History

A Brief History

Unique among public gardens in the United States, The Bloedel Reserve was created by Prentice Bloedel and his wife, Virginia, who resided on the property from 1951 until 1986. The son of a prominent lumber company owner, Prentice was educated at the Thatcher School in Ojai, California and at Yale University. While continuing his association with the Thatcher School as a teacher in the late 1920s, he was called upon by his father to take the helm of the family timber business. He took an early retirement from the MacMillan Bloedel Timber Company in 1950 to devote the balance of his life to the creation of the gardens of what is now The Bloedel Reserve. Although he was advised by and worked with noted landscape architects, including Thomas Church, Richard Haag, Fujitaro Kubota, and Iain Robertson, the overall vision for The Reserve’s gardens was his alone.

Prentice Bloedel was a pioneer in renewable resources and sustainability. He was the first to use sawdust as a fuel to power his company’s mills. He replanted clear cut areas, and started a company that marketed fireplace logs made from sawdust. He also was deeply interested in the relationship between people and the natural world, and the power of landscape to evoke emotions ranging from tranquility to exhilaration. Indeed, some believe that due to his early school experiences and his bout with polio as a young man, Prentice Bloedel may have been ahead of his time in his understanding of the therapeutic power of gardens and landscape.

To view a video about Bloedel Reserve and its founder, Prentice Bloedel, in the words of his family and associates, click here

To read an article written in 1980 for the University of Washington Arboretum Bulletin, in which Prentice Bloedel eloquently describes the Purpose and Future of the Bloedel Reserve click here

To read a personal memoir of Prentice Bloedel by Sally Schauman, FASLA, former chair of the University of Washington Department of Landscape Architecture and former board member of The Bloedel Reserve, click here