No more than 14 hours into the new year a nasty case of cabin fever set in. Weeks of drizzly weather coupled with holiday movies, heavy food, and family card games finally caught up to me. I decided my first ever trip to Bellevue Botanical Garden was in order. I brought my mom, who is visiting from Minnesota and hasn’t seen a flower bloom in months. It turned out to be just what the doctor ordered.

About the Bellevue Botanical Garden

Located just across 405 from downtown Bellevue, the 53-acre garden is a balancing force to the ever-increasing Eastside urbanization. The Botanical Garden is essentially a series of trails leading through smaller, themed gardens and wildlife areas like “Rhododendron Glen,” “Yao Garden” and “Perennial Border.” It’s the culmination of nearly 40 years of collaboration between The Bellevue Botanical Garden Society, the City of Bellevue, local gardening organizations, and countless hours of volunteer work.

Looking to stretch your legs on the Eastside? Check out Emeraldology’s map of hikes, bikes and walks near Seattle.

Viburnum at Bellevue Botanical Garden
An extremely fragrant Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ in the perennial border. Photo by Sam Wigness.

My former coworker at Wells Medina Nursery believed that everyone remotely interested in gardening should visit once a month. After our two hour maiden voyage, I see why. Even on a gloomy January day the garden offers bursts of color, refreshing fragrances, and signs that another spring is on its way.

During our visit, the witch hazels, mahonia, viburnum, rosemary and some camellias were in full bloom and pumping out sweet fragrance. We even saw one lace-cap hydrangea bloom still hanging on from late summer. The hellebores (lenton rose) and edgeworthia (paper bush) were about ready to pop, and early spring bulbs (crocus, daffodils, etc.) were just breaking through the cold ground.

Even with a full parking lot and the entirety of Bellevue surrounding us, the garden was peaceful; especially “The Ravine Experience” and “Native Discovery Garden.” If you ask me, the only thing more relaxing than allowing yourself to slow down is watching the people around you do the same.

Nature with a twist of technology

Tap or scan at bellevue botanical garden
Tap or scan these markers to bring up information about the garden beds.

While natural beauty blankets the garden, Bellevue Botanical incorporates technology to make the dizzying field of horticultural more approachable. In addition to ID placards, the beds feature tap or scan markers with codes to scan with smartphones. Just open the camera on your smartphone and point at the sign – no need to actually take the photo. Your phone will automatically open a web page with information for the bed, including plant names, bloom times, and other attributes. You can also use the online collection search to identify plants by location, name or attributes. I used it to successfully identify the above Viburnum with a photo and faint memory of where I saw it.

The garden is free to walk through, but while you’re there, grab coffee at the Copper Kettle or a souvenir at the Trillium Store. Proceeds support the Bellevue Botanical Society’s classes and programs.

The Bellevue Botanical Garden and those involved have been recognize with many awards including “Best Park in the Northwest” by KING 5’s 2009 Northwest Escapes contest. Its visitor center earned US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification in 2015.

Photos from the Bellevue Botanical Garden

The following photos are meant to inspire you to see the real thing!

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Have you been to the Bellevue Botanical Garden? Share your favorite garden, plant or memory with us in the comments below!

Feature photo by copyright Emeraldology 2020.