When wealthy lumber baron, Prentice Bloedel, donated this property on Bainbridge Island, west of Seattle, it was with the set purpose of “creating a place where people could enjoy natural beauty through peaceful walks in the gardens and woodlands.”
|The path wanders through a stand of Himalayan Birch.|
A well-manicured path winds an easy 1 ¾ miles through the Reserve passing formal gardens, ponds, native forests, wildlife habitats, Japanese and moss gardens. The blending of Asian and European gardening and landscaping styles is most evident and a unique feature of the Reserve.
The path begins by cutting through a meadow of knee-high grass before entering the forest and skirting around a woodland pond. In this bird sanctuary ducks, geese, and a pair of trumpeter swans swim peacefully, surrounded by native sedges and ferns. The trail continues through a dense forest of western red cedars and Douglas firs before emerging onto the property’s formal European garden.
|The Bloedel home now serves as the Visitor Center.|
Here, a sculpted lake, complete with requisite weeping willows and white swans, and wide green lawns create a stunning setting for the Visitors Center, the former home of the Bloedels. This French country manor, on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound, was built in 1931 and purchased by Prentice and Virginia Bloedel in 1951. They immediately set about transforming the 150 acres into the beautiful, natural habitat and showcase of gardens that exist today. During their lives, the couple was active in the Seattle art community and the Reserve became a popular retreat for artists and writers. The house’s ground floor with its original furniture and paintings is open to visitors.
|Strolling Pond Garden|
From the house, the trail winds through plantings of magnolias, rhododendrons, azaleas, birch trees, and large displays of primroses and cyclamen, eventually leading to the Japanese Garden. In the center of this garden is the guest house, an unusual amalgam of Japanese style and Northwest Native American longhouse. The teak floor inside was salvaged from the decks of the USS New Jersey. Behind the house, a sand and stone garden of carefully placed rocks and raked pebbles is reminiscent of a Zen meditation garden. The deck of the house, offers an overall view of the Strolling Pond encircled by lacy leaf maples and pruned black pines.
|The Reflection pool with its glassy water surface is fed by springs|
Next door, is the Moss Garden where a thick green carpet of Irish Moss solidly covers the ground, fallen trees and decaying stumps. Beyond, is the entrance to the Reflection Garden surrounded by a perimeter of neatly clipped English Yew hedges. In the center is the Reflection Pool, a 200’ rectangle fed by natural springs. Its glassy, still surface creates a mirror image of surrounding trees and greenery.
While the Reserve is spectacular in spring with its showy rhodos, azaleas, and wildflowers, October is one of the best times to visit. The colorful fall foliage displays are unparalleled in the Puget Sound area. Japanese maples turn a fiery red and orange, while aspens and tulip trees provide brilliant yellow tones. A Persian Parrot tree features leaves of yellow with red, orange, and purple highlights. The backdrop of dark evergreens enhances the whole fireworks show of bright, wild colors.
The Reserve is easily reached by driving north on I-5 from Olympia, and following US 101 and State Routes 3 and 305 through the Kitsap Peninsula. The park is on the northern tip of Bainbridge Island, just south of the Scandinavian town of Paulsbo. The Island is also accessible by regular ferry service from Seattle.