Bainbridge Island, Washington
Set in an idyllic location, the former home of an early environmentalist has become a destination garden. The Bloedel Reserve may sound like a wildlife refuge, but it is more of a refuge for the human spirit. With an emphasis on peace and tranquility, the Bloedel gardens are a place for quiet contemplation. Sit and listen to the birds conversing in the trees. Listen to the wind rustling through the leaves. Wander slowly down paths winding through tall fir trees. It is not a place to rush through. You won’t find people power walking or taking a meeting on their cell phone while here. It is a good place to put that cell phone on mute and just experience being in the beautiful gardens.
Nature can do without man, but man cannot do without nature.
– Prentice Bloedel
The founders, Prentice and Virginia Bloedel, bought the property in 1951 and transformed the forest around their home into a series of gardens. After living and gardening there for more than thirty years, they donated the house and gardens to the community, creating a nonprofit that benefits all who visit. The Reserve is open year-round to gardeners who want to explore the many plant varieties that grow so easily in the mild Pacific Northwest climate. It is also a refuge of sorts for those that come to be inspired for artistic reasons. The Reserve offers a limited number of 3-week residency opportunities for artists, artisans, poets, musicians, and other creative souls. If chosen to be an artist in residence, they are given a house on the grounds to stay and be inspired to work their craft. In return, the artists display their work, give lectures or demonstrations for all to enjoy.
The 150 acre garden is not a public park, so there are no pets or picnics allowed – which translates into quiet nature as your companion. There are a series of carefully designed gardens that blend naturally with the native fir tree forest that still stands on the land. It showcases how a well designed garden can work with nature, enhancing it rather than destroying it.
Well maintained loops of trails wind through the gardens, a perfect place to wander and explore. To walk the full 2 mile loop, allow about 2 hours to enjoy it at a leisurely pace. You may discover a lovely Japanese garden or a wildflower meadow. For those interested in the plant materials in particular may opt for a guided walk. Check the schedule to time your visit to attend an expert lecture, a summer concert, art and craft exhibitions, or other special seasonal events.
The Bloedel garden sits on Bainbridge Island, one of two large islands located in the Puget Sound west of Seattle. The city of Seattle does not sit on the Pacific Ocean, but rather on a large body of water dotted with hundreds of islands that separate the Olympic National Forest peninsula from the city. A regular car ferry runs between Seattle’s waterfront near Pike Place Market and Bainbridge Island. As a result of all those islands, it feels as if nearly all homes have a waterfront view, creating an area deeply in touch with nature. The maritime influences are milder on the sound than they would be on the ocean, creating near perfect gardening conditions.
The elegant white residence sits perfectly in tune with its surroundings. You may tour inside to see the gracious home. Step out onto the back veranda for beautiful views overlooking the Puget Sound. This well designed garden is a treasure trove of ideas for the garden designer even if you work on a smaller scale. Whether you come to learn, be inspired, or just to rejuvenate your soul, the Bloedel Reserve is well worth a visit.
Enjoy a visit to Bloedel Reserve by taking the short ferry ride while in Seattle on the following cruises: