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

Zither Lake

Perhaps one of the most stirring sights for visitors to our garden is the presence of lotus (Nelumbo) during the summer months. This water garden classic is actually quite hardy, weathering Portland area winters with ease. The enormous circular leaves of the lotus are held aloft and shed water, like silvery beads of mercury. Immense flowers hover overhead revealing large, cone-shaped seed pods when petals fall away. The distinctive fragrance and grace of the lotus flower has inspired many generations of Chinese poets and artists. It is imbued with the notion of integrity, rising from the mud and traversing murky waters only to reveal an untainted, flawless bloom.

Placed among the lotus in Zither Lake are several species and cultivars of water lily (Nymphaea). These aquatic plants have somewhat heart-shaped leaves which rest on the water's surface, creating a counterpoint to the aerial display of lotus. The water lily's bloom floats complacently alongside, which inspired the Chinese to call them "sleeping lilies".

Plantings at the margins of Zither Lake include a bamboo-like reed (Phragmites australis ' Variegata'). Its boldly striped foliage of vivid yellow and green contrast the shapely, burgundy-colored leaves of arrowhead (Sagittaria 'Benni'). The genus sagittaria is native to wetlands in both China and the U.S. The Chinese refer to arrowhead as the "kind aunt" because it produces numerous edible roots, enough to feed many nieces and nephews.

water lily (Nymphaea)