Armchair photo tours: Spring at Kubota Garden in Seattle

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Photos by Cheryl Landes

Kubota Garden, a hidden gem of beauty and history in of South Seattle, is my favorite garden in the city. It’s the work of Fujitaro Kubota, a self-taught gardener who immigrated from Japan to Seattle in 1907. He dreamed of creating gardens that showcased the Northwest in a Japanese manner.

In 1923, he founded his own landscaping company and began creating beautiful Japanese-style gardens throughout the Seattle area. Four years later, he bought five acres of swampland in the Rainier Beach neighborhood and began transforming it into his personal Japanese garden.

As his business grew, he bought more land to extend the garden to the current 20 acres. The property was also his family’s home and the business office for his Kubota Gardening Company. He also had a nursery and a display area for the plants he grew.

Eventually he wanted to open the garden to the public to enhance the quality of life in Seattle and increase awareness of Japanese culture, but he did not see it happen in his lifetime. He died in 1973 at age 94.

When real estate developers targeted the land for condominiums, community groups convinced the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board to designate the 4.5-acre core garden as a historical landmark. The landmark became official in 1981, and in 1987, the City of Seattle acquired the rest of the garden from the Kubota family. Today, gardeners from the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation and volunteers maintain the garden.

Kubota Garden is open year-round. As soon as I enter the garden, I feel like I’m many miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s easy to get lost here for an entire day—lost in the beauty and tranquility. When I leave, I’m recharged. But I’ll admit, the hardest part is leaving!

Join me today for a spring stroll to admire Kubota’s dream come true.

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Two more examples of Kubota’s work are at the Kubota Gardens at Seattle University and the Japanese garden in the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island.

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