Gardens in Autumn

Stone Dragon

This year, the Stone Dragon and the vibrant Scarlet Japanese Maple, below, were about as scary as we dare fare for Halloween. For some reason, neither Lloyd nor myself were really into Halloween; well if you must know, we actually forgot. True. We did. We don’t have young kids, so…you get the point.

However, with that said, if you know me at all, you know that Halloween is my favorite holiday, next to of course Christmas. So imagine my horror, in fact, as the door rang around 5:15 with great enthusiasm, I might add, I asked myself who in world would be ringing the doorbell now? If they continue to pound on it we will need yet another one. Disgruntled I chose not to answer the door. It never even occurred to me that it would be a trick or treat-er. All things considered good thing I didn’t answer the door. We had no candy. What kind of message would that have set.  I guess the tricks were on them or me depending on how you look at it. Try us again next year.

Japanese Maple in Vibrant Scarlet

This weekend, this amazing Japanese maple was about as mysterious and intriguing as our minds were this year.  This photo shot by Lloyd, yes he was the one hunkered under the tree on his hands and knees, then laying on the wet ground. Yep, that’s how he rolls.The only other person I know that would attempt such an act would be a biologist. Humm.  Personally I am glad he did, as the photo is awesome. He captured both the beauty and mysteriousness of the tree, it practically jumps from the computer screen.

Where are we? A little hint perhaps. Gardens in Autumn.

Lichens and Moss Growing on the Forest Trees

Still no idea? Well, in keeping with our weekend themes of traveling, we decided this past weekend to stay close to home and bring you a garden in autumn.. So where are we?  No one? Okay, I will tell you.

Western Sword Fern Frond

Generally, when one thinks of gardens, flowers and/or vegetable gardens pop into ones head. In Portland, most of our minds tend to explore outside the box a bit more often than other places in the world. Our city has been named one of the greenest in the US.

We are fortunate to have many varieties of gardens which stretch yards beyond the typical flower garden or even the vegetable variety.

In fact, Portland, Oregon offers some of the most amazing gardens in the county and is home to the largest Urban Wilderness Park in the United States – at a little over 5,000 acres amply named Forest Park. Who knew? we did, but then again we live here. And now you know.

Were you also aware that Portland owns the rights to the worlds smallest park in the country as well? We do – Mill Ends Park. This tiny park is roughly two foot in diameter or about 452 square inches. There is a funny story attached to the tiny park something to do with a leprechaun and St. Patrick’s day. For those unbelievers you can look it up if you like. Just a little trivia for you about Portland.

Western Cedar Bark

Okay, for those who don’t live here and still can’t figure out where we went, like those who live on snowy east coast, I bet they wished they lived in Portland, Oregon. Snow before Halloween? Really? I am so glad that I figured it out and moved to Portland. The east coast has some brutal weather in both summer and winter. No thanks. Been there – done that. I experienced horrible winter weather while I lived in New York and Connecticut, but as I recall, never this early in the season. To think the east coast experienced such a significant snow storm this early in the season is remarkable, packing over two feet of snow in places, lost power and downed trees included. They best prepare themselves – winter doesn’t officially arrived until December.

Japanese Maple Fire Red Leaves

So to my friends on the east coast, the words ‘Karma’ invokes my thoughts, at least for some of you. For others I’m sorry you had to go through such a horrible weekend filled with two feet of beautiful whiteness.

A Peak inside the Gardens 
Red Leaves

In our little universe in Oregon, the weather patterns luckily generally are not conducive to such dramatic weather conditions. 2009, may have been the exception. That year was one for the record books, or was it 2008? While our weather occasionally is the talk of the news, it does pale in comparison to many other places.

Fast forward to 2011. Only the powers that be know what will ensue us this winter. Let’s hope for a dramatic winter one full of snow. Maybe not. Let’s stick with autumn for a while.

With warmer thoughts in mind, we decided to take advantage of our nice weather and head to the gardens. No not Madison Square Gardens. The Japanese Gardens. These gardens are spectacular in Autumn.

Rain Collection Basin

While I must admit, this is the first year since moving here some five years ago, that I have actually been to the Gardens. I have loved them so much we have been to the Japanese Gardens three times and the Rose Gardens once. Amazing. The area I am talking about is no regular park by any means, it is a rather infamous park – Washington Park, located just west of the downtown area, and home to the Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Gardens, and the Portland Japanese Gardens. We opted for a visit to the Japanese Gardens.  As it turned out, we spent both Saturday afternoon and Sunday Morning at the Gardens.

Tall Pagoda

Two days you say? Do you see the cool Pagoda? More importantly what is surrounding it? For you photographers, no HDR necessary,  I might add. None. Okay if you have been or planning to venture a visit once you see the gardens you understand – they are very tranquil and can fill your mind with zen, if you allow it. An Urban park, where there only noise you will hear is yourself breathing. Well, on the weekday maybe. One thing that is noticeable missing, are waterfowl, specifically geese.  Do you know why? I do. But ask me again when spring returns and I will tell you if I am correct.

Japanese Rain Collection Basin

In the midst of wonderful city we have, tranquility. We are lucky to live here. But as with all wonderful places, weather drives the number of patrons to take part in the stress free environment full of color and calm.

Saturday, was, a bit on the crowded side. Not as bad as say a hot summer day, but for October, it was mighty crowded. We returned on Sunday, because, well when you see the photos you will understand why we returned a second day. A Photographers Dream.

Japanese Maple Gold

Autumn, is particular lovely in areas containing deciduous trees. The Japanese gardens in autumn, offers an extra special place to visit, largely because a majority of the vegetation at the Garden is comprised of deciduous species who transform into wondrous displays of color.

Golden Leaves and Raindrops

With winter knocking at our door at tad early, people are taking advantage of our nice weather when ever possible. Before we know it, we will be experiencing daily doses of clouds, mixed with drizzle, cold, and frost. And not necessarily in that order. And for kicks, you might also throw freezing rain and snow, in the mix. Not as bad as the east, but bad for us here in the west. Generally, we have little snow if any. Hopefully, I won’t be eating crow in a few weeks – referring to the bad karma which has taken-up residence on the east coast.

Vine Maple Leaves on a Bench

Sunday presented a small reminder of what is to come. The day was mostly cloudy with the occasional drizzle Portland has become so accustomed to, followed by a shower or two, or three. Thankfully, the rain really started after we were in our car and on our way home. A perfect ending to a perfect day.

Red Vine Maple Leaves on a Bench

My mind returned momentarily to snow and the loss of power which east coasters felt this weekend. I shouldn’t laugh, well, I chuckled for many reasons but I just can’t help myself as I look outside and see sun and no snow. Not a cloud in sight and pleasant temperatures.

Big Leaf Maple leaf Surrounded by Vine Maple Leaves

I mentioned, It might be nice to have some snow, but the east can keep their Nor’easter that blow in on occasion.  Christmas by all means bring it!

Fall for me is my favorite time of year as one can bring out the cozy sweaters and drink hot chocolate and site by the fire with a glass of nice wine. And a look outside one sees the vibrant colored leaves which makes one glad autumn is here. The Japanese Gardens are lovely because of the variety of deciduous trees that are now in full transformation, and ready to blow off.  This is why we spent two days here. We couldn’t get enough of the wonderful colors and tranquility on Saturday and we took our chances with the weather on Sunday and well, for the most part it worked out great. The added bonus from a photographers perspective is the tiny world with which we capture in our camera lens morphs into a completely different vision. Well almost.

Colors of Autumn

Here we have two differing perspectives by two different photographers. Considering, I am the author of this blog, a majority of the images presented are mine. However, from time to time I love to toss in a few of Lloyd’s. And this week’s is no exception. Why? If you have ask, then you haven’t seen his work. He is a fabulous photographer. Didn’t the Mysterious Scarlet Tree give you a hint at how talented he really is. Well, it is because he is the photographer. I merely fake it, so I can write a blog. Kidding.

Bright Scarlet Maple

All kidding aside, on a day filled with sun and a few clouds, we turn our heads toward winter in hopes it stays away for as long as possible. Did I mention today was sunny and bright with pleasant temperatures.

This is what the weather is like in Portland in autumn, and any area where deciduous trees and shrubs grow, something of a wondrous sight lays before you as the leaves practically transform from their typical greens to wondrous shades of crimson, scarlet, gold, rust, and deep ruby reds before your eyes. Like the bright scarlet colored maple. No color enhancement required.

Red Fire Maple Tree

While it took the leaves a bit longer than normal to change this year, the wait was worth it. This years show has been  exceptionally impressive.

Red Leaves

Especially, for all varieties of  maples as they continue to transform from their rich colors of wine and cherries to ever deeper more robust colors of dark ruby-red like this tree which looked like fire engine red. Shockingly beautify. Sadly, the leaves have nearly dropped leaving behind piles of multicolored leaves on the ground and bare branches. Boo.

Where else can one experience the wonderful color changes than the most prestigious Japanese Gardens outside of Japan; our 5.5 acre park is home to a variety of maples, oaks, various shrubs. A park full of textures, colors, and art.

These Gardens on any given day are visited by tourists, students, locals, and photographers, all because they are as magnificent as people say they are.

Two Herons

Anyone who visits Portland should take the time to visit Washington Park and all it has to offer. You won’t be disappointed no matter what time of year you visit.  Even in the rain, snow (if any), and/or sunshine the park is wonderful. These two Iron herons are along the edge of the Upper Pond facing the small fall.

The upper pond illustrates the various layers of foliage, the textures, and the marvelous colors, designed specifically, I believe to offer a wondrous view all year round. However, because of the steepness of some of the trails, some portions of the gardens may not be open for viewing until the onset of spring. You should to contact the Japanese Gardens to see the hours and accessibility. The following photograph depicts one of the small waterfalls that is tucked away in a section of the pond.

The creative Japanese designs and magnificent water features are in part what sets these gardens apart from other gardens. The water features are all exquisite from their form, size, and surroundings. Each offers an exciting story which is captured through the eye of a camera lens. This is in part why so many photographers, students, art enthusiast, and anyone interested in beautiful colors, plants, and water features. If you look close you can see koi and carp swimming in the ponds, and no sign of any waterfowl except for the two iron herons. None. Do you know why?

Stone Walkway

As one continues along the many trails the terrain changes from natural hardened soil, to areas of gravel paths and stones intricately situated along a trail like this stone and cobbled pathway.

This particular area is next to the stream and next water feature, south of the Upper Pond. One can see from the next photo a pagoda in the background. This view is south providing a peek into a very unique and surprising area of the stream channel.

Peek into a Hidden World

A “Peek into the Hidden World’ is an overview of the next two photographs which depict two view of the same location. One is capture by me, the other by Lloyd. Each of the photos are facing upstream toward the bridge.  Can you decipher who took each photo? Hint – one is a biologist the other an engineer.

Pagoda and Stream

The ‘Pagoda and the Stream’ focuses on the vegetation, the pagoda appears as though it is keeping a watchful eye over the water feature and vegetation growing along side. The photograph below one’s eye begins at the pagoda then follows a line up the stream course. This photo brings an entirely different feel as a result of the angles.

Pagoda and Stream Up-close and Personal

So, I shot the first photograph, while Lloyd shot the second. You see what I mean in that 1) a biologist took the first photograph and clearly is merely snapping the shot, while 2) an engineer took the second shot as the lines and composition are perfectly outlined. So now you know the secret and who takes certain unlabeled photos.

The following photo is a snap downstream toward a zig-zag board walk path that covers a section of the stream. The ‘Three Stones’ photo provides a the view from the bridge looking downstream as you stand on a small stepping stone pathway.which crosses secretly through the stream channel.

Three Stones

At the end of the stream segment is the called ‘Tiny Falls – Trickling Stream.”  What represents true Japanese decorum, are the many stone statues, pagodas, and wooden structures found nearly hidden throughout the gardens.  It is truly wonderful to turn and find one unexpectedly in a word, watching. The focus is pagoda on guard, keeping a watchful eye over the upper portions of the stream. It portrays a more intimate,  personal feel, one of enlightenment; a  defined line. At the end of the three stones is a tiny hidden water fall which drops down into a new segment of the stream the wooden boardwalk.

Tiny Falls – Trickling Stream

The trail one of many, we wandered along takes one though a variety of mini-climates, the small forested area to where these tiny falls drop into another stream we have crossed the water flows down into a wonderful pond. These Gardens contain an Upper pond a strolling pond garden, a zig-zag wooden bridge over a stream/pond containing koi and carp, and Heavenly falls all of which are located within an Urban area so spectacular you need more than one day to capture its essence.

One of the most wonderful features at the Japanese Gardens clearly are the streams and the masterful waterfalls which cascades throughout the area. One in particular named ‘Heavenly Falls,’ is  breathtaking. The vision extraordinary.

As I mentioned earlier, Saturday was a bit more crowded than on Sunday. Saturday to capture an image of the falls was nearly impossible due to the number of people wanting to either have their photo taken with the waterfalls behind them or they were busy taking a shot for the travel album. Before on can capture the entire falls they stand at the end of the jagged boardwalk.  I held back and snapped the next two images. The first adds a mystical feel as one secretly peeks through the trees and finds a stairway of falls awaiting them.

Hidden Falls Through the Trees – Number 1

Photograph number 2 represent a similar images as the previous one, only finished in black and white with a hint of green for effect. I liked both images and couldn’t decide which to include, so I added both. You can decide which you prefer.

Hidden Falls in Black and White – Number 2

Which photo is better, well that my friends is what makes photography so  interesting. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

Finally our turn to arrive at the falls. One first stands at the edge of the boardwalk then, one looks up, and the red maple pops out like a pop tart – the view is stunning as is the triangular visual one gets beginning with the pagoda, to the large triangular-shaped moss-covered rocks to finally the falls is amazing. ” I believe this is one of my favorite photos taken this time at the Gardens. I think I will have a top five list. I would be interested in learning what your favorites are

Pagoda and Waterfall

Another perspective from the same location is presented below in “Triangular Vista – Pagoda – Waterfall.”  This photo was shot by Lloyd.

Triangular Rock – Pagoda – Waterfall

Waterfall Scenes 3 and 4 were both taken at the Heavenly Falls as one rounds the corner and is standing directly in front of the falls. This is where everyone wants to stand. Including us. When we finally had our opportunity the next four images depict our view.  The first two are taken up-close, while the last two are zoomed out. zig-zag trail.

Waterfall Scene – 3

This is ‘Heavenly Falls” I was thrilled that mine turned out. Neither of us used a tripod for any of our shots and I tend to shake a bit, so when the photos actually worked, I believe we were both amazed

This next image is Waterfall Scene 4. The photo is amazing, especially the milkiness of the water. I love it! this is Lloyd’s vision of the falls.

Waterfall Scene – 4

The next set of photographs are the same as I mentioned. The first one “Waterfall Scene 5” zooms out and hence is slightly different from the other two images 3 and 4.

The next photo is a zoomed out shot of ‘Heavenly Falls.’

Waterfall Scene 5

So, with six photos taken almost in the same place, one sees five differing views of the same area. Not surprising. What is surprising is that Portland is lucky to be the only city outside of Japan to have Gardens a miraculous as these. From the photos one can see how lovely the gardens are. I am looking forward to spring when we can return and capture yet another perspective of the Gardens. The places we shot photos take into account a small percentage of the gardens. We mainly stayed along the main path of traffic. There are many other trails and interesting gardens to view.  With that said, I hope you found our photos insightful, exciting, and conveyed to you the beauty of the Portland Japanese Gardens.

Portland should be proud to have such a wonderful park in their backyard. Labeled as one of the ‘greenest’ cities in the states we have evidence of yet another accomplishment and ownership of that title. And to have the best Japanese Gardens outside of Japan. Now that is something.

I have chosen my five favorite photos in order and would really like to hear from you about your favorite photos.

1 ) Japanese Maple in Vibrant Scarlet; 2) Tall Pagoda; 3) Waterfall and Pagoda; 4) Hidden Falls in Black and White; and 5) Big Leaf Maple Surrounded by Vine Maple Leaves.

Thanks for reading,



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