Mother’s Day is that one precious day of the year when a mom doesn’t have to feel guilty about being lazy or doing whatever she wants. I cherish it. I especially cherish it because my daughter’s birthday is May 10th and I’m always entertaining family or friends the Saturday evening before. But on that Sunday, I do nothing and enjoy it. When my kids were young, I was stressed and needed a break, so my husband would take them away for the afternoon. Now that they’re older, we go on outings as a family. Sometimes it’s for a hike. Sometimes it’s to a museum. This year it was to a particularly special place for me: the Bellevue Botanical Garden. Botanical gardens always make me happy.
Years ago when I was in horticulture school, I worked for a quarter at the Bellevue Botanical Garden. It was a field practicum class with hands-on training. That was a fun time. I made a close friend and learned about rare plants I’d otherwise not have access to. Back then in the early 2000s, the cultivated areas weren’t as large and polished as they are today. Now there are several more mini-gardens within the larger 36-acre site: a rock garden, a native habitat, waterfalls, sculptures, fuchsia and rhododendron gardens, even a suspension bridge. The perennial border in particular is spectacular. While it used to be a giant slope featuring a riot of yellow and maroon plants, it’s now more of a blended soft palette punctuated by unusual trees and shrubs. There are gravel paths and benches and broad gentle steps. It’s a sophisticated, visually interesting retreat.
After two hours of strolling and staring at plants in awe, I left the BGG feeling wholly relaxed. I went home to my somewhat weedy and somewhat inviting garden, wishing for a crew of volunteers, inspired to create my own little botanical retreat.
The Perennial Border
The kids loved these decorative alliums, huge pom poms that pop with purple color.
The architecture of these cairns is rustic and a blunt contrast to the surrounding plants.
Native Discovery Garden
Mahonia, darmera, sword ferns, and hellebores surround the waterfall area.
Persicaria pokes at blue hostas in the native garden area.
These stone risers lead one toward those blooming rhododendrons.
Boulders offer great architecture in any garden, especially surrounded by ferns and logs as here.
The Ravine Experience
The suspension bridge was a big hit with the kids.
The final feature of the Bellevue Botanical Garden is that it’s free, so is parking. It’s open daily from dawn to dusk. In winter, Garden d’Lights, the famous display of Christmas lights sculpted into oversized plants runs through December. The library at the Visitor Center is worth a visit if you’re a hardcore plant geek.