Backstage@Bloedel: Mrs. Bloedel’s Bench

History of the bench at the Swan Pond:

The bench was added to the Swan Pond in the spring of 1989. This was several years after the Bloedels established the foundation that turned their estate into the Reserve.

The bench was a birthday present for Mrs. Bloedel, who much enjoyed the view across the pond.
The Swan Pond got its name because a platform was built out in the water. The platform was installed as a retreat where the resident swan pair could raise their cygnets.

Because the Bloedels had health issues they had moved to Seattle. The day Mr. Bloedel gave Mrs.Bloedel her birthday present, I met them at the Visitors Center and drove them to the outlook in a golf cart. They sat on the bench silently for what must have been 15 minutes. One could see the years disappear as their memories took them back over the 65 years they had been married.
-Bob Braid, caretaker


The bench is on the northwest corner of the Swan Pond. It is just steps from the Visitor Center, but secluded as it is, it feels like it’s in a different world.

This year’s interns’ project was to improve the path and the outlook by making it more accessible and inviting. This picture shows the path layout.

There was an additional factor to consider. With time, the views of the Swan Pond and the Mid Pond were obstructed by trees growing from the west bank.

One was a cedar and the other was a hemlock. As you can see in this picture, the cedar is down and the hemlock is leaning at an angle.

Just as important was the fact that across the pond, on the east bank, there were two hemlocks leaning towards Mrs. Bloedel’s bench. While they weren’t a significant view obstruction, they were tall enough to be a safety hazard.

To facilitate the interns’ project, the Reserve assigned two arborists to remove the trees which presented visual or safety problems. Thus the intern project this year became a joint project.

The Solution:

Felling a large tree – preliminary steps:

Our arborist cuts underneath the left side.

Next, he cuts underneath the right side.

Now he cuts from the top – tree comes down.

The energy released when the tree comes down was felt through the ground – it jarred the photographer.

The disposition plan for the cedar was to pull it to the east pond bank and secure it. By doing this, it provides additional habitat. In the above photo, a duck is already investigating before the cedar has been moved.

Preparing to pull the cedar over to the pond bank:

Intern Gabie Lockwood is standing on the tree in the water.

She catches a yellow pilot line from the arborist.

She pulls a heavy blue lift line across and secures the lift line to the tree.

This view of the east bank shows what the arborists have done. The cedar tree is in the water and the hemlock logs are on the bank. To see how they got there go to the next picture.

Winching logs up the pond bank

Extending winch line

Holding lift line to keep it from “falling to the top”

Putting tension on the lift line

Hooking lift line to the winch

Using the winch to move logs up the bank

The hemlock logs remain on the pond bank, but will be unstacked to provide habitat.

Building up the surface of the outlook required aggregate be brought in. The interns used wheelbarrows for this. The next step was compacting. This is done with a motor-driven plate compactor. Compacting is an important step. A compacted subsurface is much more durable than an uncompacted surface. A compacted surface does not erode nearly as quickly when it is exposed to a lot of rain– and rain is a certainty here.

A rock border was installed, soil was added to the bank, plants were placed and planted:

The path was finished off with fresh bark:

The new plants:

The renovated outlook:


Gytano & Jackson (back row) Tatyana & Gabie (front row)

Bloedel Reserve Certified Arborists:

Diann Eckler

Ken Little

Andy Navage, Director of Horticulture, Bloedel Reserve

Bob Braid, Caretaker, Japanese Garden, Bloedel Reserve

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