Our History

Unique among public gardens in the United States, Bloedel Reserve was created by Prentice and Virginia Bloedel, who resided on the property from 1951 until 1986. The son of a prominent lumber company owner, Mr. Bloedel was educated at the Thacher School in Ojai, California and at Yale University. While working as a math teacher at Thacher School in the late 1920s, he was called upon by his father to take the helm of the family timber business.

Long before the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, Mr. Bloedel practiced being a good steward of the land and used resources wisely. When he took over the family business, he made the decision to use Hog Fuel (a mulch-like byproduct from logs) to help generate the sawmill’s power, turning what otherwise would be trash into something useful. Perhaps the longest reaching “green” idea of Mr. Bloedel’s happened in 1938. Under his guidance Bloedel, Stewart & Welch became the first timber company to begin a reforestation program by planting seedlings in clear-cut land. By the end of the 1940s, they were responsible for 70% of all private-reforestation in British Columbia.

Once he retired and moved to this property, Mr. Bloedel continued to be a good steward of the land. If water did not occur naturally at a site, he refused to move it. The garden’s water features–such as the Reflection Pool and Mid Pond—are located where water tables are high and groundwater easily accessible.

Mr. Bloedel’s retirement was hardly a quiet one. Although he was advised by and worked with noted landscape architects, including Thomas Church, Richard Haag, Fujitaro Kubota, and Iain Robertson, the overall vision for Bloedel’s gardens was his alone. He took daily walks around the property, often clearing new paths with a machete.

Mr. Bloedel was deeply interested in the relationship between people and the natural world and the power of landscape to evoke emotions ranging from tranquility to exhilaration. Some believe that due to his early schooling with its studies steeped deeply in nature and his bout with polio as a young man, Mr. Bloedel may have been ahead of his time in his understanding of the therapeutic power of gardens and landscape. He sought out nature for a place of reflection and solace. He said, “Nature can do without man, but man cannot do without nature.”