Oregon is home to some of the USA's most fertile agricultural regions, including areas known for grape vineyards, apple orchards and berry farms.
The climate and soil also make for an ideal setting for a range of botanical gardens. Oregon's biggest city, Portland, and the Willamette Valley contain beautiful gardens representing the best of the region and several countries around the world. You can spend the better part of a day visiting three gardens in Portland before moving to others outside the city.
Award-Winning Japanese Garden
The tranquil Portland Japanese Garden is in Washington Park on the West Hills overlooking downtown Portland. The 2.2-hectare site is home to five unique gardens, each with its own special features. A highlight is the Strolling Pond Garden, which brings together water, walking bridges and an assortment of trees bursting with color. For best viewing, visit this garden in the summer or fall months.
The award-winning Japanese Garden opened to the public in 1967 after four years of planning and development. The garden has been ranked second out of more than 300 contenders for the top Japanese garden outside of Japan by the Journal of Japanese Gardening. A recent construction project added seven garden areas and its first tea café.
Tranquil water features in the Portland Japanese Garden
Portland: The City of Roses
Just steps from the path to the Portland Japanese Garden is the renowned International Rose Test Garden. This garden is home to over 7,000 rose plants of approximately 550 varieties. Admission to the International Rose Test Garden is free, and free tours are offered at 1 p.m. daily from late May through early September.
The nonprofit Portland Rose Society formed in 1889 and is responsible for maintaining the garden. Founded in part by Georgiana Burton Pittock, the namesake family of the nearby Pittock Mansion, the society and the rose garden bolster Portland's nickname as "The City of Roses."
Hundreds of varieties in bloom at the International Rose Test Garden
Downtown Garden in Chinatown
Located in Chinatown in downtown Portland, the Lan Su Chinese Garden is a quiet escape from the busy streets on the other side of the garden's walls.
The garden features are modeled after the Ming Dynasty gardens of China, which were open to locals as a spiritual escape from the trials of daily life. The Lan Su Garden is home to a tea house (reservations are recommended) and hosts a variety of Chinese-inspired activities.
Serene reflections in a pond at the Lan Su Chinese Garden
Beautiful Gardens Outside Portland
Located about 90 minutes from Portland, the Oregon Garden is a lush, 32.3-hectare botanical garden. The site of the Gordon House, designed by famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the garden could easily take a full day to explore.
The garden is open all year, but the best time to visit is during the beautiful summer months or the Family Harvest Days, held each Saturday in October. You can walk the grounds or enjoy a seat on a guided tram tour to get an overview of the property.
You can also make this stop a multi-day visit with an overnight stay at the Oregon Garden Resort, which features a spa and garden view dining.
The family-owned Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, situated about an hour's drive from central Portland, offers sweeping views of Oregon's 3,429-meter-high Mount Hood, the highest point in the state. The best time of the year to visit Wooden Shoe is during the annual Tulip Festival, which usually starts in mid-March and ends in May, marking the bloom of a breathtaking 16 hectares of tulips.
Hot-air balloons in a field of flowers at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm
Tasting Wine in Beautiful Scenery
Less than an hour from Portland in Hillsboro, you'll find Garden Vineyards. With views of Oregon's Tualatin Valley that look more like Italy's Tuscany region than the Pacific Northwest, Garden Vineyards offers an excellent way to combine beautiful scenery with some local wine-tasting.
You can also bring your own picnic lunch or pre-order a farm basket.
Rows of grape vines at Garden Vineyards