Portland, Oregon: The City of Gardens

Photo by Ken Goldman and Jane Martin

PORTLAND, Ore. —— Summer in Portland, Oregon is something everyone should experience at least once. With long days, temperate weather, and a treasure trove of festivals, shows, and culinary offerings, the Rose City has a lot to offer for those looking to plan their adventures in the coming months.

Often remarked upon for a natural splendor not often seen in major American cities, Portland is also a city of gardens, with an incredible breadth and depth among these public jewels. While planning a vacation this summer, Portland’s vibrant arts, culture, food, and shopping experiences will be excellently paired with visits to these spaces that reconnect you to nature and can even introduce you to the diverse cultural heritages that informed their creation.

Portland has faced many of the challenges seen by most of the nation in recent years, but it has always been a community of caring and nurturing people. This quality is revealed through its breathtaking gardens, spaces that can only exist through successive generations through care and consideration of those who follow.

Included among the city’s many outstanding gardens:

Courtesy of Portland Japanese Garden, photo by Wayne Williams

Portland Japanese Garden is a nonprofit organization and public garden founded in 1963 as a place for cross-cultural understanding following World War II. With a mission of inspiring harmony and peace, Portland Japanese Garden was founded on the ideals mutual understanding between peoples and cultures. It has been proclaimed by many visiting dignitaries and experts to be the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan. Considered to be among the foremost Japanese cultural organizations in the world, this summer the Garden will offer joyous cultural festival celebrations, intriguing art exhibitions, and demonstrations and presentations that highlight the many gifts of Japanese culture.

Courtesy of Lan Su Chinese Garden.

Lan Su Chinese Garden was constructed by skilled Chinese artisans from Suzhou, China and it stands as one of the most genuine Chinese gardens beyond China’s borders. Beyond its role as a picturesque botanical garden, Lan Su is a creative marvel—a profoundly inspiring experience rooted in a 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition, seamlessly blending art, history, architecture, design, and nature. With over 500 cultural and botanical programs annually, Lan Su serves as a portal to authentic Chinese culture and a platform for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.

Redwood Trail, Hoyt Arboretum, Portland, Oregon, August 2021. Courtesy of Hoyt Arboretum Friends, photo by Mike Drewry.

Hoyt Arboretum is Portland’s museum of living trees. Straddling 189 ridgetop acres in Washington Park, it is home to a global collection with over 6,000 trees and 2,300 species. Nationally-accredited collections are grouped taxonomically, and planted along 12 miles of trails which are free and open to the public to explore 365 days a year. Maps and knowledgeable staff and volunteers in the Visitor Center, to guide you to favorite summertime spots like the Redwood Deck or the Overlook Viewpoint. Hoyt Arboretum thrives thanks to a partnership between Portland Parks & Recreation, and the membership-based nonprofit Hoyt Arboretum Friends. 

Courtesy of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. Photo by Ken Goldman.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is a sanctuary of tranquil beauty for the wellbeing of all. A unique 9.5-acre woodland garden situated on a spring-fed lake, Crystal Springs is a stunning urban escape any time of the year. April through June, when the azaleas and rhododendrons are in full bloom, the garden is a riot of color. Surrounded by Crystal Springs lake and interior lagoons, the garden attracts an array of wildlife. In fall and winter, trees and shrubs add interesting color and interesting structure. This tranquil setting makes it easy to forget that downtown Portland is only minutes away.

Courtesy of Leach Botanical Garden, photo by Tamra Tiemeyer.

Leach Botanical Garden For four decades, Leach Botanical Garden has welcomed visitors to experience an urban oasis in outer SE Portland. The Garden was initially established by John and Lilla Leach and was gifted to the City of Portland. In 1983 the non-profit org Leach Garden Friends formed a partnership with the city to care for the Garden and open it to the public. In 2023 close to 30,000 visitors came to the 17-acre Garden to experience a unique mix of cultivated horticultural spaces, native habitat restoration areas, historic buildings, and one-of-a-kind experiences, such as our aerial tree walk. Guests enjoy nature fairs, concerts, celebrations of life, art workshops, guided tours, and other programs that further our mission and connect with diverse communities.

Courtesy of Portland’s International Rose Test Garden.

Portland’s International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park, part of the Portland Parks & Recreation system, is one of the top free attractions in the state and an iconic global destination. A serene, sensory swirl of fragrance and relaxation, the world-famous garden has more than 10,000 individual rose bushes, representing over 610 different rose varieties. The roses typically bloom from late May through October (depending on weather). The 6 plus acre garden has a panoramic view of the city and garden is used for; Weddings, proposals, photography, and tranquil reflections are commonplace in the Int’l Rose Garden.

Courtesy of The Grotto.

The Grotto, a peaceful Catholic sanctuary in NE Portland, celebrates its centennial this year. With gardens open daily, The Grotto welcomes visitors from all around the world and all walks of life. Occupying 54 acres of gardens and forest, The Grotto is truly an oasis in the city. The lower level is free to all throughout the year. There is a small admission fee to visit the Upper Gardens, where guests take an elevator up a 110-foot cliff and enjoy a stroll along the scenic paths. Everyone is welcomed at The Grotto.