Living Collection

China is home to more than 30,000 plant species, fully one-eighth of the world total. Many of the plants we know and love in the West originated in China, yet few people recognize China’s influence in their own gardens.
E.H. Wilson, noted 20th century plant hunter, referred to China as the Mother of Gardens.

As the United States continues to foster cultural exchange with China through friendship projects, our knowledge of Chinese flora as well as the opportunity to cultivate these plants in the West increases. Considerable effort is now being made by international consortiums to identify threatened and endangered species native to China and bring them into cultivation both in China and elsewhere. Because China is home to such a large proportion of the world’s plants, the preservation of these species is of special importance to all people.

Living Collection

The living collections at the Portland Classical Chinese Garden present hundreds of native Chinese plant species and forms. The Garden is home to more than ninety specimen trees, many rare and unusual shrubs and perennials, and signature collections that include Magnolia, Cymbidium, Camellia, Osmanthus, Rhododendron and bamboo. Many of these plants have a long history in traditional Chinese gardens while others reflect the efforts of relatively recent expeditions into China’s hinterlands for wild-collected species virtually unknown in the West. Still others speak to the work of scientists and plantsmen to showcase desirable characteristics through breeding and selection of garden worthy hybrids and cultivars.

Horticultural Mission

Our mission in developing this unique and diverse living collection is twofold. As a botanical garden, we seek to create as much diversity as possible within a small footprint (only one city block). Our goal is to provide visitors with a microcosmic view of the wealth of China’s native flora. As a purveyor of traditional Chinese culture, the Garden’s botanical collections provide an invaluable tool for explaining customs and traditions rooted in human interaction with plants over China’s lengthy and well-recorded history. To the monks who nurtured 1,000-year-old camellias behind the sheltering walls of aged temples and to the artisans, crafts people, and plantsmen who built the Garden and procured the plants, we express our most sincere appreciation. And to the citizens, east and west, who so generously gifted the garden with relevant species and private contributions, our heartfelt thanks. 

Garden Plant Database

In addition to our physical collection of plants, a comprehensive plant database documenting the Garden’s living collections was launched in July 2005. Individual entries include physical descriptions, cultural anecdotes where appropriate, images, and maps for conveniently locating plants in the Garden’s landscape. The site is presented in both English and Chinese. Thank you to the M.J. Murdock Foundation, the Autzen Foundation, the Oregon Community Foundation, the Hardy Plant Society and matching donors for their support of the database.

Visit the Garden’s plant database.

The Garden also provides plant specific tours that are of interest to both home gardeners and professionals in the fields of horticulture and botany. Classes and lectures relevant to Chinese horticulture are offered throughout the year.

Portland Classical Chinese Garden

NW 3rd & Everett Portland, OR 97209 503.228.8131