Lan Su Chinese Garden is one of Portland’s greatest treasures and most interesting sites to see while visiting Portland. A result of a collaboration between the cities of Portland and Suzhou, our sister city in China’s Jiangsu province that’s famous for its beautiful Ming Dynasty gardens, Lan Su was built by Chinese artisans from our Suzhou and is the most authentic Chinese garden outside of China.
Much more than just a beautiful botanical garden, Lan Su is a creative wonder — a powerfully inspiring experience based on a 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition that melds art, architecture, design and nature in perfect harmony.
Once inside the garden’s walls, you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled through time to another era in a faraway world. Lan Su is a window into Chinese culture, history and way of thinking. Ever changing, Lan Su always has something new to offer – by the minute, by the hour, and with the seasons. Enter the wonderland.
The garden’s name represents this relationship: sounds from both Portland and Suzhou are combined to form Lan Su. “Lan” (蘭) is also the Chinese word for “Orchid” and “Su” (蘇) is the word for “Arise” or “Awaken,” so the garden’s name can also be interpreted poetically as “Garden of Awakening Orchids.” (蘭蘇園)
Outside the wall the mountain stretches an indigo blue;
In front of the gate a rivulet carries the flowers’ scent.
— Exterior couplet, Reflections in Clear Ripple Pavilion
During November, Lan Su Chinese Garden will be packed with more than 500 potted chrysanthemums artistically displayed throughout the garden. The Lan Su Chinese Garden is calling it Mum-Vember.
More than 50 different chrysanthemum varieties will unfurl in all colors, shapes and sizes including: spiders, quills, spoons, regular incurves, irregular incurves, reflexes, semi-doubles, anemones, brush, thistle, exotics and more! Take in the oranges, reds and yellows of autumn to unusually bright pinks, pale lavender, lime green, and even stripes of the chrysanthemum.
I enjoyed my time at the Lan Su Chinese Garden. The air smelled sweet and clean while I was still well within Portland’s city limits. The relaxing vibes coming off the beautifully manicured garden, still waters and ornate small buildings transplanted me far away from Portland for a few hours.
I found myself lingering under a Persimmon tree, peeking glances into ponds for fish, thinking about how much my Mum would love to see the Mum’s in full bloom, feeling the urge to paint and draw my views, winking at the Weeping Willow tree and thinking of one of my favourite songs by The Verve and trying my best to keep my mind still.
The Lan Su Chinese Garden is tucked away in Chinatown and worth a visit the next time you are having a meal or coming off your Voodoo Doughnuts high from down the road.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
239 Northwest Everett Street, Portland, Oregon 97209