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

Listening to the Fragrance Courtyard

Fragrance is one of the most sensuous ways to experience a garden. The Chinese aesthetic often places more weight on fragrance than the fleeting visual charm of an arrangement of petals. Linger here and, as the couplet inscribed above the moon gate suggests, listen to the fragrance.

Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) scrambles over root and rock alongside Asian jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum). These are ever-present climbers in Chinese gardens and are called rock net jasmines for the net-like appearance of their untamed vines. The "catch" is an abundance of small, highly scented white flowers that bloom profusely in early summer. In China, the buds of jasmine are gathered just before dawn and sold in the marketplace as hair ornaments. Women wear them well into the evening, by which time heat from the day's exertions coaxes them open.

Against the east wall grows a variegated mock orange (Pittosporum tobira 'Shima'). In spring, clusters of creamy yellow flowers yield the fresh scent of orange blossoms. Glossy, evergreen foliage brightens winter days. Nearby, specimens of two recently introduced hardy hybrid gardenias (Gardenia 'Kleim's Hardy' and G. 'Chuck Hayes') as well as the Chinese native Gardenia fortunei perfume summer evening breezes.

Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) hovers overhead and provides a fragrant interlude with waxy, pale yellow urn-shaped flowers in January. The Chinese consider C. praecox the floral symbol of the twelfth lunar month and it is often used interchangeably with the winter flowering plum when depicted in traditional art forms.