Front Stage@Bloedel: Bloedel in Bloom

June 5th, 2014

Springtime is when the Reserve is most floriferous. Volunteer and photographer Elliott Green captured the blooming beauties in this photo essay. Enjoy! And if you are in our neck of the woods, stop by and see the blooms in person. We are open Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m to 6 p.m.

Location: The Glen
Plant: Rhododendron strigillosum

Location: Swan Pond
Plant: Rhododendron gandavense ‘sunbeam’

Location: Entrance Drive
Plant: Azalea

Location: Japanese Stroll Garden
Plant: Azalea (hybrid)


Location: Visitor Center
Plant: Rhododendron ‘pink wallpaper’

Location: Swan Pond
Plant: Rhododendron ‘hybrid’

Location: Christmas Pond
Plant: Primula pulverulenta ‘Bartley’s strain’; Candelabra primrose

Location: Christmas Pond
Plant: Primula japonica ‘Postfords white’; Candelabra primrose

Location: Gate House
Plant: Crinodendron hookerianum; Chilean Lantern Tree

Location: Japanese Garden
Plant: Cornus kousa; Korean dogwood

Location: Japanese Garden
Plant: Cotinus coggyria ‘Royal purple’; Royal purple smoke tree

Plant: Rhododendron with a bee

25th Anniversary Memories

April 25th, 2014

In honor of the Reserve’s 25th Anniversary, we asked the public to share their stories of the Reserve with us. We received wonderful memories and displayed them in the Visitor’s Center during Founder’s Weekend.

We wanted to share the stories we received with you. And, if you have any stories you would like to share please send them to: We will continue to collect stories for use in future events and publications.

Name: Krista Jenkins
Current City: Adelaide, Australia
Date of Memory: 1971

My dad was a gardener for Mr. Bloedel and was walking in the woods and heard an animal whimpering. He walked toward the sound, but then it stopped when he got near and he couldn’t find the source of the whimpering.

This pattern repeated for several days until one day he scratched his head and looked up. There, up in the branches of a leaning maple tree, was a little brown dog. It became our new dog, Maple, who we loved for many years after.

Name: Bruce Clark
Current City: Seattle, Washington
Date of Memory: 1980

In the summer of 1980 or 1981, I was in my early twenties and was working as a tree trimmer before heading to law school. My late mother, Anne Holt, was a fabulous gardner who lived on Agate Pass Loop Road and knew Richard Brown, then the director of the gardens.

I was hired for the summer to trim trees on the property, mostly to the west of the house. It was a great place to work and I was in and out of a lot of trees, mostly deadwooding to reduce hazards and to “clean up” the look of some of the conifers.

One day Richard Brown told me that Mr. Bloedel was a bit concerned that the trees were looking too neat – -that they ought to have some dead branches because that was their natural state.

As it happened, I was able to chat with Mr. Bloedel about this as we walked and looked at the trees. I was impressed with his deep appreciation for all of the trees given the familial connection with the logging industry. He told me, pointing at a Grand Fir, that back in the day those in the commercial logging industry regarding such firs as “trash trees” because they had little commercial value as compared with other conifers. He went on to express how his thinking had changed over time and how much he now valued the beauty of all the trees he had. I thought then, as now, that his comments reflected his connection to the forests here and provided motivation to create the natural monument that is the Reserve today.

Name: Virginia Abell-Clayton
Current City: Bainbridge Island, Washington
Date of Memory: Summer of 1992

As a docent I greeted a gentleman and his daughter. He introduced himself as a doctor from Los Angeles. When he notice the piano, he asked if he could play. Given permission, I was treated to a 45-minute concert worthy of Benaroya Hall.

When I expressed my delight and surprise to his daughter, she informed me that he was also a graduate of Juilliard.

Name: Anna Neff
Date of Memory: Christmas Eve, 1988

As Christmas approached in 1988, the weather was cold. Might it snow?  “Oh, please!”, sang our two daughters. And on December 24th it did begin to lightly snow. We were excited for the festivities that were to come on Christmas Eve. Everything was set for the relatives who would be arriving late in the day. Presents were wrapped, cookies were frosted,  songs were memorized. We were faced with a long afternoon. What shall we do?

We knew from articles that had appeared in the Bainbridge Review that Bloedel Reserve memberships had recently become available. I don’t remember which of us had the brilliant idea but the idea was, indeed, brilliant. Let’s bundle up and drive to The Bloedel Reserve, buy a membership and walk through the gardens. It was magical!  I don’t remember seeing another soul but we saw many little paw prints in the snow. We walked and giggled and sang, everyone pointing out one beautiful snowy sight after another.

When we finally piled back into the car, the girls were rosy-cheeked and tuckered out. I wish Mr. and Mrs. Bloedel could have heard the Bloedel Reserve stories the girls told their grandparents and aunts and uncles that evening.

We have been members of The Bloedel Reserve since that special day — December 24, 1988.  Every time I visit The Reserve, no matter the season or the occasion, I see the magical place that our two rosy-cheeked little girls discovered for the first time on Christmas Eve, 1988.

Name: Alice Frost
Date of Memory: 2009

The front door opened to the Visitor’s Center and a young man and older woman entered. I greeted them and asked if they would like a guided tour to which they replied that they would just like to wander.

Perhaps ten minutes passed when I looked up. The elderly woman stood there with tears streaming down her face saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” Her son told me that he was from New York and his mother was from Sri Lanka where a civil war had recently ended. She was crying from joy because she finally felt at peace. I was rather stunned, but said, “Please don’t thank me, thank Prentice Bloedel for creating such a peaceful sanctuary for all.” I was deeply moved by the experience and realized the natural beauty and serenity of the Reserve are important and universal to all.

Name: Beth Goodwin

Every time I come to the main house with my five year old son, he loves to sit and read the gardening books with me as well as look at the “Eaglet’s Progress” book. As I write this, he is escorting a four year old boy he met outside through the house.

We also treasure Christmas time with the trains and hot cocoa.

Name: Laura Cloghessy
Current City: Bainbridge Island
Date of Memory: August 2009

The first time we came to the Reserve was for a concert. The concert was on the front lawn. It was a clear day and the eagles were teaching the eaglets to fly, swooping back and forth. Bloedel Reserve couldn’t have planned it better if they tried. It was so beautiful and quite remarkable.

Name: Hannah (15 years old)
Current City: Austin, Texas
Date of Memory: July 18, 2013

Looking at the view of the ocean at the Bloedel house made me want to write about it. I want to be an author and this place was so picturesque, it may be just the setting for a future book. Thank you!

Name: Dave Hancock
Current City: Mercer Island, WA
Date of Memory: 1964

My mom was Mr. Bloedel’s secretary and I played on this property everyday. I loved flying to Bellingham with Mr. Bloedel in his de Havilland seaplane. He always let me play with the sheep and his dogs. He was the nicest man and always greeted me with open arms.

Name: Beatrice Roethke Lushington
Date of Memory: October 4, 2013
Current City: Seattle

The trip to Bloedel Reserve on the 4th October 2013, was full of memories beginning with the turn off at Agate and thinking of the day on August 1st 1963 when Ted Roethke went to Bainbridge to escape the vacuum cleaner at home. En route he met Virginia Bloedel and her daughter Lee who asked him to come for a swim and he was delighted to accept. We had seen that he had a blood clot in his arm the day before but he said it didn’t hurt. When he dove in at the pool it went to his brain. This was in the swimming pool at the newly constructed complex.

Years have gone by and I have heard that someone wanted to know where the poet died and had been told that the swimming pool had been filled in and made into a Zen Garden.

The Bloedels had met him not long before and had been won over by his charisma. The Bloedels were a devoted couple of whom I was very fond. Virginia, or Shinny as she was called, was very affectionate to me. I think they had lived in Vancouver when their two daughters were young and whisky was served with dinner.

Seeing the house I remembered the times Stephen Lushington and I were guests there after we were married in 1972.  I remember there were swans on the pond in front of the house.

Among the beautiful trees there is a large moss garden which made me think of Ted’s poem, Moss-Gathering.

Backstage@Bloedel: Cedar Removal

April 1st, 2014

The Overview:

The Reserve has a number of trails that go through woodlands. As woodland trees grow they sometimes become dangerous to people below. Because staff and visitor safety is the number one priority at the Reserve, when a tree is judged hazardous it must be secured. Two methods are commonly used – cabling or removal.
This cedar was located next to the glen access road, and one of its leaders hung over a heavily used visitor path. In this case the decision was to remove the tree.
To provide some context, this cedar was a tall tree. To get an idea of its size look at the picture below. Ken, standing to the right of the tree trunk, is six feet tall. We estimate the cedar’s trunk to be about 30 feet tall.
We estimate the tree’s height in excess of 80 feet.
So, why was this tree dangerous?

The Situation:

This particular cedar tree had three co-dominant leaders. Cedars usually have a single dominant leader.

Andy speculated that this tree had been topped some years ago, and that three leaders grew from the trunk. This had become a serious structural problem.

Over the years as the tree grew, the leaders became heavier, and a crack developed. The crack grew deeper due to included bark. Included bark is bark embedded between the leaders and the trunk. Embedded bark prevents formation of a branch bark ridge. The result was a weak union of the leaders to the trunk.

As Andy and Jim were walking in the glen, they heard a loud crack. When they investigated, they saw the crack and realized that the cedar was seriously compromised. They shut down the access road and visitor’s path.

Andy immediately called Westerlund Tree Service. Jon Westerlund’s company specializes in safing dangerous trees.

In this photo you can see evidence of the split. The fresh wood visible in the vertical crack shows where the trunk has failed.

The timeline was as follows:

The picture below is of the cedar as we left it on Thursday afternoon. Note that the leaders are leaning away from each other. We knew it would not take much – maybe just wind loads – to cause complete failure.

When we came back Friday morning we were relieved to see that the tree had not failed. Jon determined that the tree would be safe to climb if the gaps between the leaders could be stabilized.

Friday morning was calm. This was important for Jon’s climbers, who could not work safely if there was any wind. Jon’s climbers proceeded to secure the leaders with a chain and chain clamp. In the photo below, you can see how the chain kept the leaders from spreading.

The Solution:

They then rigged a brace system using lines to the ground to draw the leaders together. The picture below was taken Friday morning, after they had placed the brace and cranked the leaders in.

Below, the leaders have been secured with a chain and the brace has been rigged. The tree is now safe, and the climbers have partially de-limbed it.

This photo shows how the bracing has been cranked taut from ground level:

The brace solved the tree safety problem. The top photo is of the tree before any remediation has been done. The bottom photo is after the brace has been rigged and cranked taut. When you compare the photos, you’ll see that the original crack is now closed, and the lines which activate the brace are taut.

Now, with the tree secure and de-limbed, the climbers can safely reduce the leaders by successively cutting short pieces off, as seen above.

The Results:

The Team:

Bloedel representatives:

-Jim Allen, Gardener

-Ken Little, Arborist

-Andy Navage, Director of Horticulture

Contractor: Westerlund Wood & Tree Service

-Ben Fejeran, Climber

-Ikaika Rodrigues, Climber

-Jon Westerlund, Owner

Backstage@Bloedel: Upper Japanese Garden Renovation

March 6th, 2014

A Japanese garden is successful when it engages you visually.
It achieves this when its design is strong, when it lacks nothing, and when it contains nothing extra.

The upper Japanese garden consists of the entry path, the white granite rock garden, and the mounds visible from the deck of the Japanese house.

The objectives of the renovation were to:

· Rebuild the fences that parallel the entry

· Rebuild the mounds

· Place trees in the garden to complete the design

· Improve safety by leveling the pavers

The photo below is a “before” picture, taken in June, 2013.

This photo is an “after” picture, taken in February, 2014.

The differences between these views are described on the following pages. Problems are described with notes on the “before” picture; solutions are described with notes on the “after” picture.

This executive summary concludes with four paired pictures of the finished renovation. The first image in each pair is reproduced without any notes. We’ve done that so you can see what the final result looks like. The second image has notes describing the major design theme implemented in that view.

The Situation:

A: Sections of the entry fences were missing because a cottonwood tree fell across the path in December 2012

B: Pavers adjacent to the cedar were tripping hazards; there was no clear path around the rock garden

C: Overgrown vegetation obscured two medium-sized stones; the vegetation contributed no visual interest

D: This secondary mound did not contribute to the feeling of depth of view that was desired.

E: This primary mound is weak; it should tie horizontal features together

F: This large stone was partially buried; it did not relate to nearby stone elements

G: This mound was too low and did not relate well to the other elements, and it was infested with voles

H: The entry fences were replaced

I: Pavers were cleaned, then reset, leaving clear paths around the rock garden

J: With the vegetation removed and a dwarf white pine transplanted, the existing stones are now revealed

K: The secondary mound has been raised, irrigation added, and it’s been replanted; it now adds to the felling of depth

L: The primary mound is now part of a strong horizontal design theme. The large stone now relates to the stones in the rock garden; this ties the mound to the rock garden

M: This mound was excavated, new soil brought it and the area replanted

The Results:

N: The presence of the dwarf white pine on the left now guides visitors to look at the gate and the house as they enter

O: The dwarf white pine supplies visual closure to the right of the gate and separates the gate from the mounding area

P: The group of five stones in the rock garden are visually extended by the pair of stones on the left mound

Q: The strong horizontal lines in the mounds now complement the horizontal elements in the rock garden, deck and roof

R: The large stone on the mound now forms a group with the pair of stones in the rock garden, visually tying the mound and the rock garden



This document is an executive summary. Its purpose is to describe the major design themes underlying the project. If you would like more information about how the project was done you can look at detailed descriptions of the project phases. They can be found in the following companion documents:

· Upper Japanese Garden Renovation – Entrance

· Upper Japanese Garden Renovation – Mounds

· Upper Japanese Garden Renovation – Pavers

· Upper Japanese Garden Renovation – Trees

Renovation of the upper and lower Japanese Gardens is a major, continuing, project at Bloedel Reserve. The planning for the upper garden project started two years ago. Execution of the project has taken almost a year. It has required considerable effort by garden staff, interns, volunteers, contractors and consultants. A companion project, the Lower Japanese Garden Renovation, is currently being planned.

Backstage@Bloedel: Mulch Preparation

February 1st, 2014

Before describing how mulch is prepared, let’s answer two questions:  what is mulch and, why is it used?

Mulch is a generic term for any surface plant covering.  Mulches can be organic, compost, rubber, plastic, or sand and gravel.  At Bloedel we make and use only composted organic mulch.

Mulch is used to limit weed growth, conserve water, insulate plants, provide plant nutrients, demarcate plant beds for mowing and maintain a neat appearance.

In the photo at below, you’ll see three plants embedded in a manicured lawn.  These plants, witch hazels, are located just inside the vehicle gate.  They’re virtually the first thing a visitor sees when entering the Reserve.

Mulch is used virtually everywhere the Reserve has maintained gardens.  Here are three examples.  The first photo is an example of a Sadler oak in a long lawn.  The second photo is of trees in a long lawn.  The third photo is a picture of the Gate House, with a Japanese maple in a manicured lawn.  Regardless of where they are planted, each has a layer of mulch.

Since most of the mulch is renewed annually, the conclusion is clear.  The Reserve uses a lot of mulch.

The above photo gives you an idea of how much mulch the Reserve uses.  Here you are looking at a year’s supply of dairy manure.  In this photo the manure has just started composting.  Bloedel buys 200 cubic yards of dairy manure annually to start each year’s batch.  Composting the manure breaks the organics down and gets rid of the smell.

Composting requires the material spend time at temperature as this allows microorganisms to break down the organic material.  Additional organic material, typically leaf compost and wood chips, are added to the manure to finish the mulch.

Since composting is an aerobic process, it requires oxygen.  Darren provides oxygen by turning the mulch.  In the photo above he is scooping a bucket.  As you can see in the photo below, he dumps the bucket to rebuild the mulch pile on a parallel line.  This insures that all the material is properly composted.

The steam you see in the photos is due to the fact that the pile is hot.  The target temperature in the interior is 120°F.  Darren tracks the temperature.  When it falls below this value, the microorganisms have used up their oxygen and they need to be restarted by turning the compost.  The compost is turned approximately every two weeks.

Sequence of mixing a small batch for composting:

Darren starts with a day’s worth of grass clippings.

He adds composted leaves from last autumn.

He scoops and dumps to mix.

He mixes the batch.

He moves it forward.

Darren dumps the finished batch where it will resume composting.

Leaves are collected from all around the Reserve.  Diann and Ken, below photo, are picking up leaves from the English elms in front of the Visitor Center.

Sean, above, is loading big leaf maple leaves into the Smithco.

Most of the leaves for composting come from Reserve woodland.  In the above picture you can see maple leaves about to be harvested from woodland.

Here at the leaf dump, Joe, Jim and Sean rake a trailer load of leaves onto the leaf pile. These leaves will compost for about a year before being combined with the manure to compost further and make mulch.

The result:

The team:

Jim Allen, Gardener

Joe DeMaio, Gardener

Diane Eckler, Arborist

Ken Little, Arborist

Sean Peterson, Gardener

Darrren Strenge, Gardener

Backstage@Bloedel: Florist Weekly Routine

January 9th, 2014

The Reserve’s florist, Cathy Tyler, and her dedicated group of volunteers keep the Visitor Center beautiful with fresh floral arrangements each week. This blog will will demonstrate how visitor favorite, Lucy the swan, is created, and will also show a set of photographs that illustrates the variety of displays Cathy and her team create.

Lucy is a pewter swan that was owned by the Bloedels. She was used to display flower arrangements in the entryway of what is now the Visitor Center. These days Lucy spends her time on the dining room table looking out the windows.
Depending on the time of year, Lucy’s feathers can be flowers or other greens. Lucy requires a change of feathers once a week. The feathers she’s wearing in the picture above are about to be replaced.  Lucy is one of 12 flower exhibits in the Visitor Center. All are changed weekly by the Bloedel florist, Cathy Tyler, and her volunteers.

All floral work is done in the workshop which is located behind the Visitor's Center.

In this picture Ernie is plucking out greens which can be used again. This is the first step in building a new display.

All display containers must be scrubbed clean. Here, Lucy is getting her weekly bath.

Displays require new greens and new greens require preparation. Prep is a two stage process.

Cathy is doing the first stage. She is washing new greens in hot water to remove insects and dirt.

Ernie is doing the second stage. She is pouring hot water into the buckets with new greens. Any green that has a stem is immersed in hot water for half an hour. This makes the stems absorb water, and that makes them last longer.

The next step in putting new feathers on Lucy is to give her a new foam block. The foam block holds the greens in position. A foam block is used for two reasons. First, because water can flow through it, greens stay fresher longer. Second, because the block absorbs water, it weighs the display down.

Lucy being fitted with her new foam block.

In this design Lucy’s feathers will be built up from five different greens. They are fir, pine, salal, mahonia and curly willow.

Cathy starts with the stiffest branches first. In this photo, fir branches have been put in around the perimeter.

Next, pine branches have been added. Pine is more flexible and can be used to give the arrangement more shape.

Cathy can now add leafy greens. In this case, the plants added are salal and mahonia.

Cathy positions Lucy to make sure her feathers are reasonably symmetrical.

Finally, Cathy adds some curly willow and gives the whole assembly a spritz from her spray bottle. With a final trim, Lucy will be ready to go back on display.

Cathy and a freshly arranged Lucy.

Here are some samples of other arrangements found at the Reserve:

Arrangement by Ernie

Arrangement by Cathy

Arrangement by Sigrid

Arrangement by Cathy

Arrangement by Cathy

Arrangement by Ernie

Arrangement by Cathy

Cathy Tyler, Florist, Bloedel Reserve; Ernestina (Ernie) Schwartzman, Volunteer; Sigrid Knight, Volunteer

Backstage@Bloedel: Christmas Garland, Visitor’s Center

December 19th, 2013

The garland and wreaths draping the entrance to the Visitor’s Center are a holiday tradition at Bloedel Reserve. The garland and the wreaths are all produced on site, using plant materials collected from the Reserve.

In this photo, Joe and Andy are fastening the large wreath to the iron railing at the front of the second floor balcony.

This photo was taken from the second floor balcony when the garland was half finished. The garland was assembled on a very cold morning. The space heaters made it possible to work outside.

Because the garland will be draped symmetrically from the flag post on the Visitor’s Center, the sides must be the same length. To make sure the lengths come out equal, the crew takes a 75 foot length of rope and divide it in half. They tie a knot for hanging the finished garland at the halfway point. This conveniently allows two teams to work on the garland, with each team taking one side.

The garland is assembled from plant material, most of which is gathered from the Reserve. In the photo below you can see piles of branches. The main greens are cedar, fir and pine. The garland is accented with holly and hinoki cypress. The branches are attached to the rope with paddle wire.

Sharon and Cathy are attaching branches to the rope.

Martha holds branches for Marianne to wire them. Assembling the garland took four people about three hours.

At this point the assembly of evergreens on the garland is nearing completion. Holly and hinoki cypress will be added to finish the garland.

Here you can see the two teams working. Martha and Marianne are working on the left arm; Sharon and Cathy are working on the right arm. The white knot which will hang the garland is visible in the foreground.

With the garland complete, Andy and Joe haul it up to the balcony and hang it on the flag post. This is done under the watchful eyes of the “garland assembly team”.

This photo is of the large wreath that Joe and Sean made. The greens are cedar, fir, pine, mahonia blossoms and holly.

This photo shows the wreath being hauled up by Joe and Andy with Sean’s assistance from below.

Completed project:

The Team:
Martha Goldingay, Volunteer
Sharon Kulfan, Volunteer
Marianne Mallabon, Volunteer
Cathy Tyler, Florist, Bloedel Reserve
Joe DeMaio, Gardener, Bloedel Reserve
Andy Navage, Director of Horticulture, Bloedel Reserve
Sean Peterson, Gardener, Bloedel Reserve

Backstage@Bloedel: Decorating the Staircase

December 13th, 2013


The staircase in the Visitor Center is decorated for the holiday season every year. This year’s decorations appear to be under the watchful eye of Mr. Bloedel, as seen in the photo below.

The decorations consist of five layers. The first layer is branches from the English elms that were removed from the front of the Visitor’s Center. The second layer is miniatur lights. The third layer is dried hydrangeas. The fourth layer is hand flocking. The fifth layer is glass icicles.

The Solution:

Here Cathy and Martha are stringing the lights on the elm branches.

Cathy is putting hydrangeas into the network of branches and lights.

Martha and Cathy are working their way up the stairs placing the hydrangeas.

Jan applies glue to the branches and hydrangeas with a brush while Cathy holds the box to catch any excess. This gives a "frosted" look to the decorations.

With the branches and hydrangeas prepped with glue, Deb applies the snow. Jan holds the box to catch any snow that doesn't stick.

This photo shows how the icicles blend in and complement the hydrangeas and the lights.

This photo shows how the icicles are attached. Each one is tied separately with black wire.

The Result:

The Team:

First Row: Cathy Tyler, Florist for the Reserve, Irene Holt, Volunteer. Second Row: Marianne Mallabon, Volunteer. Third Row: Deb Dameron, Volunteer. Fourth Row: Jan Hall, Volunteer

Martha Goldingay, Volunteer

Volunteers not pictured: Sharon Kulfan, Sigrid Knight, Helen Muterspaugh

Backstage@Bloedel: Japanese Garden Survey

December 1st, 2013

The Situation:

The survey’s objective was to map the surface of the Japanese Garden.

The resulting basemap is the first comprehensive drawing that documents the historic Japanese Garden. It will serve as an important resource for any future improvements.

The survey consists of spot elevations measured with respect to a known reference point. The flags you see in this view are staked on a 5’ grid. The stroll pond (not shown) was surveyed on a 10’ grid to simplify data collection.The stroll pond survey is especially important because original drawings do not exist. That’s because Mr. Kubota landscaped the stroll pond by having his sons move dirt and plants until he was satisfied with the results…

The Solution:

Height measurements were made with a laser elevation gauge. The gauge consists of a transmitter and a target.The transmitter sits on a tripod. It provides the fixed reference point. The target is attached to a sliding scale.
To survey, a height measurement is made at each flag position.
The target person sets the stick next to a flag. He then slides the target on the stick until the transmitter gives an audible signal, indicating
that the target is level with the transmitter.
In the photo below,Tatyana, a graduate intern, is recording a measurement Andy has made using the target.

Because this is an optical instrument, the transmitter must be able to “see” the target. In other words, the target must be directly line of sight with respect to the transmitter. In the garden, with all the plants, this is not always easily done…

The Results:

This panorama shows the surveyed field looking north.

This panorama shows the surveyed field looking northwest:

This is Tatyana’s concept drawing for a proposed revision of the set of steps from the upper level to the lower level of the Japanese Garden:

This is Tatyana’s rendering of the proposed new steps, looking up towards the rock garden:

This is Tatyana’s rendering of the proposed revision to the paths. It shows the new path smoothly interfaced to the stroll garden and the revised path to the lower level of the Japanese house.


Andy Navage, Director of Horticulture, Bloedel Reserve

Tatyana Vashchenko, Graduate Intern

Not shown:

Jesse Conway, Gardener

English Elm Removal

November 26th, 2013

At the recommendation of Bloedel Reserve’s Grounds and Buildings Committee, it has been determined that the two large English elms that have flanked the Visitor Center (formerly the Bloedel residence) will be removed on Monday, November 25. The trees were planted by the original owners of the property (the Collins family) in 1931.

The decision to remove the beloved trees did not come easily or without extensive discussion and research which included the input of the Reserve’s own horticulturists, pathologists, and arborists, outside specialists, and Bloedel family members. The recommendation was ultimately made to the Reserve’s Board of Trustees who voted in favor of removing the trees.

The recommendation was made based on several factors. Due to their age, the elms suffer from wood decay and are susceptible for dropping branches and snapping at the trunk due to a condition called “Sudden Limb Drop.” Additionally, both trees suffered major breaks during a windstorm about seven years ago. Over the years, extensive work has been done to keep the trees healthy and strong. Both trees were cabled to support their branches, and the southernmost tree has three 7/8-inch-diameter, three-foot-long bolts drilled through its trunk after a 2004 storm split the tree. Horticulturists have used air spades to aerate the soil, and helpful mycorrhizal fungi were inserted in the roots. Appropriate pruning of the trees has been done on schedule. A windstorm in late September 2013 broke the cables and prompted the Reserve to reexamine the condition of the elms.

Both outside arborists consulted by the Reserve agreed that the northern tree was beyond saving and posed a serious safety hazard to the Reserve’s staff, volunteers, guests as well as the historic residence.

While the southernmost tree is in slightly better condition than its partner, the committee and board decided to remove it as well, although it could survive for an undetermined number of years with proper cabling and maintenance. The decision to remove the tree came down to the following factors:

  • it presents growing safety issues for the public, staff and volunteers;

  • the original design intent of the area around the Visitor Center was for a formal and symmetrical European-style garden and keeping one tree would throw off the design of the approach to the residence;

  • the effect of increased sun on one section of the garden would impact the surrounding formal gardens unevenly creating an even bigger impact on the design intent by making it impossible to keep the symmetry of plantings around the house;

  • increased maintenance costs for the remainder of the tree’s life and increased cost of removal when the tree inevitably has to come down.

The elms were scheduled to come down on Thursday, November 7 but had to be postponed due to a high wind advisory. The delay allowed the Reserve time to reexamine its decision to remove the trees but after reviewing the facts and weighing the risks, the Board voted to move forward with the removal. The Reserve is currently working with the contracted company to find a suitable date as soon as possible.

The life and love for the elms won’t end with their removal. The Reserve plans to mill some of the wood from the trees and use the lumber for furniture or other items which will be displayed at the Reserve. The rest will be given to community woodworking groups and schools who place value on historic trees and how they connect to our community.

There are no firm plans for what will replace the beloved trees at this time. The Reserve will let the ground heal while the horticultural team and Grounds and Buildings Committee determine an appropriate replacement. They hope to find a solution that honors the Bloedel’s design intent and the grace and stateliness of the elms while keeping in mind scale and future maintenance.