Despite the Garden being surrounded by taller buildings, you never have the feeling of being watched. Lan Su really is a little microcosm of solitude in and of itself.
The Lan Su Garden is a true gem in our city. It is a garden the size of a city block, which was built as a collaboration between Portland and its sister city Suzhou in the Jiangsu province in China. Every time I go, I see new things. The last time I was there, I marveled at many of the details. Because it was a rainy day, I noticed things that I probably otherwise wouldn’t have, and in the gray mist, the colors appeared deeper and richer.
Every time I’m there, it seems, I photograph the paving. Intricate patterns of stone chips, pebbles and mortar.
You know how a mitered corner eventually looses its sharpness and gets chipped and is worn away? Notice how the Chinese deal with that annoyance. Very elegantly, they fit the two blocks so that one side is cut as a square, to prevent the inevitable chipping.
Here is another application of the same principle.
Like the disc between two load-bearing vertebrae, the weight transferred by the column is poetically expressed in how it rests on a flattened base. Also, notice how the addition of a small square in the corner gives the appearance of the base being “centered”. This small addition restores the visual balance of the composition.
Once inside the gate, in the inner courtyard, the paving pattern changes. By simply changing the direction of the small stones, the pattern expands outward and each side differentiates itself from the others. So subtle and beautiful.
I love how the same shape is used to delineate the transition from the inner courtyard. Notice also that on the other side, the colors are inverted – the field color changes from light to dark.
Once you stand on the walkway leading across the water…
…, you can’t help but notice the wood work in the roof structure emphasizing where most of the weight distribution is – on the corners.
If you let your eye slide downward, along the column, you’ll notice a glimpse of the same compressed cushion as before, except this time it is merely implied in the stonework. There is also that familiar inset square that breaks with the surrounding texture.
Here, the column is anchoring an inverted corner. By now, you probably expect it to be sitting squarely in the center of a square, and you would be right.
Notice the intricately sculpted roof tiles. The pointed wedges have a purpose too, as you will soon see. The tree is a Koelreuteria paniculata, or Goldenrain Tree – a small tree, native to China. It is also a fairly common street tree here in Portland.
Terrible photo, I know, but you get the idea. The pointed wedges provide a drip edge for the rain water which on this particular day was plentiful.
The fruits of the dwarf pomegranate were positively glowing.
And, the white light shone through the red rose petals, rendering them translucent.
The Lan Su Garden is one of my favorite places for textural inspiration.
The massive leaves of Podophylum pleianthum. And I found some comfort in seeing it surrounded by the masses of leaves from the nearby Magnolia grandiflora. Apparently, massive leaf drop is not unique to my tree.
The Tea House and a magnificent Weeping Katsura across the pond. From this angle, the stone looks as if it has taken the place of the tree trunk.
The Koi were laying low, so the water lilies provided the eye candy, their leaves covered in water droplets.
This plant puzzled both my friend and fellow plant geek Michele and I. Anyone know what it is? The color is spectacular!
View outside the Tea House.
I think this is a Bletilla – a hardy type of orchid. Notice that just like in the Japanese Garden, the Chinese builders use roof tiles for edging. Chinese Gardens have evolved over 3,000 years. Not until the 6th century C.E., did they teach the craft to the Japanese, so I dare proclaim our Chinese friends were first!
Quietly, yet insistently, the rain kept coming down. This garden is a beautiful place to be on a rainy day, in the company of a dear friend.
On the bridge near the waterfall, we stopped to admire what the water did to the carved stone flower.
No matter what time of year one visits, there are lovelies at their prime. Here are tall Honorine de Jobert anemones, Begonias, and Loriope en masse.
This corner was starkly and distinctly vertical – greatly contrasting the lushness in the previous photo.
A flowering (and fruiting!) banana.
The scent of wonderfully fragrant Gardenias wafted our way as we reached the inner courtyard again, having gone full circle.
Under the watchful eye of the resident Dragon, we concluded our visit to this magical place.