January 20, 2023
In our opinion, a visit to Seattle is not complete without a visit to a lovely garden. Spring is one of the prettiest times to visit Seattle. There is nearly always something in bloom. Seattle springtime begins quite early with flowering camellias and hellebores in February, daffodils and cherry blossoms in March, and tulips in April. Other springtime flowers that thrive here include azaleas, rhododendrons, and lilacs.
Our guests frequently tell us how surprised they are at the beauty they see when simply walking around our Greenlake neighborhood. Truth be told, it’s quite easy to have a beautiful garden in Seattle because our mild climate along with plenty of rain and good soil allow us to grow a variety of flowers, trees, fruits, and vegetables without a lot of fuss. Here are some of our top garden picks for seeing spring color within the city limits or a short drive away, updated for 2023.
Univeristy of Washington
The University of Washington’s cherry blossoms offer a spectacular show of beautiful pink blossoms every spring. The best spot to view them is in the historic Quad on the north side of the campus. Thirty cherry trees were originally planted in the arboretum in 1939 and then transplanted to campus in the 1960’s. They line the walkways next to the four beautiful pink Gothic liberal arts buildings. Every spring, tourists, alumni, and photographers swarm the campus to snap a photo or picnic under the pink canopy of blossoms. You can even register for the Cherry Blossom Run (5K or half marathon) in March. Note: parking can be tight on campus. It’s easy to take the #45 bus almost door to door from Greenlake Guest House to the University of Washington.
Washington Park Arboretum
The Washington Park Arboretum is located on the shores of Lake Washington near the University of Washington. Azalea Way, a ¾ mile long walk, features azaleas, flowering cherries, and dogwoods set against tall evergreens. It is perhaps the most famous feature of the park. Rhododendron Glen, another part of the arboretum, is especially beautiful in late spring when the sizeable collection of rhododendrons of all colors and sizes burst into showy color. Washington Park Arboretum is open every day from dawn to dusk and is free of charge.
Seattle Japanese Garden
This beautiful and historic 3.5-acre gem is located on the south end of Washington Park Arboretum. Spring brings a burst of color in the form of cherry blossoms, azaleas, and rhododendrons in a lovingly manicured garden. The winding paths and bridges are serene and restful. There is a small admission charge. The garden closes for maintenance each December and re-opens in March.
Dunn Gardens is a historic treasure located in northwest Seattle since 1915. It is the only residential garden designed by the esteemed Olmstead Brothers that is open to the public in Washington State. In springtime, the large rhododendrons and woodland shrubs are especially lovely. Dunn Gardens is open for self-guided or docent-led tours for a small fee (reservations required). Closed Sundays.
Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden
This 7-acre English estate style garden is located on the grounds of the Hiram Chittenden Locks in the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle. The rhododendrons and flowering trees are very pretty in the spring. Plus, it’s also fun to see the boats navigating the locks while you visit. We like to bring a blanket or chairs and a picnic lunch here to watch the boats go by from the pretty terraces along the locks. This garden is open from dawn until dusk year-round at no charge.
Bellevue Botanical Garden
The 53-acre Bellevue Botanical Garden has beautiful formal gardens as well as more natural wetlands and a woodland area. The garden offers a living demonstration of many of the flowers and shrubs that thrive in the Pacific Northwest garden. During springtime, the Yao Japanese Garden’s many azaleas and rhododendrons are in bloom. The Rhododendron Glen also has over 50 different rhododendrons that are in bloom through spring and early summer. The Iris Rain Garden typically begins blooming in April. Finally, the Perennial Garden offers a variety of spring-blooming bulbs and other perennials. The Bellevue Botanical Garden is an approximately 20-minute drive from Greenlake Guest House. Admission is free and it is open daily from dawn to dusk.
Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island
The historic, 150-acre Bloedel Reserve forest garden is only a 30-minute ferry ride away from downtown Seattle. The estate and gardens are extremely peaceful and it’s one of our personal favorites. The Japanese Garden is considered one of the best in North America. The Moss Garden, common in gardens in Japan, was created in 1982 and is a rare feature in public gardens in the United States. We think it’s also interesting to walk through the historic home. The Bloedel Reserve is open Tuesday-Sundays. Tickets are timed to avoid crowding and reservations are required at this time. Admission is $20 for adults and $15 for seniors.
Daffodil and Tulip Festivals in the Skagit Valley
The Skagit Valley, north of Seattle, is one of the most photogenic regions around. It is especially irrisistable when the fields of daffodils and tulips are in bloom against the backdrop of majestic Mt. Baker. The look of those rustic old barns in the fields also make me want to pick up my camera. The Skagit Valley grows and ships thousands of spring bulbs all around the world.
The La Conner Daffodil festival happens during the entire month of March, and the bigger, Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, runs from April 1-30. Both festivals are designed as driving tours. Bloom maps are available online. Tulip Town and RoozenGaarde are two gorgeous display gardens that grow and sell bulbs. Be aware that the Tulip Festival can get very crowded. If visiting, we recommend avoiding going on the weekend. Skagit Valley is a little over an hour away by car from Greenlake Guest House.
Green Lake Park
We hope you have an opportunity to see some of our beautiful Seattle area gardens. Our own beloved Green Lake Park, right across the street, also has a lush display of flowering cherry and plum trees and hundreds of beautiful daffodils blooming each spring.