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Portland, Ore.: Tiny gardens give visitors a taste of tranquillity

May 01, 2012|By Terry Gardner | Special to the Los Angeles Times

In Chinese, penjing means “potted scenery.” Beginning Tuesday (today) through May 10, you can see at least 20 penjing, the precursor to Japanese bonsai, during the Landscapes in Miniature exhibit at Lan Su Chinese Garden Portland, Ore. 

“In the West, we understand ‘garden’ to mean plants, but a Chinese garden includes poetry, calligraphy, rock, water and plants,” says Glin Varco, the horticulture manager for the garden.

Trees in the penjing art form, which has been traced back to 221 B.C., are typically conifers, evergreens, deciduous or maples, usually less than 2 feet tall. Because penjing may include numerous trees and rocks instead of a single tree in a pot, the result may look like a small forest.  Sometimes an entire display is on a shallow granite tray rather than in a ceramic pot.

 “People go to gardens to seek refuge and tranquillity,” Varco says. “We hope the minute you step through the door, you leave your cares behind and are taken to another place.”

On Saturday, Varco will lead two special strolls (at 2 and 3 p.m.) for guests who want to learn more about penjing.

Cost: $9.50 adults.

Info: Lan Su Garden, Northwest Third and Everett streets, Portland; (503) 228-8131.

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