Botanic Wonders

Way back a week ago, when our erratic spring was warm for 3 minutes, we dropped in on Leach Botanic Garden, a little place I’ve been curious about for a long time. Because Botanic. And Garden. Both good words.

Our first glimpse at the entrance was a pollinator meadow full of crocuses and snowdrops, and hellebores in several colors beyond that. Then came our first sighting of trillium, still shyly opening up. The trillium is my favorite early spring alert system here in the Pacific Northwest. They seem more magically significant to me than the omnipresent daffodils, because of their scarcity, and native and wild origins. It’s Mother Earth making a personal statement.

The blossoms gave me a joyous send-off into the rest of the garden as the air warmed. Spring color against bare ground is a magical booster; my heart leaps, my brain buzzes with relief, and my innards shout “Huzzah!” Winter fools me every time, though I know better.

An elevated boardwalk circles partway up the tall conifers. It feels like walking among the birds as they chatter all around at head height.

Aerial Tree Walk

Several narrow meandering paths wind down a hillside, and I stop every few feet to examine the wide variety of plants and trees, and a stone sculpture garden.

Johnson Creek dashes through the lowest area, an urban creek in a hurry on this spring day, green and silty. A footbridge had washed away during last winter’s storms, so our explorations stopped there.

The park is about midway on the creek’s 25 mile journey running from Boring (yes, really) into the Willamette River. This creek interests me; I first heard of it when we moved here because of the Springwater Corridor Trail, a 21-mile rail trail that follows the creek in the Metro area. And, it’s part of a longer hiking and biking trail that circles the Portland metropolitan area. Such a grand idea, I thought, though upkeep and safety have proved to be a challenge.

The 90 year old Leach garden hosts some 3,000 species. It was newly re-designed and renovated during the pandemic, so there’s some areas still filling in. In the ’30s, it was home to John and Lilla Leach, who called it Sleepy Hollow. The garden literature reminds us that the native Indians lived here for 11,000 years before the land was taken. We’re but a short blip in the large scheme of things, though a powerful and destructive blip.

The Leach’s house and stone cabin still stand on the property. Lilla Leach was the botanist. There are several sweet stories about the couple and their botanizing adventures throughout the PNW, her discoveries of a species that led to the creation of a large preserve in the Siskiyous, among other achievements.

They left the property to the city 40 years ago, and it’s a tiny jewel tucked into this far southeast neighborhood. I look forward to visiting again as the renovated areas fill in and the trillium open in full. It’s only $5 to enter, and free if you can’t afford it – an effort to serve the underserved outer neighborhoods, who have fewer parks than the wealthier neighborhoods.

Did you know that Portland’s parks allocation is double per capita compared to 14,000 other U.S. cities? I just learned that. Also that we are #11 out of 100 most populated US cities in terms of access, investment, amenities, acreage, and equity. Search for your city’s ParkScore Rating here. 18% of the city’s acreage is parkland! It’s something that helped me fall in love with Portland; no matter where you are there’s a nearby patch of green, a pocket park, a recreational gem, or a reclaimed forest.

It’s snowing again as I write. Spring is slow to land, and frenetically undependable. But the robins have been out in abundance recently. The crows are nesting and vociferously defending their territory, chasing the scrub jays off every chance they get – more votes for spring. As we teeter between seasons, I planted some violets just to get some color into our yard. I’m told they’re hardy enough to withstand this snow. I’ll let you know. 

When they’re willing, it’s way more fun.

New strawberries are about to go into the ground, as well as herbs, peas and lettuces, and then maybe I can stop thinking about winter, and relax into a season of growth, exploration, and delight.

We have so many satisfying weather and season memes.

7 thoughts on “Botanic Wonders

  1. So beautiful. I see the property was the same acreage as mine when the Leaches lived there. I could have a botanical garden! If wishes were fishes. There’s a trillium up in my woodlot, maybe there are two or three there. I was thinking this past week, wouldn’t it be fabulous if there were many! “60% of Centralia residents live within a 10 minute walk of a park.” A smidge above average. Me: 30 seconds. 🙂 A whopping 99% in Seattle!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes I was surprised to see that Seattle was better than Portland, Seattle feeling more urban to me. The competition lives on.
      Your woods are better than a botanical garden IMO. Also, the Leaches were young when they started. And you know, botany. Keep looking for those trillium! Where there is one there are many. Thanks for being here!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Perhaps the tiny playgrounds are counted, they are everywhere!

        I am so lucky to have these woods. I don’t forget that. Trillium aren’t often in patches there, it doesn’t seem like. Perhaps hiding under winter blowdown and other obstructions. I don’t know why there is so little in my woodlot. I should ask a botanist! Maybe the ground is too compacted. And yes, Mrs. Leach being a botanist helped! Plus there were two of them to do the work. 🙄

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Gorgeous photos!

    I’ve been immersing myself in the last throes of winter but I can see now that it’s time to seek out the harbingers of spring. What a lovely place. The website that measures parks within walking distance is such a great find! Thank you for that. My city is at 70% and the lower income, the higher the percentage. That makes me happy. I’ve been enjoying a tiny park just five minutes away that is home to a couple dozen bird species. I have been hearing spring everywhere but now you’ve given me the itch to go looking! Still awaiting that first trillium in the wild. Soon, I hope! Thanks, Nancy. 

    Liked by 2 people

    • Winter and spring are certainly taking turns hitting me over the head. I’m happy to benefit from your nearby parks and your winter love! You remind me that these trillium aren’t exactly wild, so I will get out to the wilder places for the “real” first. Thanks for being here.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. SB 78%. Yahoo! What a cool find that website is. I always love when you go to places like Leach garden and there is the surprise art. There is a dude who does big outdoor art installations he is famous dangit what is his name??? Anyway, made me think of that. Such wonderful shots and thoughts from one of my favorite ladies xoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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