Nature can be a soothing balm, providing opportunities to rejuvenate body, mind and spirit. During challenging times, escaping to the great outdoors is even more essential to our health and well-being.
A short ferry ride from Seattle leads you to Bainbridge Island, an idyllic destination that’s home to the famed Bloedel Reserve.
The Reserve is a horticultural treasure that has been recognized for its refined gardens, natural landscapes and preserved forests. It was created by Prentice and Virginia Bloedel, whose passion for nature helped transform a rugged piece of land into a verdant Eden.
The couple gave the Reserve to the community, and visitors come from all over to connect with nature, while finding inspiration from this enchanting setting.
Strolling the grounds is a journey of discovery and a sensory feast. Each section of the Reserve offers a different milieu. The Woodlands, for example, is a fairyland forest, where you can almost imagine elves popping out of the groves of cedars, firs and ferns.
Nesting birds, ducks, geese and dragonflies take center stage in the Buxton Bird Marsh & Meadow, along with more than 50 varieties of native wildflowers. Nearby is the Trestle Bridge, a picturesque large wooden footbridge spanning a ravine.
One of the most stunning sights in the Reserve is the view of Mid-Pond looking toward the Residence, the original home of the Bloedels. At first glance, the water appears as a green carpet, perhaps the result of algae growth. I learned, however, it’s not algae, but Watermeal, a tiny species of flowering plant.
The Residence is a stately house, designed in the 18th-century French tradition. Previously, visitors could tour the first floor, but currently the building is closed. You can, however, meander around to the back of the home, for a picturesque view of Puget Sound.
Another favorite spot is the Japanese Garden and Japanese Guest House. The garden is one of the best in the country and contains a collection of beautiful trees, including a striking laceleaf maple and a large Katsura.
The Guest House merges Japanese and Northwest Coast Native American Longhouse styles together. Though it’s not open to the public, you can get a closer look if you walk along the porch. Check out the Sand and Stone Garden in front of the house. This type of garden is one of the most recognizable aspects of Japanese culture. Its clean lines and bare form help visitors clear their minds and encourage a meditative state.
If you’re into moss, and even if you’re not, you’ll be in awe of the Reserve’s Japanese-inspired Moss Garden. It’s the largest public moss garden in the U.S. with more than 40 species of mosses and lichens spread across two acres. You’ll feel as if you’ve wandered into a primordial realm.
Also popular with visitors is the Reflection Pool. The 200-foot-long rectangular pool is surrounded by formally trimmed yews and mowed grass in manicured fashion – a stark contrast to the natural forest beyond. This is also an ideal spot for contemplation.
Debbie Stone is a former reporter and feature writer for the Woodinville Weekly