A visit to Leach Botanical Gardens, 19 June 2021

Minolta SR-T 101. MC Rokkor PG 50mm f/1.4 lens. Kodak Portra 160.

Leach Botanical Gardens is an interesting little spot. Sitting in the Johnson Creek Valley at SE 122nd Avenue, this property was once the grounds and private home of botanist Lilla Leach and pharmacist John Leach. The grounds were then turned over to the City of Portland after they passed away. When the house was built in 1936, the property they called “Sleepy Hollow” was a couple miles from the edge of Portland. Now it’s firmly within city limits, though it still feels a world away.

I’ve passed by Leach numerous times over the years as it’s on a route I like to bike. But it’s been quite some time since I actually visited the garden. This was often due to me wanting to “press on”, or the garden was closed when I got there. And pandemic had shuttered the garden for most of 2020. But over the last year the parks department had been working on the space, developing the neglected upper part of the garden and adding a Skywalk going through the canopy of mature Douglas-fir trees. I had been reminded of the re-opening of the garden via a post from Nola Wilken earlier this month. So Emee and I decided to take a little bike ride there on a sunny summer Saturday.

As is typical for us on a lazy Saturday, we got there later than planned. We had “bought a ticket”1 for a 2 pm entry, but didn’t get there until a little after 3. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except that the garden closes at four on weekends. I thought it was funny that the garden was open later on weekdays, but my wedding-planner girlfriend correctly surmised that the earlier weekend closing time was so they could rent out the garden for evening weddings and events. Sure enough, when we were there a wedding was getting set up in the manor courtyard.

Of course I brought a camera with me to record the garden. I asked myself, “What would Jerome of Earth, Sun, Film do?” And the answer was obvious: bring a Minolta SLR. So I loaded up my SR-T 101 with some Portra 160 and mounted the MC-Rokkor PG 50mm f/1.4 lens. It might have been wiser to load up Portra 400 since much of the garden is in deep shade, but I made do. You can see the results in the dynamic flickr album below, or click here.

New Tree Walk, Leach Botanical Garden. 19 June 2021

1 Leach had always been free to enter, but supposedly next year they are going to charge for entry. It’s a bummer as it was the last of the free public gardens in town. But after all the work they put into it I can understand why they would need to have an entry fee. For this year they are encouraging people to make reservations to control the amount of people into the garden.


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