Whether we’re meeting a new friend for the first time or stepping into the gracious entry of a new home, first impressions are lasting.
It was with that in mind that the Bloedel Reserve team knew it was time to cast a fresh eye to their own point of welcome for guests.
Funded through a grant from the Elisabeth and Pendleton Miller Foundation, the Gatehouse Landscape Renovation Project aims to create a seamless entry experience more reflective of the diversity and informality of the garden landscapes.
“We’re so grateful to the Miller Foundation for making this important project possible,” says Ed Moydell, Bloedel Reserve President & CEO. “With their support and the work of our talented Staff team, we’ve created a welcoming, accessible, and beautiful entry experience that signals to guests the wonders that they’re about to experience.”
Changes brought about by the pandemic – an explosion in the number of visitors to the 150-acre public garden and forest preserve, and the shift to a timed ticketing system – also meant they no longer needed to guide people to a ticket window, notes Erin Hill, Landscape Designer and Project Manager at the Reserve.
“We wanted to make it easier for guests to navigate from the parking lot to the start of the trail,” Hill explains, noting that with 82,000 visitors per year now, it’s also important to recognize guests’ different mobility levels.
The new design has removed the dated, close-clipped lawn stretching to white stucco walls that suggested a formal space – not reflective of the overall grounds at all. In their place, a mix of hardscaping and lush plantings have softened the institutional appearance and created a space more in keeping with the residential neighborhood.
Today’s design gently guides visitors toward the trail head as they meander through an accessible, 1,700-square-foot plaza, enjoying an array of mixed planting beds showcasing some of the different landscapes they’ll see on the grounds, from the lush greenery of a forest trail to hardy grasses suited to hot, dry areas.
The white stucco has also been painted and softened with plantings on both sides, creating both an inviting welcome and pleasant image as visitors leave the grounds. “You feel like the space is all connected – one area flows into the next,” Erin notes.
“I’m really proud of the team we have on staff who have worked so hard over the past few months. It’s exciting to provide our community, staff and visitors with a great space, and to see people coming to enjoy it,” she adds.
“I would love it if people saw it and were so excited about some of the things we put in that they wanted to go home and try it at their own home.”
Bloedel Reserve is open Tuesdays to Sundays, year-round, rain or shine, with timed ticket admission. Learn more and plan your visit at www.bloedelreserve.org.
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