By Michelle Frost
Leach Botanical Garden, at 6704 SE 122nd Ave. in east Portland, is a verdant paradise maintained by Leach Garden Friends. They oversee the Garden’s collections of plants for the purposes of education, research and conservation, and preserve the legacy of its founders, John and Lilla Leach.
The Garden opened to the public in 1983 as a partnership between Leach Garden Friends and Portland Parks & Recreation. The core of this Garden is the estate of John and Lilla Leach, who went on botanical expeditions. In the 1930s they built the Manor House and began the gardens.
They left the beautiful grounds, buildings and more than 2,000 species of plants to the City of Portland. The Garden Friends group formed as a non-profit in 1981 and since then, have anchored daily operations with a large volunteer group and a small staff. Today the Garden has grown to nearly seventeen acres.
Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Parks Director Mike Abbaté recently made two funding announcements regarding the future of Leach Botanical Garden.
Metro awarded PP&R and Leach Botanical Garden a $188,000 Nature in Neighborhoods grant to develop its new pollinator garden. This grant includes a 2:1 match designated by Fritz and Abbaté of $376,000 in System Development Charges.
Additionally, they are offering this challenge to Leach Garden Friends: if the Friends can raise a total of $1.26 million overall, then Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) will supplement the remaining funds to see the entire project through for $4.9 million.
Portland Development Commission (PDC) has already contributed nearly $2 million from Lents Urban Renewal Area funds.
“When the late Charles Jordan was Commission-in-charge of Parks,” says Leach Garden Director David Porter, “he came to Leach before it was developed, and is said to have remarked that the property was ‘a little jewel’, and that ‘we can’t let it go.’
“Of course, he was completely correct, and, thanks to the City of Portland and Metro, we have the finish line for this catalytic project in sight. I look forward to robust fundraising efforts.”
The Leach Botanical Garden Development Plan, achieved through extensive recent public involvement, calls for a pedestrian trail network, a woodland hillside garden with an aerial “tree walk,” a pollinator garden, public gathering spaces for water-efficient landscaping, and educational and cultural opportunities and durable, diverse and aesthetically-pleasing plants and materials.
Metro has designated their grant funding towards the new pollinator garden.
The Garden is remarkable in many ways as described in this excerpt from the Leach Garden website:
“Our Garden is the crown jewel of public park spaces in Outer SE Portland. Wander more than a mile of trails and paths, discovering the Garden’s special places. Find the Stone Cabin and the blue dinosaur. Like a library of plants, the various species in our collection display their qualities during different seasons.”