[Traveling Tales] Bounding Through Bellevue Botanical Garden

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Moving up to Seattle, one thing that I wasn’t prepared for is the mammoth amount of biodiversity that the entire state has to offer. On a Macro Level, Washington State has an incredibly unique and diverse ecological footprint. The West Coast oscillates between a Mediterranean Climate over the Summer and a blustery, Marine West Coast Climate over the Winter. Nestled on the top North West corner, the Olympic National Forest is home to 4 distinct rain forests, the Hoh, Queets, Bobchiel and Quinault; the Hoh Rain Forest ranks as one of the largest temperate rain forests in the United States, let alone the North West. On the flip side of the Cascade Mountains, which act as a rainshadow, Eastern Washington boasts a vast high desert featuring a dry, arid climate that includes the Juniper Dunes Wilderness and Channeled Scablands, both carved out of land that acted as a flood basin during the last Ice Age until multiple cataclysmic floods washed through the region. All things this girl is excited to explore!

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Dropping into a micro level, Seattle proper is an oceanic seaport city that sits comfortably between Elliot Bay, Lake Washington and the Puget Sound which provide some sanctity from extreme heat and cold, while the geoclimate features a wonderful range of local flora and fauna. Moving at the end of the Winter Season means that we’re prepping for the glorious weeks of Spring then Summer, and you best believe this California Kitten is ready to frolic in the succulent sunshine. But, rain, shine or clouds – every second I can, I’ve been exploring nooks and crannies of the area with a sense of childlike wonder and amazement: the weather has ensured everything is lush and lavish, with parks on literally every corner. Not to mention, the myriad of bays, cuts, rivers, sounds and lakes give way to infinite amounts of waterway views. Every day, you could explore a new partition of the area – and lookup parks, or gardens, and find you’re surrounded by enough to have to make a game time decision; and that’s exactly how we happened upon the Bellevue Botanical Garden.

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Just a hop, skip and a jump over the freeway from Seattle proper by bridge sits an urban oasis sprawling over 53 acres of gorgeous landscaping; complete with both restored and natural wetlands and woodlands, alongside expertly cultivated and curated gardens. We came across it quite by accident and in the middle of Winter, the landscape gave way to vibrant flowers, and buds just itching for the right amount of sunlight to get their bloom on; and I can’t wait to visit again on purpose and revel in the flowers’ maturation.

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Back in 1981, a couple by the name of Cal and Harriet Shorts deeded over seven acres of land, as well as their home, to the city of Bellevue in hopes of creating an arboretum and public park in the heart of the city. A little over three years later, the Jewett family were inspired to create a Botanical Garden on the property; with the city, and the Shorts, approval, the Bellevue Botanical Garden Society was launched to create the Garden itself, while the city added ten additional acres to the already blossoming landscape. Fast forward to 1989, and Bellevue managed to incorporate 19 more acres of land surrounding the Shorts estate – bringing the acreage up to 36; and finally, in 2006, the Botanical Gardens reached their current 56 acres with assistance of the city.

Now one of Bellevue’s most popular destinations, the Botanical Gardens has a menagerie of habitats, from woodlands and meadows, to natural wetlands and gorgeous display gardens, like the Japanese inspired Yao Garden, the Lost Meadow Trail and fuchsia, dahlia and rock gardens. With ample space to stroll, and lose yourself in this delicious slice of nature.

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This garden is such a hidden gem, that even though we were there to gallivant through it on a Sunday, it felt like we were the only ones there; it was glorious! What are your favorite hidden gems in your city?

For more on the Bellevue Botanical Garden, head to their social channels or simply pay them a visit – I promise, it’s a worthy afternoon and you will not be disappointed.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Yelp | Instagram

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[LA Life] Frolic Among the Flowers at LA’s Best Botanical Gardens

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With the weather we’re blessed with in Southern California, it’s no surprise that we spend the better part of our lives outside.  Beyond the fact my wardrobe is perfectly equipped for it ( my daily uniform consists of a tank top, cut offs and flip flops – thank you, working from home), there’s an impressive amount of outdoor activities to partake in.  You want wine tasting? You don’t have to go to Sonoma or Santa Barbara, just head to Santa Monica or Malibu – skiing and snowboarding are only a few hours away at Big Bear, and the beach is equidistant in the opposite direction.  Fun, sun, snow, sand – we’ve got it all, and then some.  Now that Summer season is in full swing, I’m finding it near uncomfortable to be stuck indoors with so much amazing weather, so when it comes to daily adventures –  it’s time to start thinking outside the box – or at least, outside the home – for some fun day trips and day-tes in the area.

Though Los Angeles can come across as a completely concrete jungle, once you’ve found the right nooks and crannies you’ll realize it’s anything but! From the West in Santa Monica to the East in Pasadena, Los Angeles has been blessed with a gregarious amount of green space throughout the city, and it’s only right that as residents we get to revel in it.  The fabled Griffith Park Observatory offers up acres and acres of fresh green space smack dab in the middle of the city and it feels like you’re on a wild safari when you’re trying to trek towards the Hollywood Sign, while assorted areas like Ernest E Debs Park and NELA’s Lincoln Park provide a pop of vivaciously contrasting greens in the heart of residential neighborhoods and burrows.

Even though I’ve lived in LA for over eight years, I’ve realized that here’s still so much to discover and uncover.  There’s simply so many options to choose from that I have a hard time narrowing it down – after all, they all have their je ne sais quoi moments of sheer bliss, utter beauty and vivacious blooms.  Between the neat little retreats and hidden gems with sincere botanical beauty, I’ve definitely made my way through a pretty solid chunk of what the city of angels has to offer and I’m eager to share my favorite botanical gardens and nature nooks with you.



The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

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The trifecta of artistic expression, creation and perfection – The Huntington boasts a bevvy of fantastic art collections, a wonderful library rich library and of course – a delectable amount of shrubbery, flowers, trees, flora and fauna.  There natural areas are broken out by region, and you can take a leisurely stroll through a Japanese Tea Garden, a Chinese Garden and even a banzai exhibit, which is even cooler when you realize you’re staring at tiny Sequoias and Redwoods – it’s actually unbelievable.  With over 120 acres to revel in, it’s easy to get lost – and even easier to not see absolutely everything the park has to offer.  Good news – you can get an annual pass and visit whenever you want.  Seeing as the park spans the globe, there are always wonderful specimens in bloom.

Check their website for the latest exhibits as well as their Summer hours, from my knowledge the venue is open from 10:30 to 4:30 every day except Tuesday.

1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA

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The Descanso Gardens

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Though I’ve only visited in the Winter (which in Los Angeles just means it’s below 60), the Descanso Gardens boast a stunning landscape that includes a Lilac Garden, a Japanese Garden, California Natives and a sprawling 5 acre rose garden.  Open year round and only $9 for adults, botanical gardens offer a menagerie of courses and programs, and host a wonderful series of summer concerts.

1418 Descanso Dr, La Canada Flintridge, CA

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Los Angeles County Arboretum

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Located off in Arcadia on the East Side of Los Angeles sits one of my absolute favorite venues, and every time I go I’m absolutely astounded by the fact it exists within Los Angeles county.  Just one stroll around the LA Arboretum, in through the tall bamboo shoots or the indigenous South American trees, and you’ll feel instantly transported into a new land.  Each corner and every inch of the park is impeccably maintained and absolutely stunning to marinate on.  Plus, the third Tuesday of every month is free!

301 N Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA

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Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden

Located off the beaten path, in the residental neighborhoods of Pasadena is one of the city’s unique hidden gems.  The Storrier Sterns Japanese Garden is a stunning piece of throwback landscaping and architecture built by the one and only  Kinzuchi Fujii in 1935, not to mention – the last standing one he ever created.  Over 80 years later the two acre span is more beautiful than ever with a teahouse, relaxing areas to sit and meditate in and an active coy pond. The venue is tiny, only about two acres, but there simply so much to see that you could be there all afternoon.

270 Arlington Drive, Pasadena, California 91105

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Arlington Botanical Gardens

One thing about the wonderful botanical gardens in the area – is you more or less have to pay for them.  Great news about the Arlington Botanical Gardens, is they’re open to anyone, any day, for Free.99. The Arlington Botanical Gardens stand as the only public open space in Pasadena and it offers a great arena to walk and relax among it’s community maintained garden, or the rich array of Californian and Mediterranean trees, bushes, flowers and succulents with a wonderful amount of benches scattered among them – so bring a book, get comfortable and get into your R&R.

275 Arlington Dr, Pasadena, CA 91105

Website 


I’ve by no means gone to all of the local gardens, but I’ve been blessed with the opportunities to visit a great number of them and be awe struck by their beautiful, blooming bounties.  Also, if you couldn’t tell – I effing love reflection shots!

What are your favorite Botanical Gardens and Open Spaces – in Los Angeles, or your favorite city?

Let me know in the comments below!

[Oh, Snap!] Ringing In 2015 at The University of California’s Botanical Garden in Berkeley

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After crushing it into the New Years at Sea of Dreams for the second time running, the New Years Day was spent marinating in the good tidings of the past year, and the first half of Friday was devoted to work. But, as noon settled in – I got the call from my boss that everyone wishes they had: If you have your work in, you’re dismissed. All week, I’d made it a mission to get ahead of myself so I could coast into the New Year; it was totally working.  My parents were poised to pounce with a bevvy of beautiful options for the afternoon – we could go to Land’s End and enjoy the roar of the Pacific, or they could whisk us over the Bay Bridge and into one of two Botanical Gardens manned by the University of California School System, the other located at UCLA ./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/117/39265557/files/2015/01/img_6142.jpg As Ursula from The Little Mermaid taunted, ‘Life is full of tough choices‘; but when one of them happened to be a place I’d already been, and the later a place my family had never spent time, I knew exactly where we should be.

The sun just reached it’s pinnacle and we were off, galloping across the glistening San Francisco Bay into new territory, Oakland’s Strawberry Canyon. Within seconds we were lost in the wilderness, whimsically in wanderlust.   Tucked away in the hillside, high above the city and it’s highest skyscrapers – the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley is one of the Bay Area’s best kept secrets. Boasting over 12,000 rare and unusual plants selectively segmented across 34 acres and multiple greenhouses, these botanical gardens are among the most populated and diverse in the entire United States.

For you number nerds like me – according to their site, this is the breakdown in numbers:

  • 300+ families
    • 2,710 genera
      • 9,670 species
        • 12,800 taxa
          • 19,300 accessions (each accession represents one or more plants in the Garden).

The five best-represented families are:

  1. Cactus family (2,029 accessions; 1,198 taxa)
  2. Sunflower family (1,002 accessions; 771 taxa)
  3. Orchid family (1,030 accessions; 711 taxa)
  4. Lily family (1,097 accessions; 675 taxa)
  5. Heath family (979 accessions; 614 taxa).

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/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/117/39265557/files/2015/01/img_6157.jpg From Cactus Gardens to Herb Gardens, Medicinal Chinese Gardens and massive plots of native Californian, South American, African, Mediterranean and Asian plants – the botanical gardens represents the entire globe, with an emphasis on plants from Mediterranean Climates. Not to mention, there’s an amazing arena for succulents.

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The gardens are open daily from 9 to 5PM and tickets typically run at $10 a head – but, know before you go: there’s free admission the first Wednesday of every month!

 For more about the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, visit their various socials:

 Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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[Oh, Snap!] A Beautiful Day Off at The LA Arboretum

One benefit of completing less than half of my Thirty Before Thirty Bucket List is that I already have a substantial start on my list for my 31st Birthday next year. Even though I’ve kicked myself a bit on the things that were left half undone or completely neglected, admittedly I’m equally impressed with the caliber of quests I’ve accomplished. Between becoming quite a kitchen kitten with my pickles and olive oils, crafting candles, learning to use a DSLR, and covering both National and Internationally renowned music festivals – I’ve knocked a few pegs off my list and I’m itching to add more. One that I’m excited to continue into the New Year is my Resolution on hiking a new botanical garden, historic park, museum or arboretum to visit. With a ridiculously fun birthday weekend on tap, I planned ahead and took today (the day after my actual birthday) off of work to celebrate, relax and rejoice in whatever personal what I felt. So, Danny and I descended on a lovely day-venture at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia.

The very first thing I noticed were just how many peacocks were roaming the area – and hummingbirds, butterflies, bunny rabbits and assorted wildlife. We had a wonderful time gallivanting through the African and Australian Outbacks, wistfully wandering around waterfalls and stealing every stunning view we could.

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The most staggering thing for me were those multiple moments where I’d lost all sense of location, time and place; for all I knew, I was in Northern California or Utah, Arizona or Washington.  For a second, I was transported out of the tug-of-war of Los Angeles traffic and personalities and delicately displaced into acres upon acres of lush rolling grass, rose gardens, carnivorous gardens, greenhouses, succulents and my personal favorite – the bamboo groves.

For more on the LA Arboretum, check out their website, Facebook or Twitter – or if you happen to live in the Southern California area or are plotting a visit, just store the GPS Info in your phone like, now. Fun fact: on the Third Tuesday of every month, admission is free!

[Oh, Snap!] An Afternoon at the Huntington Botanical Gardens

Between my father and step mom being in town, and Danny’s mom heading down for the day – we’ve been inundated with family time, and it’s been perfect! Last night we went out on the town with my family, grabbed some sushi and enjoyed downtown Pasadena. Today, we thought we’d try something new so we cruised down to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens for a beautiful adventure.  Revered as one of the world’s epicenters for culture, research and education – the Huntington itself is a Non Profit institution founded by Henry Huntington back in 1919, almost a century ago.  During his lifetime, Huntington procured and collected an immense collection of art, classic and historical literature and my personal favorite – an assortment of botanical gardens from all over the world.  From the Australian outback to the Jungles, to Chinese and Japanese Gardens to the Rose and Herb Gardens, and with over 120 acres to the Huntington – there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

To start, we wound around to the Chinese Gardens to admire the lush vegetation, incredible architecture adorned with sacred geometry and the most delicious iced jasmine tea I’ve ever had the pleasure of slurping down.

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After spending an hour meandering through the Chinese Gardens, we waltzed down by the running river and into the Japanese Gardens, to find an area adorned with the most extensive assortment of bonsai trees I’ve seen in my entire 30 years of existence.  I swear, some of the trees were nearly a century old and so incredibly miniature!

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As we exited we were pulled into the canopies by the rose gardens while we caught our breath (it was almost 100 degrees out, mind you) and wouldn’t you know it but we stumbled right upon the full glory of their rose gardens, with so many different and beautiful hybrids.

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Finally, as we left four hours later we had to stop and smell – and eat! – the edible herb garden; I tasted a flower that tasted sweet and peppery – I so wish I remembered the name right now, but it was as beautiful as it was delicious.

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With the size of the Gardens themselves, here’s simply no way to see everything on the grounds but boy, did we ever try.  Do you have a favorite local botanical garden that you enjoy? Whether it’s in the Southern California region or across the globe, I’d love to get some ideas on other amazing botanical garden’s to fawn over.