Portland is one of the greenest cities anywhere in the US and you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to gardens. In fact, with over 200 parks within the city limits, you’d struggle to find a city destination better suited to a garden visitor. On a recent visit I was lucky enough to see the trees proudly showing off their glorious autumn colours. But this is a city with something to offer all year round, and with gardens for every season, too. And should you tire of all those gardens then head out into the surrounding countryside for hikes among endless Douglas fir trees and trips to waterfalls and pretty coastal villages.
Here are my eight favourite gardens to visit on your trip.
Portland Japanese Garden
I was so taken with the Portland Japanese Garden that I visited twice. This tranquil haven boasts five separate, traditional Japanese garden styles and was first planned after World War Two as a way to build harmony between the US and Japan. It’s now regarded as one of the finest examples of a Japanese garden outside Japan. Don’t forget to finish your visit with a delicious green tea set at the tea house and look out for their temporary art exhibitions.
Located northwest of downtown, this eight-mile-long park is really a forest in the city, covering 5,156 acres. I loved taking a half-day hike with a guide, who pointed out some of the woodland flora including the park’s tallest tree. The park supports more than 112 bird and 62 mammal species and acts as a natural air purifier for the city.
Mill Ends Park
At just 61 centimeters in diameter, Mill Ends Park is the world’s smallest dedicated park. Back in the 1940s the tiny patch of earth was destined to contain a lamp post but when it never materialised a journalist for the Oregon Journal decided to plant flowers instead, naming the space after his newspaper column ‘Mill Ends’. More of a novelty, this one, but certainly a charming piece of Americana.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
I was extremely impressed by this authentically built Ming Dynasty style garden. You’d never guess you were right in the heart of the city once you step through the moon door and your eyes are drawn to covered walkways, bridges, pavilions and the richly planted landscape all framing a little Lake at the centre. Join one of the regular tours to get the most from your visit.
International Rose Test Garden
Portland is home to the oldest official continuously operated public rose test gardens in the United States. And even when I visited in the pouring rain in October, it was an absolute delight, with more than 10,000 rose bushes and a spectacular view of the city behind to set off the fragrant blooms.
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
When I visited this pretty garden it was, of course, the wrong season for the rhododendron blooms (although a great time for bird watching around the pond). But I was told that they are fantastic, so should your visit fall in spring make a beeline for this garden. The collection includes many rare and hybrid species along with azaleas and deciduous and coniferous trees.
This botanical garden is spread across 62 acres and split by a dramatic cliff. It’s a lovely place to go for some quiet reflection during your trip. The garden is actually a Catholic sanctuary (the full name is The National Sanctuary of our Sorrowful Mother) but it welcomes everyone to take a stroll and admire the ponds, towering firs and over 100 statues and shrines nestled among flower-lined pathways.
This mansion perched high above the city has a fascinating history, which you’ll discover as you explore the interior, along with wonderful views. But it was the garden that wowed me. Slowly wandering the pathways around the house, I loved the formal beds packed with wonderful hostas and heucheras.
Find out more about holidays in Portland
There are many more gardens to discover in Portland, including the Leech Botanical Garden and Hoyt Arboretum, and of course the city also offers a wealth of other activities to enjoy, too. Look out for my guide on some of the other highlights this Oregon city has to offer.