Enjoy beautiful examples of wonderful landscape design features.
All of these photographs are my own. I had collected these photos last year (April 2019) when I visited the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland, Oregon.
Here we see splendid examples of natural wood walkways, concrete pond walls, stacked stone walls, gentle river streams, and a breath-taking half-circle archway. Looking back draws me right back in. The street drawings in the Mary Poppins movie had the same magical effect on children and like-minded adults. You could stay inside forever.
My sister badly needed a quiet day off so she could study for her nursing exams, and I wanted to visit the park with my friend, so I agreed to take her son along for the journey. The lady with the wonderful hat and silver hair is a friend of mine, and she had a profound effect this day on channeling the over-active energies of my 7-year-old nephew on this day into positive directions. Okay, yes, I'm sure the ducks and waterfalls helped out too. He really didn't want to come with me to the park, but soon after he found it difficult tear himself away from the many interesting locations he was enjoying interacting with.
I have visited both the recently renovated Portland Japanese Gardens and the Lan Su Chinese Garden of Portland. Both are beautiful and iconic of their cultures, yet I feel more at home here in the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.
Everything here is more wild and natural than the carefully manicured Chinese and Japanese Gardens with their rich architectural buildings. Man-made landscape features exist here, but they only exist to enhance the natural surroundings. Although...
... I do love the romantic walkways, it is the colors of the many rhododendron varieties that take center stage in the gardens.
Every year the garden is filled with guests flocking to view the many blooming trees during Mother's Day weekend. Reed College across the street is overwhelmed with a parking nightmare. Come a week or two earlier, as we did, and the crowds are a bit less overbearing.
There are no buildings here apart from the small ticket entranceway. Utility sheds and storage buildings for hosting wedding event equipment is tucked away from sight, with attention drawn instead to the ponds and large plaza lawns where the geese leisurely stroll. Nearly every path includes small outdoor room enclosed by walls of plants that make me feel private and cozy.
Just as when planting a bonsai tree, the wisdom is to never plant the tree in a pot that is more interesting than the tree. I believe the landscapers of this park did a good job of not creating building structures that would distract too much from the more impressive plants that have built themselves into the land over the years.
The lawns here come with their own free hired help.
And the pathways have cleaners who keep things clear for guests.
The longest living volunteers never seem to tire. Always there to help provide plenty of welcomed shade for guests needing a place to relax and cool off.
These arched trees with a pathway that splits around an enormous trunk form interesting mazes with fun choices to make at the end. We often found ourselves walking around in circles not wanting to miss out on any of the hidden features.
A couple of times my nephew disappeared from us as he would race ahead around a bend. Fortunately we always found him quickly enough within earshot and eyesight through these many open hedge mazes of trees. Any kid could easily run up ahead and then reappear from behind.
The sloped wall ties in Japanese garden features such as low growing conifers, Japanese Maples, and Cryptomeria. Trees of many colors border the hill. Each tree forms a shape that blends into the shape of the hillside to make everything feng shui (geomancy balance of the elements of the earth, yet asymmetrically appealing according to a golden ratio).
The interesting thing about the archway, to me, is how it defines a separation as well as a union between what is below and what is above. Two separate intersecting pathways in conflict find resolution to coexist. Neither pathway is forced to climb steps up or down to continue its sequence.
Those above look down and appreciate idealic setting below. Those below bask in amazement of the marvelous structure that elevates people a short distance above to cross a wide expanse. Nature folds around both, tying the spaces together into the same room, yet both are somewhat private from one another.
The entire structure is kept low and painted brown, to diminish its presence so it can blend into the surroundings.
Not sure if this is concrete or stone, but it has a natural feel I can appreciate. The step heights are easy to manage and spaced a part enough to take your time as you ascend a short distance. The steps are wide enough allowing crowds to walk past or in opposite directions. The irregular outcroppings of stone give the area a mountainous appearance and provide crevices for many low-growing shade plants to spring out from.
These stones can even serve as a solid seat to chill out on. I believe I did just that, and found myself taking more time to notice features further away in the scenery while my companions took their time appreciating small details up close both above and below this stepped area.
As much as I love irregular dry stone stacked walls, I appreciate it even more when plants makes a home there. Not too much moss is growing here because it faces the full sun. The texture and color of the stone is visible yet dressed in the eclectic clothing of the native landscape. Upon the rock we are met with hundreds of flowers and other unique plants.
The ancient wall shows that it is very much in tune with the living nature in this way. I love seeing a rough wall made strong enough to overcome the heavy weight of the land behind it, while providing a home for well-contained weeds that become cascades of innocent little flowers.
Inspired Thoughts: Transcending the Rock Wall
If only urban planning and the homeless in Portland could gain inspiration from the stone stacked wall to create a more harmonious solution to the housing crisis that seems to be sweeping over the land. We are faced with a growing population of strangers who have no love for the land. People often deface the buildings and toxify gardens with garbage and pet waste. They live here on the streets, yet they do not have a place they call home.
Some of the oldest districts, like Sellwood and The Pearl are still prized for their garden groves where neighbors look after their land. Now these areas too are being swallowed up by steel towers. The homeless flock here outside the new building walls they can no longer afford to live behind. On the outside at least they can still enjoy facing a nice yard with flowers, hoping the residents of these fancy homes will spare a chunk of change or a morsel of food.
Unfortunately many home-owners end up selling their homes to the city (which gets turned into more towers) because there is nowhere for them to park (most old homes have no garage), zoning has increased their property taxes too high, and the neighborhood is no longer safe to raise a family with all the rampant crimes nearby.
I would love to see some of the older brick and wood buildings around town better preserved. My philosophy is growing populations should be welcomed to spread-out rather than spread-up.
The oldest buildings here were built with the best materials and craftsmanship, and able to last longer than modern homes. Recently, most old buildings are bought by the city and torn down to become monstrously expensive condos with little or no parking. I believe the old buildings can become community owned buildings where people can pool the rent funds to improve the property and the communities around them.
It would go a long way to shape the future of the city and inspire the next generation to take pride in their ancestors' buildings, and continue to improve the city for the next generation. An old tree, some moss, and flowers growing here and there returning year after year would also serve as better reminders of our past than the unchanging modern concrete and steel towers masking our land in permanent clean, but bleak, darkness.
Thank you for viewing my collection of photos.
There are many more photos in this collection I will be soon releasing, and I have categorized them by topic.
Rhododendron Garden Tour
- Flowers Up-Close
- Full Sized Flowering Shrubs
- Scenic Views
- Landscape Designs
- Water Features
- Low Growing Plants
As always, comments are welcome below.
Painters, please be my guest and use any of these photos to inspire artwork.
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