Hannah Danforth
Tai chi in the courtyard at the Seattle Chinese Garden.

West Seattle’s (Secret) Chinese Garden

by Hannah Danforth
The Seattle Chinese Garden is unmistakable. With it’s remarkable courtyard, meandering paths and small pavilion, it is bounded by a sea of over 400 blooming peonies from Luoyang China’s peony capital making it home to the largest peony garden on the West Coast.
The courtyard, fondly called, Knowing the Spring Courtyard (Zhi Chun Yuan) due to it’s mostly spring blooming plants and dramatic decorative rock instillation from China, is the official entry to the garden. Built in collaboration with architects and artisans from Seattle’s sister city, Chongqing, it is the first Sichuanstyle garden in the United States.
As is tradition in China, the entrance (Ru Kou) is a modest gate, to show humility to the public.
Inside the Knowing Spring Courtyard is the Main Gate (Zheng Men) and entrance to the garden.
This beautifully crafted and ornamental gate leads a guest to open grass with an incredible view of Downtown Seattle, Elliott Bay and the Cascade Mountains. The West Seattle site was chosen by a fengshui master for it’s well balanced natural features and view of the city.
Open to the public and covering almost 5 acres, the Seattle Chinese Garden sits next to South Seattle College’s own Arboretum. A fence that used to separate the two has since been removed to create almost ten acres of carefully planned garden experiences. Under the guidance of the Seattle City Council and Seattle's Department of Parks and Recreation, the Seattle Chinese Garden Society was founded to coordinate the development of The Seattle Chinese Garden.
With the courtyard’s dramatic installation, new peony garden, a lotus pond in the making and exciting ambitious future plans, it is hard to believe this garden is completely run and cared for by corps of dedicated volunteers.
At their helm is West Seattle resident and master gardener Bob Seely, who has been the garden manager since late last summer. Bob is responsible for the Seattle Chinese Garden’s newest addition, the largest peony garden on the West Coast. Living in Japan for twenty five years his roots are in building Japanese gardens. He has worked on estates from Mercer Island and Hood Canal to Nantucket. Having found a home within the West Seattle community, Bob is
responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of this secret authentically Chinese West Seattle oasis.
The second annual SeattleLuoyang Peony Festival is this Saturday and Sunday, May 3rd 4th, 10am to 4pm at the Seattle Chinese Garden 6000 16th Ave SW, North Entrance of the South Seattle College. Cosponsored by the American Peony Art and Culture Association, this event is free to the public. With over 400 peony plants in bloom, talks and tips for growing your peonies, tree peony plants for sale, entertainment, including music, dance and martial arts, and much more, this a wonderful event is not to be missed.
More information at: seattlechinesegarden.org

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