When out-of-towners visit Western Washington, the real challenge isn’t what to do with them, it’s what beautiful area do we choose to show off first? We are spoiled with choices. Along with the beauty of the mountains and ocean and the iconic Space Needle and Pike Place Market, we have some of the most beautifully kept public and private gardens in the country.
Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island is 150 acres of gardens within gardens: a Japanese garden, the color laden glen, an ethereal soft moss garden carpeted with more than 40 species of moss, a bird marsh filled with dragonflies and nesting birds and a woodland of native Pacific Northwest huckleberries, hemlocks and cedars.
The 2.5 miles of trails give you a chance to see it all. The creators, Prentiss and Virginia Bloedel shared a love of nature and the Pacific Northwest. The French Chateau where they lived for 35 years is open to view. The back of the house opens to a spectacular view of Puget Sound.
A resident artist house on the property is home to authors, musicians and poets. They stay for several weeks and have the gardens all to themselves for inspiration and solitude.
Check for summer concerts. Bloedel is made for a slow, relaxing stroll. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy it.
Heronswood is in Kingston on the Kitsap Peninsula and is the former home and garden of world-renowned plant hunter and horticulturist, Dan Hinkley.
Now owned and maintained by the Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe, 15 acre Heronswood is a botanical garden with collections from around the world many from the Hinkley plant hunting trips in Asia, South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand . It is well known for its environmentally friendly design.
Bellevue Botanical Garden
The Bellevue Botanical Garden is 53 acres of just about everything that grows well in the Pacific Northwest. It is laid out in a walkable and beautifully designed group of gardens featuring a perennial border, rock garden, fern collection and Dahlia display.
BBG is a garden of ideas to admire and recreate with an emphasis on community and horticultural education.
Powellswood is a sweet, tidy and lush 3-acre garden tucked away in a 40-acre forest in Federal Way. It has a magnificent Leyland Cypress hedge that serves as backdrop to well-designed perennial beds filled with uncommon treasures.
The upper part of the 3-leveled garden leads you through a wide arch into a circle garden. A left turn drops down and winds around a running stream and eventually toward a pond with a resident mallard duck.
Bring lunch and enjoy the calm.
Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden
The RSBG is much more than rhododendron even though they have planted thousands. It is 22 acres of a good hike through and around a Victorian stumpery, an alpine garden, Meconopsis meadow and a glass house conservatory complete with waterfall and blooming Vireya rhododendron. The Pacific Rim Bonsai exhibit at the end is not to be missed.
The non-profit garden has sent its director Steve Hootman on plant hunting exhibitions from the Appalachians to India and China. Plants are for sale.
University of Washington Botanical Gardens
The University of Washington Botanical Gardens is the combination of the Washington Park Arboretum and the Center for Urban Horticulture. The Arboretum is 230 acres of world class plant collections of conifers, oaks, Japanese maples, birches, poplars and larches. Stay on the trails or go exploring.
The newest addition is the Pacific Connection which features plants from Cascadia, Australia, China, Chile and New Zealand. Stop at the Graham Visitors Center to get started. You might need a map.
Point Defiance Park
Point Defiance Park in Tacoma maintains a Japanese Garden complete with pagoda, separated gardens of roses, dahlias, herbs, Northwest natives, Rhododendrons and irises, all near the entrance.
In addition to its gardens Point Defiance is a full family experience with picnic areas, a zoo, trails for hiking and biking and a beach. The five-mile drive that skirts the 760-acre park has magnificent viewpoints to take in spectacular Puget Sound.