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Pacific Northwest

Garden Tour

Day one


Our first stop on this amazing garden tour of the Pacific Northwest was Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. It isn’t a curated garden, but it is a beautiful wild space, and it did enable us to experience bird watching in a vast marshland setting.

The refuge is known for its Heron nesting. These birds are generally solitary creatures with the one exception when they are nesting. At this time, they come together in a siege or a sedge. These terms are used when herons gather in large numbers in a rookery. The rookery needs to be in a plentiful feeding ground to support so many of these large birds in one place. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge certainly is a plentiful feeding ground and so this is why we were lucky enough to view a very large siege of Herons.


Lakewold Gardens was our first official garden visit on this tour. It is nestled in the sleepy suburbs of Lakewood. The property has slowly built up from the original 1908 homestead to its current glory. It’s had a complicated history, but Emma Alexander started the garden and passed it down to her children who kept it going. Today it is a stately home and gardens with outstanding views of Gravelly Lake. A lot of the gardens are somewhat natural, but a small portion is curated. It’s a lovely place and full of Pacific Northwest charm, history, and flora.

Day two

Happy travelers

We bid Lakewood goodbye and drove northwestward to Bremerton where we stopped at Evergreen Rotary Park to take in views of Dyes Inlet (a small tributary of the vast Puget Sound) and Manette Bridge. The weather was spectacular with an enormous blue-sky dome above us, uncluttered by any clouds and causing the waterways to shimmer in a quicksilver blue.


Next, we took an unplanned hike in the amazing Kitsap County Anderson Landing Park. This park is a small local community park and goes to show how some communities have all the luck. It is a classic moss and fern covered Pacific Northwest Forest. We would call it mossnificent and ferntastic. It backs up to the oyster covered estuary of the Hood Canal. I have never seen so many mollusks in all my life. When I used to eat them, it's no wonder so many came from Washington.

Soaking in the green

Our next Pacific Northwest Garden was the sprawling Bloedel Reserve. This garden is made up of both natural and highly landscaped areas, a stately manner home, immaculate lawns, woods, a moss garden, a rhododendron glen, a reflection garden, and a stone garden. Virginia and Prentice Bloedel created this wonder. Prentice is credited to be the first person to document the process of and implementing reforestation after clearcutting a forest. This is a good thing, but of course he did make his fortune clearcutting forests.

Day three

Such a garden

The next garden we visited was a bit of a surprise. We were not expecting much from Heronswood Garden, but it was the most impressive garden we’d experienced so far. From the outside it is a very unassuming place in the middle of farms and fields in Kitsap County, Washington. It is located on the far northern end of a spit of land poking out into the Puget Sound. But this garden has a secret, it is lovingly run by the Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe of native Americans and this love shows up everywhere in this incredible place.


Its other amazing superpower is that it was established in 1987 by Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones. Jones was the architect behind the layout of this fascinating garden. The design is very thoughtful and shows up everywhere you walk in this wonderland. It successfully communicates how the forests were once destroyed with abandon and are now slowly being reclaimed and returned to their former beauty.

Plus, Hinkley had collected many unusual plants in his lengthy bi-annual botanical adventures throughout Eastern Europe, Asia, Central and South America, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. This diversity of plants expresses its beauty as you walk around and find yourself saying out loud: “What’s that. And That! And That!” This is a must-see garden.

More Flowers

After being completely overwhelmed by the beauty of Heronswood Garden we drove to the most northerly point on this spit of land poking out into the Puget Sound, a place called: Point No Point. Yes, the people of Washington do have a good sense of humor and as it turns out Point No Point is a great place to eat your lunch on the beach, and really does have a point. This is no ordinary beach though. In the distance one can see the gigantic Northen Cascades volcanic and snowcapped Mt. Baker. As I say, a great place for a non-cheese cheese sandwich.

The forest

We ended this day with a hike in the invigorating Grand Forest West. It is a small county park in the center of Bainbridge Island. It is filled with ferns and moss and Pacific Northwest Forest trees. It is lovely, compact, and green.

Day Four


This day we drove north to Port Angeles, boarded a ferry, and left the United States behind us. The ferry crossed the calm and inviting Salish Sea, with us and our car onboard and made landfall again on Vancouver Island, in the lovely little city of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.

Victoria is a quaint little harbor city. It is a cheery place filled with happy Canadians going about their business, boats, sea taxies, and sea planes. Surprisingly, Victoria is also overflowing with vegan restaurants, and so Julia and I found it a warm and inviting place.

Victoria at night

We caught up with our friends Petra and Eric who live near Victoria. They are ex-Americans that long ago left the insanity that is America behind and chose to be Canadians. There is something admirable about people who choose their countries, rather than just inheriting them mindlessly from birth. Although, let me think, Julia and I both chose to be Americans. Hum… I wonder what that says about us.

Day Five

Butchart Gardens


On this day Julia and I traveled a little north of Victoria to the stupendous, amazing, magnificent, overwhelming, grand, and indelible Butchart Gardens.

Butchart Gardens were the penultimate gardens we visited on this trip. It has no rival in the Pacific Northwest or the world. It stands alone as the most beautiful garden one could ever see. This might seem like an exaggeration, but Julia and I just completed an extensive garden tour around England and although there are many great gardens there, none come close to the beauty, grandeur, and scale of Butchart Gardens.

A happy girl

And of course, in the same character of Victoria, the restaurant there served a vegan high tea. If you have never had high tea it consists of little sandwiches, with their crusts cut off, lots of sweet cakes, creams (vegan in this case), chocolates, and tea. Yum!!

To really experience Butchart Gardens you must spend more than one day there and visit at different times of the year. An interesting fact about the gardens is that the gardeners work after the gardens are closed to not disturb the visitor’s experience of the place.

It is so beautiful and so invigorating to walk around Butchart Gardens. I find it very hard to express it here in words the feelings I had in this place. All I can really do is to advise you to go and experience Butchart Gardens before you shuffle off your mortal coil.

Day Five


On this day we drove further northwest on the lovely and scenic Vancouver Island to (what we thought was) the remote Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. This National Park is indeed remote, very beautiful and wild, but far from uninhabited. In summer it is a very, very busy tourist destination. You can understand why so many people choose to come here because its forests are pristine and its beaches beautiful. Plus, you can see whales, sea otters, seals, wolves, bears, and mountain lions here; well, if you are lucky.

Julia and I took the high risk of getting seasick and ventured on a whale-watching tour out of the sleepy little village of Tofino. We cruised around the many inlets of the vast Pacific Ocean here, floating around Clayoquot and Wickaninnish Islands constantly on the lookout for whales. Fortunately for us the day was magnificent, the water calm, the sky blue, and no wind.


We did indeed see gray whales, seals, and sea otters. It was a pleasant and enriching experience.

Day Six

We hiked the stupendous forests and beaches of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Something to keep in mind if you visit this National Park is that there are unusually very few hiking trails. I am not sure why this is. It could be the caretakers wish to maintain the pristine nature of the forests here, I am not sure. However, the hikes that are there are magnificent, and the beaches are invigorating. Many of the hikes in the forests use boardwalks, again I assume to maintain the integrity of the forests.

More forest

The beaches here are worth visiting. We were fortunate in that the weather was very warm and the skies blue and cloudless while we visited these seashores. An interesting fact is that these beaches and forests are home to the famous sea wolves of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Unfortunately, we did not see any of these elusive creatures on this visit, but I’m sure we’ll be back some day and perhaps our luck will change.


Day Seven

Strait of Georgia

We left the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and west coast of Vancouver Island and drove east to the port town of Nanaimo. Here we boarded another ferry and cruised to the extremely attractive, little-big city of Vancouver.

An interesting fact about this lovely city is that it is a culturally diverse place, with a large percentage of its residents being native speakers of neither English nor French. It has been consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in Canada and the world. As we walked its streets, we could verify these facts. Although, like all big cities, it has its share of not so savory areas too. But Vancouver, like Victoria, has many vegan restaurants and so we partook of these pleasures.

More vegan food

Our last garden visit on this grand and sprawling tour was the famous Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. This garden was built by Chinese workers who came specifically to build it and it is made from primarily imported Chinese materials. Because of this the techniques and styles of this amazing place are very genuinely Chinese.

The Garden is a beautiful and tranquil place located in the heart of Vancouver's Chinatown. It is the first Chinese or "scholars" garden built outside of China and is a unique representation of Ming Dynasty-era tradition. The garden offers traditional Chinese tea ceremonies where you can discover the art of drinking tea in China. It’s complicated and interesting, just like our grand garden tour has been.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

Julia and I loved this trip very much and would recommend it to you.

Gardens are worth spending your time in. They are filled with beautiful living things. They do not have computer screens, or monitors, they get you outside and away from your normal distractions. And they connect you to life.


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