Monday, June 15, 2015


Last week we stayed at the Gig Harbor RV Resort so that we would be close to several gardens we wanted to visit and also to be within driving distance of the American Art Gallery where the Northwest Pastel Society was having their National Show.  Since I had gotten my painting "Lembert Dome" juried into the show, we headed over to Tacoma on our first day in the area.  
The American Art Gallery was established in 1889 and is located in a charming historic business district of Tacoma.   Later in the week we met up with Jann Perez, a friend of ours from our Arizona Pastel group who lives in the area and she met us at the gallery where we walked around and critiqued all the paintings.  Later she gave us a guided tour of the historic buildings around the gallery before we had a great lunch together.   
There are a number of different gardens in the Tacoma area to choose from and we started off with a visit to the Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright Park.  It is not very big, but it has a large number of begonia specimens.  
All beautiful and none of which would survive in Phoenix.  This was a short stop on our way to Culpepper's Used Book Store where we both found a couple of books to add to our growing collection.  We also went to a new used book store called Kings.  They didn't have much to interest Allan, but they had lots of foreign mystery authors, some of my favorites.
On another day, we took a drive to Maple Valley to visit the Lake Wilderness Arboretum.  This is an interesting story of an old abandoned airport landing strip that was purchased by a group of Master Gardeners and turned into an arboretum by accepting donations of gardens that had lost their owners and were going to be destroyed.  Entire gardens were uprooted and transplanted in the new arboretum.  This garden now has the largest collection of deciduous azaleas in the world.  They also have a Japanese maple grove and have set aside 26 acres for a second growth forest with trails and pathways.  As we walked one of the pathways, we came upon a lending library of garden books built into a tree stump by one of the master gardeners. 
Two gardens that were a must see for us were the Lakewold Garden and the Bloedel Reserve.  
Lakewold Garden
Two wealthy sisters from Seattle, married socially prominent and wealthy men.   Eulalie and her husband purchased a property now known as Lakewold where Eulalie hired Thomas Church to design a garden for her and she herself became an ardent hands-on gardener.  

The home that was built is actually similar in design to her sister's home but the property is smaller and more residential which does not detract at all from the many intimate areas that were planted along the lakeside.   There is a swimming pool shaped like a four leaf clover, and sculptures throughout the garden pathways, a small pond with benches for contemplation, and a wonderful gazebo with fuschia baskets hanging inside and a dogwood tree on the outside.  
Bloedel Reserve meadow
But the best garden of all is the Bloedel Reserve.   Prentice Bloedel inherited his father's timber company and went on to be the first person to create sawdust logs for fireplace burning.  He was an environmentalist and ensured that all logged areas were replanted.  He married Virginia (Eulalie's sister) and they purchased property with a home on Bainbridge Island.  
Bloedel Reserve and Home
This property became his crowning achievement and he ultimately retired early from the timber business to devote all of his time to developing his garden.   This property is considerably larger than Lakewold and Bloedel had plenty of

room to set aside areas for a meadow, a forest walk with a very large natural pond, waterfalls, bogs, wooden bridges, manicured lawns, japanese garden and guesthouse, moss garden, fern garden, and so on.   As you near the completion of the circular trail that takes you around the property, you come upon the spring fed reflection pond surrounded by yew trees.  This is a quiet serene place and is definitely a scene such as Bloedel was hoping to capture.... "a place where people find refreshment and tranquility in the presence of natural beauty".   
If you have time for only one garden in the northwest, this is the one you will want to visit.

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