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

Phoenix Rest

This small courtyard harbors the Chinese parasol tree (Firmiana simplex), one of the most symbol-laden plants in the garden. Against the rear wall, F. simplex awaits the arrival of the fabled Chinese phoenix, a mythical bird whose anatomy includes a fowl's head, human's eye, reptile's neck, swallow's brow, and the shell of a tortoise. The phoenix will alight only on the branches of F. simplex and its presence traditionally signals the success of a just ruler. F. simplex is a member of the chocolate family with large, deeply lobed leaves that resemble a parasol. Its edible seeds are sold as delicacies in China.

To the right of F. simplex is Daphniphyllum macropodum, a tough, evergreen shrub recently introduced to the west. Similar to rhododendron in appearance, its broad, blue-green leaves are held in place by attractive red petioles accented by white flowers.

Female specimens produce handsome crops of chalky blue fruit. Native to southern China and Vietnam, D. macropodum holds great promise for our gardens as well.

In the foreground grows a yucca or phoenix-tail orchid (Yucca gloriosa). Although native to North America, yucca is favored by Chinese gardeners who appreciate it for its form, texture, and ability to withstand adverse conditions. Yucca can be seen throughout southern China in both traditional and modern gardens.

Along the front of this planting bed is the day lily or forgetting sadness herb (Hemerocallis citrinus). This species, in contrast to the flamboyant hybrids now available, has demure blooms with long, slender yellow petals. A trace of citrus scents the air around them. H. citrinus and its close ally, H. nocturnum, share the trait of opening during the evening, unlike most day lilies. The genus Hemerocallis is mentioned in ancient Chinese pharmacopoeia as a remedy for sorrow. And because the flower was once believed to favor the conception of sons, expectant mothers sometimes tucked the buds into their clothing.

day lily or forgetting sadness herb (Hemerocallis citrinus)