Armchair photo tours: Leach Botanical Garden in Portland

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Photos by Cheryl Landes

The Leach Botanical Garden in Southeast Portland, Oregon, is a pleasant place to take a walk at any time of year. The estate is located in a beautiful forest, which has more than 2,000 plant species and nature trails that are open to the public.

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The estate was the home of John and Lilla Leach, the founders and owners of the former Phoenix Pharmacy at the intersection of SE Foster Road and 67th Street in Portland. The Leaches bought the property on Johnson Creek in the early 1930s.

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The couple built a small stone house on the south side of the creek in 1932.

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Four years later, they moved into a larger home on the north side of the creek and began landscaping the property. The results of their efforts remain today for visitors to enjoy.

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Lilla had a lifelong interest in botany, and John accompanied her on many botanizing trips to the Wallowas in Northeastern Oregon, the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, and Curry County in Southwestern Oregon. During these trips, she discovered five plant species unknown to scientists.

In 1950, Lilla received the American award for botany. She was also the first recipient of the Eloise Payne Luquer Medal from the Garden Club of America.

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John passed away in 1972, followed by Lilla in 1980. In their wills, they gave the estate to the City of Portland to be used as a botanical park and museum. If the city didn’t take action within 10 years, the property would go to the YMCA.

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Friends and neighbors who knew the Leaches were concerned that if the YMCA received the property, the organization would sell it and the garden would vanish. They formed the Leach Garden Friends in 1981-1982 and saved the property.

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The garden is located at 6704 SE 122nd Avenue in Portland and open Tuesday through Saturday. Parking and admission are free.

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