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Kyoto in Portland, 5.50-acre Japanese garden.

Moist, mossy, often mist-enshrouded, Portland's Japanese Garden is well worth a half-day winter visit. Like any traditional Japanese garden, it was designed with winter as much in mind as the other seasons. Stones glisten, richer in color for their coat of water; recently pruned trees twist and angle, showing off their unclothed branches. Uninhibited by umbrellas of leaves, summer-dry mosses nestled on limbs come to life and flourish in winter's damp weather and soft light.

Garden work goes on at its normal quiet pace, but the flow of tourists has slowed to the dribble of one of the garden's tiny springs. Visit in the morning and you may have the garden to yourself. If weather is typical this month, there will be many days when a cold gloomy fog burns off as the sun breaks through and drifts of steam rise form rooftops, rocks, and patches of brown earth. On wet days, gentle rain will patter on the same surfaces.

The Japanese Garden Society of Oregon continues to improve and upgrade the garden. Adjacent to the Flat Garden lies the new Pavilion, used for cultural events by the society and Portland's Japanese-American community. To find out about upcoming events, call the garden at (503) 223-1321 or 223-4070.

As you wander the 5-1/2-acre site, you'll see deciduous trees with limbs painstakingly wrapped in burlap and tied with twine. These trees have been moved within the last three years, and their root systems aren't yet fully functioning. The burlap wrapping on trunks and large branches protects the bark from winter sunscald. It is kept on for 36 months, or until it begins to rot.

Other trees are braced with bamboo and tied with twine to train them into a desirable form. And standing around the Flat Garden are the ethereal cones of yuki zuri. These tent-like rope structures (seven this year) have been used for two winters to fend off about half of a heavy snowfall from the trees. They'll be in place until April, when spring buds and blooms begin their show.

Be certain to cross the low bridge that zigzags through the bog on the west side of the Strolling Pond Garden. Clipped stubble has replaced majestic iris leaves, openin gup a view to Lower Pond. And in the garden's center, the wisteria arbor is now leafless, a tangle of twisted twigs, stark but almost as arresting as when it drips with long, fragrant purple blooms. At the admission and information window at the main gate, you can pick up two pamphlets, including a map and a description of the main garden area and structures; both are free. You can buy a handsome booklet on the garden for $3.50, a nine-page plant list for $1, and postcards and slides.

Until April 14, hours are 10 to 4 daily. Reduced winter admission rates (until March 15) are $1 for adults, 50 cents for seniors and people under 18. Children 6 and under are free but must be with an adult. The Japanese Garden is located in Washington Park above the Rose Test Garden. Follow W. Burnside Street west 1-1/2 miles from downtown Portland, then turn south following signs to the garden. Bus 63 from the Transit Mall stops across from the lower entrance to the garden.
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Date:Feb 1, 1984
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