A Garden Named Su – Plants from the Lan Su Chinese Garden

After coming home and looking through all the photos I had taken from my visit to Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden, I felt like I went at the perfect time of year.  Although many of the deciduous plants and perennials were just starting to leaf out, there seemed to be an emphasis on early spring bloomers (with fragrance!) and an abundance of evergreen plants as well, which kept me from feeling as though I was missing out on the full garden experience.  I’ll be honest, I actually visited the garden last year, but in late March all the same.  After not getting around to sharing my journey within the first month or two following I thought it would be best to wait to post anything until it was the same time of year again.  Besides, now I can lure people to my blog with the pitch that this post is a year in the making; did it work on you?

Outside the garden I was led in by an intoxicating fragrance.  At first I could not determine what it was but later found out it was a Korean Spice Viburnum (didn’t get a pic).  What a great fragrance.  I’ve considered adding one to my yard for that feature alone.  Walking closer to the entrance I found this bright mix of evergreen plants: Fragrant Sweet Box (Sarcococca ruscifolia, the green shrub, normally planted in some shade but here in full sun if I recall correctly), Golden Variegated Sweet Flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon‘), Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) and Persian Chocolate Moneywort (Lysimachia congestiflora ‘Persian Chocolate‘).

Sarcococca ruscifolia, Acorus gramineus 'Ogon', Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens', & Lysimachia congestiflora 'Persian Chocolate'

Coming inside the main entrance there was an architecturally-appealing and inviting opening, with Apple Blossom Evergreen Clematis (Clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’) hanging above and in full bloom.

Clematis armandii 'Apple Blossom' on a wall

Clematis armandii 'Apple Blossom' flowers

Inside the main garden there is a huge pond.

Lan Su Chinese Garden

I was pleasantly surprised to see a Great Blue Heron in downtown Portland, looking to snatch a meal.

There were lots of Rhododendrons…

I’m not a huge fan of rhodies (maybe too commonplace here), but this specimen really caught my eye with it’s irregularly long elliptical leaves.  When backlit, these had a dramatic look.

Rhododendron leaves in light

I love Stewartias.  I’m guessing this slow-growing tree has been anchored here for some time.

I love this scene of Liriope with the lilac-blooming Corydalis and the somewhat rare, white-blooming Bergenia emeiensis.  This species of Bergenia does not appear to develop any winter color, which may be preferable for many gardeners.  You definitely can’t complain about large foliage that dark green and glossy, and on a plant that will spread nicely.  I love the stonework on these pathways as well, such an attention to detail.

Lan Su Chinese Garden

I was drawn by fragrance once again (can you tell that’s a theme here?) to this Paper Bush (Edgeworthia chrysantha).  It is a beautiful shrub in bloom and the bark and structure is also appealing.  If I was to get one in my yard I would go for the red-flowering variety, ‘Red Dragon’.

Edgeworthia flowers

Paper Bush flowers

I loved this evergreen plant with the twisted foliage.  Not sure what it is though, let me know if you do!  Certain features remind me of a rhodie, but I’ve never seen one so exotic looking, if it is.

Twisted evergreen foliage

Lan Su Chinese Garden

Podophyllum, ophiopogon, liriope

If the sun’s coming out, I will too…

Mini Podophyllum

Quicksilver Wild Chinese Ginger (Asarum splendens ‘Quicksilver’) around the base of a tree.

I loved the view from underneath this pine, with the light penetrating through the cover of needles and then dancing along the edges of these contorted branches.

Path at Lan Su Chinese Garden

Vibrant red flower

Radiant white flower

The cheery bloom of a Japanese Rose (Kerria japonica).

Japanese Rose

Kerria japonica‘s arching stems reaching for a drink.

Kerria arching over water

Intriguing red bloom

Fringe flowers (Lorepetalum chinense) doing their thing.  These large shrubs add great color year-round.

Chinese Fringe Flower & Peony

Fringe flower leaves in light

Bridge at Lan Su Chinese Garden

Chinese architecture

Dog?  Lion?  Or beast?  Poor guy has quite the short, front right leg.

Chinese dog statue

I loved the glossy green leaves of the Chinese Mayapple (Podophyllum pleianthum), just starting to emerge from its slumber.

These upright stony figures decorated the garden adding a lot of character.  I couldn’t tell if they were natural or man-made, obviously the holes are unnatural.

Rock feature with rhododendron

This was a pleasant plant grouping, with the pine and magnolia trees behind the mature Chinese Mahonia (Mahonia fortunei) in the foreground, then flanked by the cast-iron plant (Aspidistra genus) and then by the Variegated Winter Daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’), which was in bloom and offering up its wonderful fragrance.

Magnolia, Pine, Mahonia fortunei, Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' and Aspidistra

This shot also shows the nearby Paper Bush better.  My nose was on sensory overload.

Daphne, Edgeworthia, Mahonia, Aspidistra

Daphne & Rock at Portland's Lan Su Chinese Garden

The Magnolia blooms were getting ready to open.

Pink Magnolia flowers


These Camellia blooms were stunning because each one was about the size of my hand.  Not as easy to tell just by looking at the photos here.

Red Camellia flower

Camellia through lattice

Camellia over wall

This twisted fellow was sentenced to a life in a pot, and was on display towards the end of our journey, a Flying Dragon Trifoliate Orange (Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’).

Twisted, thorny fellow

If you’ve been wanting to visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden, now would be a great time to go.  When I went last year they were also having a plant sale, which was on an adjacent block, and I believe it’s an annual event they have there.


4 thoughts on “A Garden Named Su – Plants from the Lan Su Chinese Garden

  1. Great post Luke. I’ve never been to the Garden in March. I’ve been several times in the summer, winter and fall though. I was researching a children’s book project I wanted to do, and trying to entice the board at the Garden to pay me to create some animation for their website. It’s nice to see it from someone else’s perspective. I featured the apple blossom in my animation, you can see it here:

    Enjoy. And keep the good posts coming. — Ry

    • Nice work Ryan, I remember talking with you about that. It is a great place to capture through artwork. I appreciate that this garden is right in the heart of Portland, yet a place of sanctuary and beauty.

    • Thanks for visiting Matt! Yeah, a virtual tour is just not the same as being there. I wish I had the power to share all the wonderful fragrances this time of year via computer, but that technology may be a ways out.

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