Portland Japanese Garden

In Portland, Oregon, there is a lovely 5.5-acre Japanese garden situated in a hilly area west of the city center, within Washington Park. It is considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan. I visited this serene setting in May a couple of years ago, and would like to share some of my photos.

Portland Japanese Garden A

 

Portland Japanese Garden B

 

Portland Japanese Garden C

 

Portland Japanese Garden D

 

Portland Japanese Garden E

 

Portland Japanese Garden F

 

Portland Japanese Garden G

 

Portland Japanese Garden H

 

Portland Japanese Garden I

 

Portland Japanese Garden J

 

Portland Japanese Garden K

 

Portland Japanese Garden L

 

Photos by Alice Webb

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Plants for all Seasons

After deciduous trees have shed their leaves in cold climates, the landscape need not be a boring and drab scene. There are a number of plants that display ornamental characteristics during the chillier months of the year, sporting colorful and interesting bark, stems, fruits, and seeds. Below are a few examples that should brighten your day!
 

A stunning display of Bloodtwig Dogwoods
 

Crabapple fruit against a backdrop of fallen Ginkgo leaves
 

Hydrangea seed heads add visual interest to the winter landscape.
 

The bark of this River Birch appears to glow in the sun.
 

Although ornamental grasses die back in winter, leaving their flower stems and foliage in place until spring adds color and texture to winter landscapes.
 

Brightly-colored Weeping Willow branches enhance a snowy park scene.
 
Photos by Alice Webb

Rooftop Retreat: A Hospital’s Healing Garden


The Olson Family Garden at St. Louis Children’s Hospital
 
In recent years, outdoor garden spaces at hospitals have become more common, and are often included with the construction of new health care facilities. They are usually referred to as therapeutic or healing gardens. Studies have shown that access to nature in hospital settings can reduce pain and relieve stress, which in turn enhances the immune system and speeds healing. Patients aren’t the only ones to benefit; their families and heath care staff can attain relaxation in these spaces as well.

In October I had the pleasure of visiting the Olson Family Garden at St. Louis Children’s Hospital (in St. Louis, Missouri). The staff horticultural therapist kindly gave me a tour of this delightful space. Built in the late 1990s, this 8,000-square-foot rooftop garden is dominated by a lush array of greenery, mostly in raised planters, and also seasonally in movable pots. An abundance of plant materials is important in any type of outdoor healing setting. This space also includes winding paths; stepping stones through a shallow pool; fountains; interesting and fanciful art pieces; a goldfish pond; various resting spots; movable furniture; and telescopes for viewing a large park near the hospital grounds. Furthermore, the garden is lit for nighttime access and viewing.

This garden isn’t just for passive enjoyment, however. Horticultural therapy sessions are facilitated in this space, where patients engage in gardening and associated activities. These sessions have many social, psychological, physical, and cognitive benefits. In addition, programs involving crafts, puppet shows, music, and storytelling brighten the spirits of the children.


This beautiful scene in the garden is in springtime, viewed from the entrance. A rolling sphere fountain can be seen in the foreground. Blooming Redbud trees are situated in front of a circle of columns topped with translucent leaf-shaped panels, symbolizing nature.


This miniature garden appeals to all ages.


Stepping stones cross a wading pool…


…and continue between two raised planters.


The garden’s goldfish pond


A restful nook with playful windows overlooking Forest Park


A custom-made planter with kid- and adult- level kaleidoscopes


In the foreground is one of several fountains in the garden (turned off for the season). Long-range telescopes, in the background, allow visitors to view Forest Park.


A wonderfully whimsical art piece

First four photos by Gary Wangler, Horticultural Therapist, St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
Remaining photos by Alice Webb, blog author

Planting Fields: A Historic Arboretum

A grand estate built in 1904 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, Planting Fields is now a public arboretum owned by the State of New York. This spacious site includes a restored mansion with adjacent sweeping lawn areas bounded by large specimen trees; formal gardens and fountains; extensive plant collections; numerous woodland trails; tropical greenhouses; and other structures and spaces of historic value. There were several designers involved in planning this property over the years, including the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm of Brookline, Massachusetts, who oversaw projects from 1918 until 1944. Below are a few images of the property that I took during a visit this summer.


Colorful blooms at the Arboretum Center


Vegetation covers a wall near the Rose and Pool Gardens


The Italian Blue Pool Garden


Perennials at the Pool Garden


Perennials at the Pool Garden


A pleasant, shady trail


Parrotia persica in the Synoptic Garden


The Synoptic Garden includes an extensive plant collection.


Coe Hall (north side)


Coe Hall (south side)


East Lawn near Coe Hall

Photos by Alice Webb

Tower Hill Botanic Garden


One of my favorite places to visit in New England is a hidden gem in central Massachusetts called Tower Hill Botanic Garden. It consists of a wide variety of beautiful garden areas, including both formal and informally-designed spaces, and ranging from large open sites to shady woodland trails. The visitor/education center is also very impressive, with tropical greenhouses, classrooms, a café, and gift shop.


Gazebo at the garden entrance


Bromeliads frame the gazebo archway


The Entry Garden


Approach to the visitor center


A colorful vertical garden was recently installed near the visitor center entrance.


Café terrace


The Winter Garden


Mist fountain at the entrance to the Systematic Garden


The Systematic Garden


Inviting seating areas are scattered throughout the property.


Outdoor fireplace surrounded by plants near the old farmhouse (administrative offices)


A pleasant, shady spot in the garden


Terraced entrance to the Lawn Garden


The Lawn Garden is surrounded by colorful plantings.


Pergola at the south end of the Lawn Garden


A seating area in the Secret Garden also provides a view to Tower Hill’s heirloom apple orchard to the south.


Heading back to the parking lot through the lovely Entry Garden

For views of Tower Hill (and its tropical greenhouses) during another season, check out Winter Garden Scenes — an earlier post in this blog.

Photos by Alice Webb

The High Line, Section 2


In mid-March I visited the second phase of New York City’s High Line Park, which opened last year. This ½-mile section is as delightful as the first part, with some of the same themes carried throughout, but also containing some unique and exciting features. My favorite area is the Fly-Over, where the walkway rises to eight feet above the high line surface. From this level, one travels through the canopies of trees planted below, and one can peer down to the view the various plantings on the “forest floor”. The Fly-Over also includes several viewing spurs, including one that overlooks 26th Street.

The photos below will give you a tour of this elevated linear park from the 30th Street terminus to 20th Street, where the first phase of the High Line connects with the second section. Enjoy your walk!


Radial seating flanks the curved, northern end of the High Line, Section 2


The Wild Flower Field along the northern section before spring cut-back


The elevated Fly-Over takes people through the tree canopies


One of several viewing spurs along the Fly-Over


View of the “forest floor” from the Fly-Over


Another “forest floor” view with railroad tracks – a reminder of the High Line’s history


People relax on the 26th Avenue viewing spur. The metal frame is a reference to the billboards that used to be mounted along the High Line – Now it frames the city scene or the people on the spur, depending on one’s vantage point.


A shifting section of walkway, “peel-up” bench, and restored Art Deco railing – recurring elements along the High Line


Stairs lead down to 23rd Street, with the elevated Lawn in the background. From the northern section of the Lawn, one can look down either direction of 23rd Street and see both the Hudson and East Rivers. Metal strips in the pavement refer to the High Line’s former use as a rail line.


Cor-Ten steel planters near the 23rd Street stairs


The Lawn – a rare treat in this dense city environment. When this photo was taken, the Lawn was still closed off for the winter.


Seating steps at the south end of the Lawn, constructed of reclaimed teak


The Chelsea Thicket near the south end of Section 2 – A Winter Hazel is in bloom in the foreground.

Photos by Alice Webb

Green Streets of Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon, is known as one of the greenest cities in the U.S., receiving high marks for public transportation, bicycle/carpool commuting, renewable energy usage, recycling, and number of LEED-certified buildings. It also has quite a few innovative environmentally-sustainable sites, including several “green streets”. These streetscapes incorporate special planters that decelerate runoff and filter pollutants from the water before it reaches the storm pipe system.

During a recent visit to Portland, I had the opportunity to see a couple of these green street projects in the downtown area: one on Southwest 12th Avenue within Portland State University, and another on Southwest Park Avenue across from Director Park. There are several other green streets scattered around the city, and many of these have their own unique design.

The 12th Avenue site was the first of its kind, built in 2005. In addition to its stormwater management function, it has enhanced the visual quality of the existing streetscape. In this case, stormwater flows into the first of four planters, and settles into the soil. During heavy storms, if the water level in this planter reaches more than 6 inches, the excess amount will flow back out into the gutter and then flow into the next planter for infiltration, repeating the process. Water exceeding 6 inches height in the last (lowest) planter will flow out to the street and enter the storm drain system. The number of planters functioning in this manner depends on the intensity and duration of each rain event. The planters are filled with a native species called Grooved Rush (Juncus patens), and each also includes a Black Gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica). Both of these species tolerate saturated soil conditions. In addition, a 3’-wide strip of pavers is located along the street side, providing space for access to parked cars. Pedestrian walkways are also situated between the planters, bounded by small shrubs.


The Southwest 12th Avenue planters include a strip of pavers for parked vehicle access.


Excess runoff from the lowest planter enters the storm drain system.


The planters and vegetation fit nicely into the urban streetscape.


Each street-side planter inlet includes a small hump in the asphalt to direct water into the planter.

The planters on Park Avenue are designed in a different manner. The largest planter (pictured below) is divided into three sections. Water enters the planters from drain inlets along the street side, and from gaps in the curbing along the sidewalk. When water in the highest planter section exceeds the height of the divider during large rain events, that runoff will flow over the divider into the next section. Most of the water will filter into the soil in the planters, but during the heaviest storms it may reach the third (lowest) planter section. If the water level in this section reaches the height of the elevated drain inlet located within it, this excess water will enter the inlet and flow into the storm pipe system.


Southwest Park Avenue planter with drain inlets connecting to each divided section


Raised drain inlet within the lowest planter section


Gaps in curbing along the sidewalk receive runoff.


One of several individual tree planters along Southwest Park Avenue only receives runoff from the walkway side. A small raised drain in the planter takes in excess water during heavy storms.

Photos by Alice Webb