By Amira Hamdan
Say Bellevue, Wash., and the first thing that might come to mind is the world of high-tech and software. The city of 150,000 is part of the booming high-tech economy of the Seattle metropolitan area. But this city on the east side of Lake Washington is also home to some extraordinary gardens.
The climate blesses Bellevue with moderate temperatures and plenty of rain, making it a botanical paradise. Here are some places to check out that will turn your thumb green with envy.
This garden is actually a complex of gardens. It got its start in 1981 when Cal and Harriet Shorts deeded their home on 7.5 acres to the city as an arboretum and public park. Since then, it has spread across 53 acres under the guidance of the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society with help from the city of Bellevue. Your free visit should include:
Native Discovery Garden
This area features plants that are native to Bellevue, along with instructions on how you can use native plants at your home. You’ll find everything from ground cover to flowers, shrubs, and trees. Natives are adapted to the soil and climate, so they thrive with little maintenance, and they’re drought-tolerant.
This award-winning garden is a lesson in how beautiful gardens don’t need copious amounts of water or harmful pesticides. You can simply enjoy the view or sign up to learn about natural gardening techniques to use at home.
Created to honor Bellevue’s sister city in Japan, this garden is filled with maples, azaleas, rhododendrons, and viburnums, all arranged to provide a peaceful, contemplative landscape.
A stroll along the hillside will show you the splendors of perennial plants and trees. Perennials are a favorite among gardeners because they don’t have to be re-planted each season.
This is a delight in the summer with scores of fuchsia varieties on display, most of them suited to the Pacific Northwest. A special treat is the hummingbirds, which have a special fondness for fuchsias.
If you’re a rhododendron fan, this garden is home to more than 50 species and is a year-round attraction.
Shorts Ground Cover Garden
The display focuses on ground cover plants, but in addition to lush green fields, you’ll find pavilions and babbling brooks. The Shorts’ home is also located here.
This extraordinary event has been a highlight for a quarter-century. As the name suggests, Garden d’Lights is a garden of – lights! About a half-million lights carefully arranged to bring holiday cheer to visitors. It’s estimated about 80,000 people have come to the gardens to see this winter wonderland.
The Bellevue Botanical Garden consists of wetlands, woodlands, and trails, guaranteeing a full-nature adventure for visitors.
Besides Bellevue, the Seattle area is proud of its rich array of garden attractions. There are several more to visit on your outings.
Woodland Park Rose Garden
Located on the western side of Lake Washington, this is one of the few certified American Rose Test Gardens in the country. Rose lovers will find more than 200 varieties of the world’s favorite flower.
This is another gem in Seattle. This small, peaceful plot displays a variety of plants and flowers with an emphasis on camellias and rhododendrons. It also has lovely wide lawns, which are available for weddings and other special events.
Bellevue and the Seattle area have been blessed with conditions for a cornucopia of marvelous plant life. It’s no surprise that Belleview is also home to two community gardens. A visit to the Lake Hills Greenbelt Ranger Station on SE 16th, or to Crossroads Park on NE 15th Street will provide you with plenty of inspiration. The glamourous gardens will provide an opportunity for you to experience nature’s dazzling display!
Amira Hamdan is a traveler who loves to write, and a writer who loves to travel. Plunk her down in a new place and she will find the best local cuisine by noon and the best campsite or B&B by nightfall.