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Find serenity amid splendor at Bloedel Reserve

Travels with Deb

Bloedel Reserve is a heavenly oasis. Photo by Debbie Stone

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Photo by Debbie Stone

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.

We are fortunate in this country to have a wide variety of natural playgrounds. Though mountains, parks and beaches come foremost to mind, gardens also offer space to unwind and relax amid serene surroundings.

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Photo by Debbie Stone

A short ferry ride from Seattle will lead you to Bainbridge Island, an idyllic destination that’s home to the famed Bloedel Reserve. One of USA Today’s 2020 Top Ten Botanical Gardens, Bloedel’s vision is “To provide refreshment and tranquility in the presence of natural beauty.”

The Reserve is a horticultural treasure that has been internationally recognized for its refined gardens, natural landscapes and preserved forests. It was created by Prentice and Virginia Bloedel, whose passion for nature and its therapeutic powers helped transform a rugged piece of land into a verdant Eden.

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Photo by Debbie Stone

The Bloedels bought the 150-acre property that would become the Reserve back in 1951. It was their private residence for over thirty years, during which time, they shaped the landscape with the aid of noted landscape architects and designers, including Thomas Church, Richard Haag, Fujitaro Kubota and Iain Robertson.

Later, the couple gave the Reserve to the community and established a nonprofit to support its operations. The place opened to the public in 1988, and it is beloved by visitors who come from all over the world to connect with nature, while finding inspiration and creativity from this enchanting setting.

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Photo by Debbie Stone

Strolling the grounds is a journey of discovery and a feast for the senses. Each section of the Reserve offers a different, multi-textured milieu. On the Meadow Trail, you’ll come across Sheep Sheds that used to house a flock of sheep. The creatures are long gone, but the sheds have since served as a backdrop for concerts and theatrical performances.

The Woodlands is like a fairyland forest, where you can almost imagine elves popping out of the groves of cedars, firs and ferns.

Nesting birds, migratory and resident ducks, geese and colorful dragonflies take center stage in the Buxton Bird Marsh & Meadow, along with more than fifty varieties of native wildflowers. Recent improvements to the area include a new boardwalk, viewpoints and seating. Nearby is the Trestle Bridge, a picturesque large wooden footbridge spanning a ravine.

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Photo by Debbie Stone

One of the most stunning sights in the Reserve is the view of Mid-Pond looking toward the Residence, once the home of the Bloedels. At first glance, the water appears as a lush, green carpet, that is perhaps the result of algae growth. After inquiring, however, I learned it’s not algae, but rather Watermeal, a tiny species of flowering plant. This plant quickly reproduces by “budding off” new plants from older ones instead of propagating by seeds.

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Photo by Debbie Stone

Normally, Bloedel’s ground crew skims the pond, but this year, due to the pandemic, the crew was behind in its garden work. In the future, the Watermeal should decrease thanks to the introduction of Grass Carp, a type of fish which will eat the plants.