Portland
Classical Chinese Garden
NW 3rd and Everett, Portland, OR, 97208, 503-228-8131


Beside Zither Lake

Before strolling out across the Zig Zag Bridge, pass through an arrangement of plants divided into three distinctive groupings. Flowering crabapple trees on either side of the path unify this area. The specimen standing near the water's edge is the Chinese hanging-silk crabapple (Malus halliana), named for pendulous pink flowers borne on long, slender stalks. Chinese gardeners treasure M. halliana for its disorderly array of intertwined stems. The crabapple is often depicted in traditional art with the tree peony and magnolia. The combination suggests "wealth and rank in the jade hall", a reference to scholars of old who passed imperial examinations at the highest level.

Closer to the bridge, a shore pine (Pinus contorta) overshadows the pebbled walkway. Beneath it grows a quince (Chaenomeles 'Atsuya Hamada') epresentative of the genus found throughout east Asia. This selection was collected in the wild by the well-known northwest plantsman, Roy Davidson. Its smoldering, deep red flowers are translucent when backlit by late winter sun.

Across the path to the north, near the Half Window Clustered in Green, is a pair of husan palms (Trachycarpus fortunei). Harvested for its fiber, this cold-hardy palm has been cultivated in China for so long that its native range there is uncertain. It is the most commonly planted palm in the Portland area and will surely enjoy wider usage in cooler climates.

A variety of grass-like ground covers in this area are featured throughout the garden. The small clumps of dark green grass are Ophiopogon japonicus, affectionately known as the "bordering everything grass" in China where it is used extensively. Lily turf (Liriope muscari) is the taller, more graceful specimen edging the path. Delicate lavender flower spikes emerge in late summer. Both L. muscari and O. japonicus are lily family members. The green and cream striped grasses are Acorus gramineus 'Vareigatus', the dwarf version of the Chinese 'fortunate bulrush' (A. calamus). Catching a glimpse of A. calamus in bloom was considered auspicious; moreover, prolonged life was assured by drinking a beverage made from its leaves.

husan palms (Trachycarpus fortunei)