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Brighten winter with a garden tour

Garden Muse

Winter is a tough time for gardeners. To get through it, take preventive measures right now. First, grow plants that bloom in winter so that you'll always have some color to thrill you. Consider pink, red and white sasanqua camellias, burgundy, green and yellow hellebores, and fragrant pink 'Dawn' viburnum.

Schedule garden visits in the dead of winter, even if you have to bundle up. This is like exercising - commit to it, invite a buddy or two and set a date on your calendar. Otherwise, you'll curl up on the sofa and enter a vegetative state due to light and color starvation. Trust me, you'll feel better with a garden fix!

The Elk Rock Gardens of the Bishop's Close ( www.diocese-oregon.org/theclose/ )

I've visited this garden more than any destination in Portland. It's where I first saw yellow winter aconites, burgundy hellebores and pink Viburnum fragrans blooming on New Year's Day, with Mount Hood gleaming white in the background. Yellow winter hazel and witch hazel, pink 'Christmas Cheer' rhododendrons and lavender crocuses light up the winter borders.

Check out Stachyurus praecox, with long chains of yellow flowers like a beaded curtain, on the south side of the building. Notice the beautiful winter bark on Stewartias, Parrotias and paperbark maples, and enjoy views of the Willamette River along the way. The park-like setting makes leisurely strolling a pleasure.

The garden is located at 11800 S.W. Military Lane, just off Highway 43 and Military Road. For complete information, check the Web site or call 503-636-5613.

Portland Classical Chinese Garden ( www.PortlandChineseGarden.org )

In winter you'll delight in the exotic pavilions, the serene pond, architectural rock formations and intricately patterned pebble mosaic paths. An abundance of evergreens will inspire you to add more to your own garden - many varieties of camellia, pine, bamboo, heavenly bamboo, daphne and paper bush (Edgeworthia) make this garden a sensual haven in winter.

On a cold day, the tea house is a respite for sipping hot drinks while gazing out upon the garden. The garden is located on the corner of Northwest Third Avenue and Everett Street. For complete information, check the Web site or call 503-228-8131.

The Portland Japanese Garden ( www.japanesegarden.com )

Although it's beautiful in every season, winter is the time to see its exquisite bones. The branching structures of the meticulously pruned Japanese maples are revealed, while the silhouettes of evergreen shrubs and trees gain importance.

In the dormant season, the garden's architecture and hardscape shine the tea house and outlying shelters, the fences and gates with their interesting details, the shapely rocks and paths, all contribute lasting beauty. The waterfalls and ponds are especially appealing in winter when they bring the sky into the garden and accentuate the light.

The garden is located at 611 S.W. Kingston St. For complete information, check the Web site or call 503-223-1321.

The Grotto ( www.theGrotto.org )

Best known as a Catholic Shrine and for its Christmas Festival of Lights, The Grotto also offers a tranquil landscape with 62 acres of well-tended gardens. When a friend took me there some years ago for a surprise visit, I was astonished by the mature camellias and mountain laurels (Kalmia), the size of small trees.

Visit the website, click on the Gardens menu and What's in Bloom for a monthly inventory. The garden is located at the corner of Northeast 85th Avenue and Sandy Boulevard. For complete information, call 503-254-7371.

McMenamins Edgefield ( www.mcmenamins.com )

Any excuse will do for me to drive to this amazing destination in Troutdale. The gardens enhancing this resort are imaginatively landscaped with a tapestry of foliage, flowers and berries. Color is year round, with plenty of winter interest.

Especially on a gray winter day, 'Blue Ice' Arizona cypress and 'Baggeson's Gold' shrub honeysuckle brighten the west walls of the main lodge, while yellow spikes of 'Arthur Menzies' Mahonia feed the hummingbirds. To the north, Burford holly's red berries nestle amid prickly leaves and a climbing hydrangea clings to the walls, preparing to burst into bloom next spring.

In winter, yellow witch hazels bloom, backed up by a curtain of dark green yews. Branches and bark add more color to the feast. 'Midwinter Fire' shrub dogwoods with upswept red-orange branches, unusual maples sporting pale green stripes on their trunks, and 'Heritage' birch with pinkish-tan bark are just a few of the delightful surprises that await you.

The garden is at 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale. For complete information, check the Web site or call 503-669-8610.

You can reach Barbara at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.