Verdant northwestern Washington has a storied history of glacial and volcanic events and the resulting glacial till and volcanic soil nurture a stunning variety of native flora and transplanted flora. The state’s rich soil, abundant rainfall and temperate climate are a haven for vegetation. Washington State is vastly biodiverse, with 140 mammal species, 341 birds and 3,100 species of vascular plants. Hemmed in by mountain ranges and the Puget Sound, Seattle’s botanical gardens feature native species, flora from around the world and breathtaking landscape architecture that will dazzle budding botanists and respite-seekers alike.
Washington Park Arboretum
2300 Arboretum Drive E.
Seattle, WA 98112
Jointly owned by the City of Seattle and the University of Washington, the 230-acre Arboretum is a brilliant botanical display year-round. The park, which sits on the shores of Lake Washington, was created in 1934 and features an array of plant species that won’t be found elsewhere. Rare species include the Keteleeria evelyniana tree from China’s mountainous Yunnan province and Ceanothus impressus, a California lilac species sent to the Arboretum in 1945. Over the decades, this plant began yielding large masses of lavender flowers, earning the moniker of “Puget Blue” and winning a special merit award from the Royal Horticultural Society.
9817 55th Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98178
Kubota Garden, created by landscape architect Fujitaro Kubota in the 1920s, features 20 acres of trails, waterfalls and flora. Kubota, who also worked on the Bloedel Reserve, modified the garden over the decades, adding hundreds of stones to make a “mountainside” commemorating the 1962 World’s Fair. After Kubota’s death in 1973 at 94, the City of Seattle acquired Kubota Garden in 1987 and an additional 28 adjacent acres to ensure the area’s protection. The garden, which is open during daylight hours year-round, features a pond that’s fed by local springs; nursery plantings of yew, birch and bamboo; a lookout 65 feet above the garden; and the Tom Kubota Stroll Garden, which is wheelchair accessible.
7571 N.E. Dolphin Drive
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
Red alders, dogwoods and native western azaleas grace the grounds of the famous Bloedel Reserve. Located just a quick ferry trip across from Seattle in Bainbridge Island, Bloedel Reserve is 150 acres of some of Puget Sound’s most dazzling terra firma. The reserve, which is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., features landscaped gardens and naturally growing woodland areas, a moss garden, a bird refuge, a Japanese garden, a reflection pool, a waterfall and a stunning Puget Sound view. From the French chateau-inspired front entry to woods filled with western red cedar, Douglas fir and hemlock to the rhododendron-graced birch garden, the reserve is a nature lover’s dream.
Bellevue Botanical Gardens
12001 Main St.
Bellevue, WA 98005
Located across the water from Seattle, the Bellevue Botanical Garden is a 53-acre urban oasis featuring natural wetlands, landscaped gardens and thriving woodlands. The garden exhibits include the native discovery garden, the waterwise garden and the ravine experience, which includes one-third of a mile of nature trails and a 150-foot suspension bridge spanning a ravine filled with native flora and fauna. The native discovery garden, which is adjacent to a wetland, features native plants. And the award-winning waterwise garden features eco-friendly landscaping that can be applied to a healthy home garden.
Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden
3015 N.W. 54th St.
Seattle, WA 98107
The Ballard neighborhood of Seattle is the home of the the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden, which has been a Seattle landmark for more than 100 years. Landscape architect Carl S. English Jr. created these botanical gardens in 1911 and spent the following four decades re-imagining an English garden in the heart of Seattle. The gardens, which can be seen from the Ballard Locks, feature rolling slopes, manicured bushes and perennials. The landmark includes seven acres featuring 573 species of plants brought from around the globe, including Mexican pines, roses, rhododendrons, fuschia, poppy, foxglove and fan palms.
Tracy Campion is a freelance writer covering all things Seattle. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.