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How Community Generosity Led to the Donation of a Maple Tree

The larger of two maples that resides on the northern end of the Flat Garden. Photo by William “Robbie” Robinson.

The Flat Garden was the first of Portland Japanese Garden’s spaces to be constructed and work was done here before Portland Japanese Garden even officially became an organization. In 1962, the Garden’s first Board President, Philip Englehart, and Portland Commissioner Ormond Bean supervised the removal of four feet of soil here. It had been where the old primate house of the former Portland Zoo was located before the organization departed the grounds and became the Oregon Zoo.

The first Japanese maple planted in Portland Japanese Garden. It was not able to survive and was replaced. Photo by William “Robbie” Robinson.

There are several elements to this space that contribute to its stunning beauty. Among them is the larger of the Flat Garden’s two Japanese maples on its northern side. Symbolic of autumn splendor, this tree arrived at Portland Japanese Garden in November 1972, a generous donation from Mrs. Brown of Sellwood. Alongside a slightly smaller variation, these maples elegantly preserve the memory of their predecessor, the first tree planted in the Garden which had rotted.

The maple, on the left, as seen in early October 2023.

The Japanese Garden Society had reached out to the Portland community in hopes they might find a new tree that would honor the first’s enchanting tangle of ornate branches. Mrs. Brown, whose first name was not reported at the time, heard of the Garden’s need and, in memory of her late husband, gifted her magnificent tree to the organization. The new maple has flourished in its new home ever since and is among the many significant contributions that Portland Japanese Garden’s neighbors have provided the organization.