A Visit to Bloedel Reserve

A couple weekends ago, Nate and I visited the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island in Washington. The Reserve a 150-acre estate previously owned by Prentice and Virginia Bloedel. Prentice made his wealth in a lumber business he inherited from his father. He valued sustainability and environmental conservation, and designed the land with those principles in mind. The Bloedel’s brought the property in 1951 and landscaped it with the help of several landscape architects, including Thomas Church, Richard Haag, Koichi Kawana, and Fujitaro Kubota. The property was given to the community in 1987.

A view of the residence across the pond.

When you visit the Reserve, you will walk along a two-mile path that takes you through a series of “gardens.” Some of the gardens are very natural. For example, early in the walk you go through a Pacific Northwest Forest with evergreens (cedar and fir trees), ferns, ad rhododendrons. You come out of the forest to a bird pond and marsh, and then continue on through a wildflower meadow.

A bench to rest upon in the Pacific Northwest Forest garden

Other parts of the Reserve are much more “designed,” including a Japanese garden and a reflection pool.

The Reflection Pool, designed by Richard Haag and Thomas Church
The Sand and Stone Garden within the Japanese Garden. The Sand and Stone Garden was designed by Koichi Kawana and the Japanese Garden was designed by Fujitaro Kubota. The building is the Japanese Guest House, which combines features of both a Japanese tea house and a Northwest Native longhouse. It was designed by architect Paul Hayden Kirk.

I’m sure the Reserve will look quite different throughout the seasons. When we visited at the end of summer, the wildflower meadow was past peak and the rhododendrons were done blooming. Everything was very green, and we were too early for fall foliage. I think it would be worth a trip in every season.

Prentice Bloedel believed in the therapeutic power of nature. He reportedly walked the property nearly everyday, and thought being in nature helped with his polio symptoms. Research has since proven Mr. Bloedel correct – being in nature is therapeutic. I’ll leave you with this photo of a frog. Go outside and enjoy nature!

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