Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Grotto

We’ve noticed the signs for The Grotto for about 5-years now, it sounds like a place with promise doesn’t it? But I remained skeptical. The Grotto is a 62-acre Catholic shrine and botanical garden in NE Portland. Since we are not Catholic I was sure much of the garden would be lost on us. We pulled into the parking lot once but the massive quantity of tour buses scared us away. Finally a couple weeks back, we decided to check it out. You start out on the lower grounds and purchase an elevator token which gives you access to the upper garden. The biggest feature of the gardens (for us non-Catholics) is the 110-foot cliff that separates the lower from the upper garden.
As we came up to the Grotto Cave there were a group of young Vietnamese girls practicing a sort of dance routine with colored scarves, the younger ones were having a hard time paying attention.
Behind them you can see the cave. From their website: “The Grotto cave is approximately 30 feet wide, 30 feet deep and almost 50 feet high. It was carved out of the face of the cliff in 1923"
The chapel of Mary….
And the austere looking elevator that would take us up the side of the cliff. Interesting placement of the wishing well don’t you think? I wonder how many people have wished for a safe elevator ride.
Remember….no pointing at the flowers! It makes them nervous.
Holy Battlestar Galactica Batman! What have we here!??? The mediation center looks a bit like a spaceship landed.
I was sure the doors would be locked but we were in luck and able to go inside. The white cone shape you can see through the door on the right is Mt. St. Helens…she’s got a flat top due to her little eruption back in 1980.
The view from inside was amazing. Unfortunately it doesn’t really translate here.
Back outside, even the landscape around the Battlestar looked rather futuristic compared to the rest of the property.
The monastery was gorgeous, in a deco influenced castle sort of way.I have to admit when I saw these potted plants for just a moment I thought they were having a plant sale! (I got excited). No…just working on a new planting.
At least they shop at the best nurseries!
I love the combination of actual fern fronds and the one carved into the marker.
Someone needs to tell the gardener that yuccas need sun! This poor guy is suffering from a dense canopy of trees blocking out the suns rays.
And as soon as I snapped that last picture I turned around and saw this little yucca bathed in a pool of sunlight. Wow. It gave me goosebumps. My eagle eyed husband spotted these Monotropa uniflora (Ghost Plant/Indian Pipe/Corpse Plant). They are able to grow in the dense canopy of a forest because they don’t rely on the sun (no chlorophyll) to produce energy. They have a parasitic relationship with the photosynthetic trees they grow under.
I’m a sucker for great old iron work. I love this fence/railing…
and the cross.Can you see the tall Monkey Puzzle Tree on the left?
What about the little red schoolhouse at the end of the path? Okay…it’s not really a schoolhouse it is St. Anne’s Chapel.
And they want to be sure that you do not use it until Sunday!
In addition to the Corpse Plant the most interesting plant I saw in the garden was this Euphorbia. It was growing all alone. No clump.
And its little flowers were very delicate. Can anyone identify this one?
So we can cross The Grotto of our list of things to see here in Portland….been there done that! Although I hear they have a wonderful display of lights at Christmastime…


  1. Wow! What an unusual combination of sights... art deco castle, intergalactic spaceship landing pad, hilarious sign, really cool shots of indian pipes, and a sign from the heavens that yuccas are somehow important to you! Who knew?

  2. Nice tour! That's Euphorbia lathyrus, common name Gopher Purge. It looks a little lanky from the shade...

  3. Interesting place. The sanctuary/meditation room while beautiful doesn't seem to fit, does it? What were they thinking?

    The sign is cool. No pointing! Har!

  4. AnonymousJuly 06, 2010

    Goosebumps here too, and it's pushing 90 degrees so that's saying something! This little Yucca spotlight was like God's way of saying, "Hi Loree!" How cool.

    The juxtaposing of futuristic and almost-ancient rock buildings is quite, um, interesting, each in its own way.

    The maidenhair ferns in the cave are beautiful.

    Love the ironwork. Love that sign, especially with your "no pointing" comment. Priceless.

    Yep. Laura beat me to it. Gopher plant. One of those, "once you have it you'll ALWAYS have it" plants.

    As a teenager I lived on 105th and Prescott Street, less than a mile from the Grotto but I never visited. [This was pre-I-205 days and I remember the controversies over people having to have their homes torn down.] My high school baccalaureate was held there but I didn't attend. I got drunk and cited for open container on Rocky Butte but probably should have been visiting the monastery a few feet north. So thanks for the new and pleasant twist on old memories.

  5. Patricia C, Portland ORJuly 06, 2010

    I drove by The Grotto just today and suggested we stop. Bill said, "Har har," and I drove on imagining Cartman singing "In the Ghetto." (It just happens.) The Grotto was on our regular outings-circuit when I was a kid. I guess they had to put up with six-kid Catholic families. The best part, there was a fountain and pond at the top of the elevator with a big turtle, a real one. (Don't tell Megan. She'll wanna go right now.) Oh, and my sister's graduation ceremony from Marycrest High School (as in all-girl Catholic) was held at the Grotto--complete with full mass--and then they all went to Rocky Butte and got drunk!

  6. what an interesting place. glad you took me on a tour..

  7. AnonymousJuly 07, 2010

    I enjoyed your tour of The Grotto. I especially love that fern frond-like iron fence. Lovely.

  8. Rainforst G, and all of this just miles from my home!

    Laura S, thank you! And I'm sure you are right about the shade.

    Laura, that's what the sign meant right? :)

    Grace, we have an older couple (both in their 80's) here on our street who moved to the neighborhood because their house was torn down for I-205. I read once that they almost put it along 42nd ave? Or was it 39th? Anyway....yikes! To close!

    Patricia, HA! Thank god I didn't here that until after we visited otherwise I would have walked through the place singing that tune (we may have been asked to leave). Well now I want to go back and try to find the pond (and the turtle). I don't remember seeing anything like that. Rocky Butte must have been quite the wild place! (maybe it still is?)

    Darla, thank you for coming along!

    myimaginarygarden, I want that fence as the gate to my backyard garden! Wouldn't that be lovely!


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