Another Asian Garden in Oregon

Place: Japanese Garden, Portland, Oregon
Date: April 30, 2017
Weather: Partly cloudy
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It was very interesting to visit a Chinese and a Japanese garden on the same day. I couldn't help but compare them. Unfortunately the Japanese garden couldn't hold a candle to the Chinese garden.

Both had a bonsai display, as you'd expect. The specimens in the Japanese garden were definitely more impressive. Like this flowering apple tree, for instance. The bonsais were off in a corner of a large plaza by the entrance to the garden. You can see the plaza in the background of this photo.
Flowering apple bonsai.

The grove of maple bonsais below was charming, too.

In the background of this photo, you can see the way the bonsai area had been separated from the larger plaza. There's a low wall with a see-through trellis and some low shrubs on the other side of the trellis. The Chinese and Japanese gardens both try to control the visitor's view. In my opinion, the Chinese garden was much more succesful at it. At 9 acres, the Japanese garden is a magnitude larger than the Chinese. There's a corresponding increase in difficulty in designing it. It was a bit disappointing that the Japanese designers haven't entirely met that challenge.

See the photo below, for instance. I used the portrait setting on my phone to blur the background, but it still attracts attention away from the bonsai. It's the same with the lovely flowering bonsai above. Not only did I blur the background, I also made the photo black-and-white to prevent the background from grabbing the viewer's attention. In the Chinese garden, background treatments were kept extremely simple, often consisting of just one material, e.g a white-washed wall. That allowed the specimens to shine much more than in the Japanese garden. It feels a bit unkind to say it, but a garden is about the whole experience, not just individual specimens. As lovely as they may be.
Bonsai maple grove.

I'm trying not to diss the Japanese garden, but here you see another reason why I preferred the Chinese garden. These garishly-colored pink azaleas were dotted throughout the Japanese gardens. If they hadn't been in flower, the scene below would have breathed tranquility. The focus would have been on the stone light and the interesting texture of the bamboo gate. It would have been a subtle photo.
Tea house garden gate.

This is much better. Fortunately the azalea on the left hasn't started flowering yet, so it doesn't steal the show from the simple, mossy stone bowl and the water.

To avoid the cluttered scenes, I took a lot of closely-focused photos. Like this one, of a lovely Magnolia stellata flower.
Magnolia stellata

The tall conifers work really well in the Japanese garden. They give it protection from above, in a way that's missing from the Chinese garden. With 9 acres, there's room to spare for giant trees.
Baby pagoda.
This is the Sand and Stone Garden. We might think of it as a Zen garden, but the proper term is karesansui, which means "dry landscape." It's meant for contemplation and is often found near the abbot's house in Buddhist monasteries in Japan. Because of the simplicity of materials, this is one of the better areas of the garden. Although I think I would prefer if the walls were a little taller and if the foundation wasn't visible. That would have made it easier to appreciate the artful raking and careful placement of rocks.
Contemplative garden.

I'm wondering if the GJ monogram on the coping was the previous logo of the garden. This part of the garden was designed in the 60s. Particularly the shape of the letter g looks like it could be from that time. If the garden as a whole had been as restrained as the Chinese garden, this little detail would have been charming. It's an interesting juxtaposition of a traditional Japanese stone lantern and the very Western lettering.
Wall coping detail.

Another view of the dry landscape garden.
The Japanese Garden is not bad either.
No matter your opinion about the design of the garden, there are some fantastic specimens. If you love Japanese maples, you'll get your fill. These red, hairy new leaves are not to be sneezed at.
Hirsute Japanese maple leaves.

Nearby is the Flat Garden. It's a later development of the Dry Garden. The raking is lovely and the bright green foliage contrasts wonderfully against the dark conifers. Unfortunately the camellias could feature in Crimes Against Horticulture. If you want green boulders, it's much better to pour some concrete and paint it green. The reason the camellias have so few flowers, is the strictly geometrical pruning.
Flat garden.
Here's a camellia that has been allowed to grow naturally. Isn't that better?
Red camellia.

I'm glad that was the last photo I took, because it allowed me to end on a positive note. Maybe it's just that Japanese gardens don't work for me. Hakone Gardens is here in the Bay Area, and it was a disappointment, too. Hakone is supposed to be super authentic. Call it sacrilege, but if Hakone were a Chinese garden of the same quality as Lan Su, I'd easily buy an annual pass.


Place: Pittock Mansion, Portland, Oregon
Date: April 30, 2017
Weather: Partly cloudy
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I didn't actually spend much time in the garden around the mansion. I was put off by the garish color combinations at once, so I concentrated on the inside. But the entrance to the mansion was surrounded by clouds of white, double Prunus flowers, so I did take one photo of them.
Double Prunus flowers.

The color schemes inside were much more refined. This is an example. It's the Turkish Smoking Room ceiling. There was a desk here and French doors out to the terrace. I imagine that it would have been a wonderful place to write in summer with a breeze coming in through the doors.
Fantastic ceiling in the Turkish Smoking Room in the Pittock Mansion. #pdx

What fascinated me about the mansion was the modernity, particularly in their use of plumbing and technology. The Pittocks had money to spend and they used it for their convenience. Typical of the time, the early nineteen hundreds, they were also very keen on hygiene. Here is a double sink with ingenious drains. The little towers are the drains. Apart from that I also really like the shape of the divider bertween the sinks.
Beautiful sink. #pdx

 Another time-saving device was this intercom. It connected all the main family rooms with the working rooms, such as the kitchen. It also reached the garage and the gate keeper's cottage. The Pittocks didn't have to ring a bell and wait for a servant to appear before they could make their wishes heard. Instead they just picked up the receiver and spoke directly to the servant they wanted. That must have impressed guests. It also made it easier for the servants. At this time, it was hard to find good servants, because most people preferred to work in factories. The pay was better and you weren't subject to the whims of rich people in quite the same way as if you were in service.
Intercom patented in 1907.

There were two showers in the mansion. They sprayed water from above, below and the sides, depending on which of the many knobs you turned. If you think hotel showers are baffling, you'd probably like to read the manual before stepping into this one.
The Pittocks had a nicer shower in 1914 than I do now.
Another example of beautiful plaster work. This is most likely new. The mansion stood empty for a short time in the sixties and was badly water damaged during a severe storm. Most wall treatments, furniture and plaster work are new or come from other families. That was a little disappointing. I would have preferred to get a more intimate view of the Pittocks and their descendants. That's what makes history come alive for me.
More high quality plaster decorations.

Original Pittock belongings were marked with a large blue P. That's how I know that this wonderfully grumpy cat painting isn't from the Pittocks. The white, longhaired cat with her beautiful eyes has destroyed the valuable vase. The peacock on the table cloth is a symbol of vanity in Western art. So the painter was probably trying to convey a moralistic message about the danger of being taken in by beauty. Particularly female beauty, as cats tend to be identified as female. Today we just laugh at cats being jerks.
Destructive beauty.

A Chinese Garden in Oregon

Place: Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland, Oregon
Date: April 30, 2017
Weather: Partly cloudy and chilly, but no rain
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I went sighseeing in Portland, Oregon and my first stop was the Chinese Garden. It was a very pleasant surprise. Here is a representative gate by the entrance.
Enjoying the Chinese Garden. #pdx

The garden is only 1 acre. It takes up exactly one city block in the Chinese part of Portland. That means that office buildings form a second, higher, wall around the garden in many places. This is a typical example. You can also see water in this shot. That's because most of the acre is taken up by a large pond. This rock is near the entrance.
Picturesque rock with Chinese inscription. #pdx

This is Podophyllum pleianthum, Chinese May Apple. The leaves are very large and look as if they're made of plastic. The brown flowers beneath the leaves seemed to attract flies.
Anybody know what this is? The brown things are flowers.

In the bathroom, there was a miniature kimono on the wall.
It's a baby 👶 kimono. #pdx

The garden and buildings are meant to show the family compound of a wealthy 16th century family in Suzhou, Jiangsu province. One of the first buildings you get to is the Lounge House. This is where the family would gather to socialize. Naturally their ancestors are invited too. This brass Kwan Yin statue was on the ancestor altar there.
Kwan Yin on an ancestor altar. #pdx

The next part of the compound is the Scholar's Study and garden. The scholar cultivates bonsai, of course.
Bonsai display. #pdx
Peonies have been cultivated for millennia in China. Isn't this lovely?

The spring plant guide on the Lan Su web site tells me that this is Iris confusa 'Martyn Rix' in the Scholar's garden. The flowers have a very pleasing, airy habit.
Irises in the Scholar's garden.

Looking back through the moon gate at the bonsai display in the outer courtyard of the Scholar's garden. There are no flowers in this picture, but it's still a wonderfully tranquil setting. This type of garden is all about controling your view. At every turn, it conceals much more than it reveals. This is the opposite of what was popular in Europe at the time. Wealthy Europeans wanted to impress you with the vastness of their baroque gardens.
Moongate. #pdx

Inside the scholar's study, there is of course a desk with brushes for calligraphy. This is where the young men of the family would study for civil service exams. Being in civil service was the path to prosperity in ancient China.
The scholar's table. #pdx
Opposite the desk, there's a table with a tea service, in case the scholar gets visitors.
Tea for two. #pdx
The house behind this tree is used for business by the women in the family. From here they can look out over the garden and toward the city on the other side. The tree is a katsura, Cercidphyllum japonicum. I love its weeping habit.
Wonderful weeping tree in front of the Tower of Cosmic Reflections. #pdx

Looking across the pond, we see a building with the poetic name Painted Boat in Misty Rain, which is used as a restaurant.
The building across the pond is called Painted Boat in Misty Rain. #pdx

There were many beautiful details in the garden. It takes a lot of skill to create pleasing effects both on a grand scale, like the view across the pond above, and on the much more intimate scale of these roof bosses.
Roof detail.

An exit to the street is very simple and controlled. Austere, even. But the little tree in its unadorned container prevents the scene from being sterile and uninviting.
Bold simplicity. #pdx
A zig-zag path leads across the pond. The Moon Locking Pavillion acts as a place to contemplate the reflections in the water without getting rained on.
The Moon Locking Pavilion. #pdx
Another pleasing detail -- a flower relief at the cusp of a bridge.
Bridge emblem. #pdx

In another pavillion, there were things for children to play with. One of them was a tin with Chinese fortune telling sticks. You were meant to shake the sticks and get one of them to drop on a cabinet top. The numbers on the sticks corresponded to little drawers in the cabinet. In the drawers were paper slips with your fortune. I got number 28.

I thought that this divination method might be a variation of the I Ching. And maybe it is. I don't know. When I googled the meaning of hexagram 28, I got so many different and contradicting interpretations, I gave up. Maybe it's a good thing that currently used Western forms of divination, like the tarot and the runes, have amassed only a few hundred year's worth of interpretations. At least most readers broadly agree on the meaning of individual cards or runes.
Very good fortune. #pdx
Toward the end of my stay, the sun came out. Here it is shining through the fragrant pink petals of a Magnolia stellata.

Sunset over the Coachella Valley

Place: Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Riverside County, California
Date: February 22, 2017
Weather: Clear and sunny but with a biting wind. Snow on the ground at higher elevations.
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In the evening, I took the tramway up to the top of Mount San Jacinto. Here's a photo of a tram car on its way up. The ride was exhilirating. Not the least because the cars rotate so you get a really good view of the canyon above and below you. Tram

Here a car is approaching the top station. In the distance you can see the road that leads to the valley station.
Tram car.

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Place: Whitewater Preserve, Riverside County, California
Date: February 22, 2017
Weather: Clear and sunny but with a biting wind.
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The first day in Palm Springs, I went to the Whitewater Preserve, north of town. I was planning to do a hike that was described as easy. It involved crossing the Whitewater River, hiking up a ridge. Then you walk along the ridge for some wonderful views, before you descend into the valley and cross the river again.

At the start of the hike, I'm looking north toward the snow-capped Mount San Gorgonio.
Snow capped Mount San Gorgonio.

Unfortunately the bridge across the river had been washed away by the recent rain storms. Rather than risk life and limb, trying to balance on some logs that the volunteers had laid out, I just hiked up and down the river valley.

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An otherworldly landscape

Place: Holtville to Borrego Springs, California
Date: February 21, 2017
Weather: Nice and sunny with some lingering clouds.
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The drive to and through Anza Borrego was out of this world. There are so many science fiction movies that have been set in this desert area, it's hard not to look for star ships in the sky. Here's a panorama I took on Hwy 78.
Panorama from Hwy 78, on my way to Borrego Springs.

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So quiet

Place: Lake Morena, off I-8 near Campo in San Diego County in Southern California
Date: February 20, 2017
Weather: Sunny but getting cooler

Lake Morena pier
I took Interstate 8 toward my hotel in Imperial County. It was a beautiful drive across a grand landscape. At Lake Morena I stopped for a snack and a breather. It's a San Diego County Park. After the hustle and bustle in Balboa Park, the quiet of this secluded little lake was very welcome indeed.

Lake Morena
I shot a short video, so you can hear the stillness. If you turn up the sound, you can hear a couple of ravens over the hum of the wind.

Lake Morena is a reservoir. This is looking toward the dam from one of the two piers.

After the hustle and bustle of Balboa Park, the stillness of Lake Morena was very welcome.
This is looking more south-east, toward an inlet. The hills are green from the recent rains.

You can rent motor boats for fishing. Fortunately nobody was out on the lake, disturbing the quiet. It was blissful.

Boat hire shed.
This shed is for the boat hire people.

Fish scales.
There are scales inside for weighing fish.

Goat Island.
I went out on the other pier and took this photo of Goat Island and the north shore. It's a small lake, but I really enjoyed my visit to it.

Increasingly crowded

Place: Balboa Park, San Diego in Southern California
Date: February 20, 2017
Weather: Sunny and not too hot

The Spreckels Organ Pavilion is incredibly ornate.
I arrived at Balboa Park just before 11. That was a good time, because I got a great parking spot. But the place became increasingly crowded while I was wandering around. Here is a PDF map to help with orientation. The park has an app with several guided tours. I mostly followed the one called Hidden Gems of Balboa Park.

The first stop was the Spreckels Organ Pavillion. It was incredibly ornate. Regrettably, I used one of Camera Awesome's built-in filters for the photo above. A lot of detail was lost because of that. The organ pavillion is really only a facade, so there wasn't much to see there.

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Gold Country: Murphys and Jamestown

Places: Murphys in Calaveras County, Jamestown in Tuolomne County
Dates: July 29-30, 2010
Weather: Nice and sunny
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Bridge by Parrots Ferry on County Rd E18
I spent the morning at a spa in Sonora, getting pampered. In the afternoon, I drove first to Columbia and then to Muprhys. This bridge is between Columbia and Murphys on County Road E18, Parrots Ferry Road.

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Stanislaus National Forest

Place: Stanislaus National Forest
Date: July 28, 2010
Weather: Nice and sunny
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View from the "tree house" at Strawberry Inn
My base for this holiday was in Sonora. From there, I drove up along Highway 108, the Sonora Pass Highway, through Stanislaus National Forest. After a short stop in Twain Harte, I had lunch at the Strawberry Inn in Strawberry. The inn sits on the north side of the highway, right after it crosses the southern fork of the Stanislaus River. The photo above is taken while I was having lunch on the patio of the inn. It was wonderful.

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