Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring Comes to Bishop's Close

Venerable wall with Kenilworth ivy
Cherry blossom petals drift from the sky. Japanese currants and barberries spill from the top of a venerable stone wall while Kenilworth ivy and tiny geraniums snuggle between the stones. A miniature grotto shelters a small spring-filled basin. Leaves are just beginning to fledge on a massive wisteria vine, hinting at the coming profusion of flowers. This is the parking lot at Bishop's Close.

Also known as Elk Rock Garden, this beautiful property perches high on a cliff above the Willamette between Portland and Lake Oswego. Once a family estate, it was donated to the Episcopal Diocese of Oregon in the 1950s with the condition that the garden be opened to the public. Even the family dog is welcome here (on a leash, of course).

This is one of the best places in Oregon to truly find spring. Hellebores are beginning to give way to epimediums, windflowers, and primroses. The camellias and daphnes are still going strong while the impressive display of magnolias is just beginning. Flowers are everywhere, leaves are unfurling, and the winter mess is being whisked away by dedicated gardeners. The clifftop view across the river includes Elk Rock Island and, in the background, Mt. Hood. Regardless of the color of your thumbs, you will find peace and beauty in this outdoor sanctuary.

Garden areas include sweeping lawns, a magnolia walk, and a Japanese-inspired garden built around a lovely stream. The overall garden style is not terribly formal, in keeping with the forest setting. The plantings near the house are orderly and carefully groomed, gradually loosening as one gets further from the center. At last, the garden blends smoothly into the surrounding tangled woodland.

If You Go
Bishop's Close is just off of Highway 43. Head south on Macadam out of Portland toward Lake Oswego and turn left onto Military Road, or go north from Lake Oswego and turn right. Military Road can be tricky to find; watch for the stoplight. Once on Military Road, take an immediate right onto Military Lane. Continue through a neighborhood of impressive homes to the end of the lane. The grounds are open from 8-5:00. Unfortunately, picnics are discouraged, so enjoy lunch elsewhere.

Check out the Elk Rock Garden website to find maps, directions, and a gallery of photographs. This site also explains the estate's history and lists the plants found in the garden.

The paths at Bishop's Close range from broad, smooth pea-gravel walkways to narrow trails and stone stairways that are suitable for mountain goats. As a result, only part of the garden is accessible, but it is still well worth a visit. As noted above, even the parking lot deserves a stop.
Photos in this posting by Austen and Sally Case. Edited by Austen.

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