One of the most popular tourist attractions near Poulsbo has to be Bainbridge Island which is just a short ferry ride away. Like Poulsbo, it is also situated on the Kitsap Peninsula, to the east, within the picturesque Puget Sound area. It is in fact one of the biggest islands and is approximately five miles wide and ten miles wide, covering an area of nearly 18,000 acres. Many visitors come here to explore its numerous bays and inlets that are abundant with wildlife including many bird species however one of the biggest attractions on the island is the Bloedel Reserve which is a 150 acre of forested gardens that are deemed to be quite unique in comparison to other public gardens in the country.
The Bloedel Reserve was created by Prentice Bloedel, who was the vice president of a local lumber company and his wife, Virginia, who resided on the property from 1951 until 1986. The gardens were begun when he took early retirement in order to restore balance to his busy life and by devoting himself to the creation of the gardens he not only succeeded in doing so but also left a lasting legacy that many future generations could enjoy. These gardens are what became known as the Bloedel Reserve and Prentice worked tirelessly with noted landscape architects, including Thomas Church, Richard Haag, Fujitaro Kubota, and Iain Robertson, to help turn his vision for The Reserve’s gardens into a reality. This stemmed from a fascination with the natural world and he believed from an early age that landscaped had the power to evoke a variety of different emotions from peace and tranquility to elation, joy and happiness. In this respect, he was certainly ahead of his times in his understanding of the therapeutic influence of beautifully landscaped gardens. His creation captured the essence of a traditional Japanese garden fused with a Western interpretation and combines completely natural features with ornamental ones and highly landscaped areas like lakes and lawns with wood, rock and other natural elements incorporated into the design. Additional features include a sand Zen Garden, a moss garden, a rhododendron glen and the mesmerizing Reflection Garden while the Bloedels’ French Chateau-style home is also open to the public for tours having been preserved as a Visitor Center with many of the original furnishings still intact.
These gardens are beautiful to visit at any time of year and not just during the warmer summer months when they are in full bloom. Winter is also a great time to experience the magic of the Bloedel Reserve when the leafless trees clear the way and provide unique vistas that are hidden from view during the more abundant seasons, and the low winter sun bathes the whole Reserve in a mystical glow adding further to the existing ambiance of calm and tranquility. The early months of the year are also a good time to visit when you will see early bloomers like Mahonia which attract hummingbirds galore swell as, snow drops, camellia, witch hazel, daphne, hellebores and winter sweet to name but a few.