Leach Botanical Garden

The Stone Cabin

The Stone Cabin

I recently discovered another fun destination while in Exploregon mode.

During a Portland visit from my dad (who lives in MN), I decided exploring Leach Botanical Garden would be a fun activity. The outer SE Portland garden was originally the summer home of Lilla and John Leach, who bought the property in 1930 and built a small stone cabin on the property in 1932. They visited the cabin on summer visits until 1936 when they build a year round home on the 15-acre property and lived there until the early 1970’s when they donated the property to the city of Portland. The garden was officially open to the public in 1983.

The first thing that surprised me when we arrived at the Garden was the large, free parking lot across the street. This is not a common occurrence in the city and allowed us to quickly park and within a couple of minutes we were at the entrance. The second thing that surprised me is that admission is free. Finally, there are volunteers greeting visitors and providing historical information on the Garden and the previous owners along with a map providing a self-guided tour around the winding trails.

Labeled plant

Labeled plant

Lilla Leach was a pioneer botanist (trained at University of Oregon in 1908) and from 1928-1938 she went on botanical expedition, in the Siskiyou Mountains (in southwestern Oregon) with her husband, in order to acquire native plantings to add to the property. During my visit I learned that there are over 2000 species of plants represented in the Garden—many varieties of trees, ferns, and flowers are labeled throughout the space.. It is a beautiful and serene place, especially considering it is right in the middle of city landscape. There is a small creek (Johnson Creek) that runs through the property and brings some birds, fish and animals to the Garden for observation too.

The Garden offers classes throughout the year for all ages. Here are some classes examples:  guided hikes to observe honeybees, watercolor painting and basket weaving to just name a few. I also learned that you can rent the Garden for weddings or other special events.

As we toured the Garden it was especially exciting to see the labeled plants and trees so I continue to learn some of the native plants to Oregon (and things in my own backyard).

My dad was most impressed by the size of all of the trees (they get a lot bigger here in Oregon than in Minnesota).

Dad hanging with the big trees.

Dad in awe of the big trees.

Our visit was about two hours at the Garden, but you could spend a lot more or less, depending on your interest.

Overall, the Garden is gorgeous and I recommend you plan a visit to see it! Winding trails, birds singing, deep green foliage everywhere and the stone summerhouse look like something out of a fairy tale (I read later that Lilla and John called their home Sleepy Hollow). While walking through the Garden I found myself thinking about a young Lilla and John exploring the Pacific Northwest and establishing their home in what used to be wilderness. I don’t think I’ll be setting out on any expeditions into any wilderness but I hope I can bring a spirit of adventure and exploration to my life as I continue to Exploregon.

Note: Some of the information about the garden was learned through two books I bought while visiting the gift shop at the garden.

The Botanist and Her Muleskinner by Lilla Irvin Leach and John Roy Leach

Ox Bows and Bare Feet by John R. Leach



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