and another with one of the horticulturists, which were excellent. As you can imagine, the upkeep of such an exquisite garden is a constant work in progress and a fascinating story. We recommend taking one of the tours.

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Walking through the garden doors, you are quickly transported away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Portland. There are various pavilions and studies that magnify the solitude that the gardens create for the visitor. The streams and small lake are home to hundreds of Koi fish happily meandering throughout the property.

We concluded our visit with a visit to the two-story tea house overlooking the main water feature. This was one of the highlights of the visit.

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Portland is home to many places to visit and enjoy. Lan Su Gardens is one you should not miss.


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