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!

Welcome to the Community Garden

While I don’t have a space for a garden at my house, I am a member of a local community garden.

A panorama of the garden space

This community garden was started about 10 years ago (I think) by a group of people who saw an area of empty Parks Department land and asked if they could use the space to grow food. The Parks Department said yes, and after a few years of careful planning, we now have a large amount of space in which to grow food.

There is no cost to join the community garden; to be a member, just come to the garden work parties and help out. The produce that we harvest is split amongst the work party members and about half of it is donated to the local food bank.

The photo above is just of the garden space. There is also a separate orchard area that has a number of fruit, nut, and berry trees/shrubs (including figs, crabapples, plums, quince, chestnuts, aronia berries, medlars….). I wasn’t working in the orchard last Sunday, so I don’t have any photos of that space to share with you, but I hope you enjoy these photos of the garden space (info in the captions below the photos):

“Bermuda’s Triangle” / Pollinator garden / ???
Last year this was a pollinator garden. We haven’t decided what we’ll plant in this space this year — maybe beans and peas?
Raspberry bushes. Bermuda’s Triangle is to the right of this photo
These are some of the raised beds.
The white tent in the back has picnic tables where we have our potlucks.
On the top right side of the photo (the metal hoops) is one the blueberry patches.
For perspective, the raspberry patch is on the right side of the photo
One of the blueberry patches
Here’s the other blueberry patch. It was damaged in a snowstorm a year ago
On the back left side of the photo (the wood pallets) is our compost area.
The black plastic on the left side of the photo is suppressing weeds in area we call “the long beds.” We grow asparagus and strawberries there every year. Plus additional crops as we can fit them in.
Another photo of the long beds and the compost area
More of the raised beds
The long beds would be to the right of this photo.
The picnic tables and canopy and more raised beds

We meet every Sunday for a two hour work party and have a potluck afterwards. The potlucks are on hiatus in an effort to keep the coronavirus at bay, but we are still meeting for our weekly work parties. We’re working outdoors, not in a small enclosed space, and we try to spread out at as much as possible, keeping ideally 6 feet between each other. I’m really glad the work parties haven’t disbanded. Personally, I find the work to be a nice distraction at a time like. More importantly, the food banks are going to need the donations now more than ever.

[Update: Gov. Inslee issued a two-week “Stay at Home” order starting on 3/23/20, so work parties for the next two weeks may not happen.]

Last Sunday, we planted potatoes and onions, and did some weeding.

Potatoes planted in trenches in one of the raised beds.
We covered the ptoatoes with 1 inch of dirt and will cover with more dirt as the potato plants grow.

Hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of our community garden.

(Note: In order to respect everyone’s privacy, I’m intentionally not showing identifiable faces in any of the photos I take.)