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

Rockery Mountain

A mystical range of mountains rises abruptly to the west of the Tower of Cosmic Reflections. Peer through shadowy passageways that recede from view to the branches of an umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) swept up in a shaft of light at the rear. Nearby, a member of the blackberry family (Rubus lineatus) rambles along a bare rock face with boldly fluted, emerald green leaves - the Chinese call this plant 'hollow bubbles' in reference to its compound fruit.

Past the waterfall, on the other end of the low bridge is a dwarf pomegranate (Punica granatum 'Nana'). The pomegranate has been widely used in Chinese gardens since its arrival from the Middle East nearly 2,000 years ago. Its contorted stem gives it an aged appearance making it a popular plant for 'penjing,' the Chinese art of miniaturized landscape. The fruit, with its abundant seeds, has long been a symbol of fertility. Farther along grows a ginger lily Hedychium coccineum), a close relative of true ginger, the familiar culinary staple used for its flavorful root. H. coccineum is prized for fragrant, spidery-shaped, coral orange flowers complimented by canna-like foliage.

The broadleaf trees settling into the hillside behind the ginger lily are Michelia wilsonii and Michelia doltsopa, evergreen relatives of the magnolia. The Michelia is distinctive because it carries blooms along the entire length of its branches, unlike the magnolia which produces flowers only at the branch tip. Fragrance is Michelia's most alluring feature - the creamy yellow blooms of M. wilsonii have been described as a blend of cinnamon and Easter lilies. A shrubby Michelia, M. figo x doltsopa, is planted in the foreground and again to the right; its fragrance is like that of a ripe banana. The small yellow flowers of M. figo are streaked with maroon and open only partially, which inspired Chinese gardeners to compare them to the shy smile of a young girl.

There are a dozen Michelia species throughout the garden. Together, they comprise one of our most important collections of plants.