Imagine a vividly green, lush urban oasis tucked into the residential hills of Southeast Portland. Hidden behind a bustling main road, many have driven through this area countless times, unaware of the peaceful 17-acre (6.9 ha) botanical garden that hugs Johnson Creek. However, a sharp right turn off this busy road will quickly lead you to the quiet, serene Leach Botanical Garden, a vibrant slice of the Pacific Northwest brimming with nature and a rich historical past.
The Leach Botanical Garden is a testament to the Pacific Northwest’s most fascinating landscapes, a respite from fast-paced city life. Offering a wide range of features from a pollinator garden to a plethora of native plants and an aerial tree walk, it’s a shining example of Portland’s natural diversity.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much are tickets to Leach Botanical Garden?
When can I visit Leach Botanical Garden?
Where is Leach Botanical Garden?
Is Leach Botanical Garden accessible to people who use wheelchairs?
Please note that the paths leading to the riparian area, pedestrian bridge and the southern part of Johnson Creek are not wheelchair accessible. For convenient access to the Manor House, Gift Shop and East Terrace, there are two ADA permit parking areas available in the Manor House driveway. To use the permit parking, please visit the Visitor Services booth at the Main Entrance. To visit the Garden’s accessible trails, check out their ADA trails here.
Is photography allowed at Leach Botanical Garden?
Leach Botanical Garden History
It makes sense that the Leach Botanical Garden is in an unexpected neighborly location, given its history as a residential property. Lilla Leach, a celebrated botanist, built and owned a stone cabin here with her husband John in the early 1930s. This was just a small section of what was originally a 320-acre (129 ha) property, an estate owned by lumberman Jacob Johnson in the early 1900s. The Leaches left the garden property to the city in their will, and upon their deaths, the 4.7 acres (1.9 ha) of land was donated to the city of Portland with the intention that it become a museum and botanical park. The original stone cabin is still on the grounds of the garden, as well as a manor they built later, which now houses the gift shop.
The garden was not the Leachs’ only legacy; Lilla’s botanical skills led to her discovery of five new plant species unknown to Western science. She later received the American Award for Botany and in 1950, became the first recipient of the Eloise Payne Luquer bronze medal awarded by the Garden Clubs of America. Her husband and drug store owner, John Leach, meanwhile concerned himself with the development of Portland’s southeast community through several projects, including paving SE Foster Road, opening Pheonix Pharmacy (whose building still stands today) and participating in the SE Chamber of Commerce.
Since Portland Parks received the Leach’s land donation in the 1980s, they expanded the garden from 4.7 to 17 acres (6.9 ha). During this time, the garden underwent several renovations, which include the 2021 additions of the aerial tree walk and pollinator garden, making this a better time than ever to visit Leach Botanical Garden.
Leach Botanical Garden Features
The Pollinator Garden (Upper Garden)
Some of the garden’s most alluring attractions are its flora and fauna. The pollinator garden, which nurtures bees, hummingbirds and butterflies, greets visitors as soon as they enter. On summer days, perennials and ornamental grasses sprout from these grounds, displaying a vibrant array of colors and activity. They’re just a small sample of the 48,000 plants added to the landscape in 2021 — 30,000 of which are bulbs.
Historic Lower Garden
Walking down the stairs to the lower half of the Leach Botanical Garden, visitors will find themselves surrounded by flower beds, creeping ferns and towering trees, complete with labels to identify them. Spring florals include crocuses, magnolias, camellias and trilliums. During the summer, rhododendrons also grow abundantly. The property prides itself on growing mostly native plants since their adaptability to the region’s cool climate and soil makes them more environmentally friendly. They also nurture and sustain the wildlife that thrives here.
Recent improvements to the garden offer modern spaces that complement its historic grounds. Visitors can relax in the sleek arbor built for gatherings and events. The space is reminiscent of lath-style greenhouses, showcasing a fireside terrace on its patio. When not occupied, the arbor is perfect for snacking outdoors or taking time to simply sit and enjoy the peace and quiet of Leach Botanical Garden. Note that the garden prohibits picnics in order to prevent wildlife from eating unfamiliar foods.
The Tree Walk
Most definitely a crowd favorite, the aerial tree walk adjacent to the arbor terrace takes forest bathing to a new level. Visitors can saunter between the trees with an impressive bird’s-eye view of Leach’s lower gardens and Johnson Creek burbling below just beneath it. Unveiled in 2021, this suspended walking path stands at 36 feet (11m) at its highest point.
Leach Botanical Garden Wildlife
A cornucopia of wildlife thrives throughout the garden, far more than in busier parts of Portland. Year-round, and on quieter days, deer and squirrels cautiously make their way through the grounds, while spring welcomes newborn bunnies that graze on the lawn during peak sunlight hours. Raccoons and foxes play along Johnson Creek looking for coho salmon, steelheads and coastal cutthroat trout. Although the area is teeming with wildlife, always respect the timid nature of these critters. There are plenty of benches and designated viewing areas throughout the garden for you to watch them in their natural habitats while maintaining a respectful distance.
Garden Events and Activities
During the warmer months, Leach Botanical Garden hosts activities ranging from children’s concerts to guided tours and even watercolor sessions.
Staff members Scott Hoelscher and Adam Hart are a wealth of information and regularly lead visitors on in-depth plant and history tours to share more details about the garden’s plant life, along with expert home gardening tips. For those new to the Japanese practice of forest bathing, guided walks through the garden help visitors connect to nature on a deeper level, providing a way to experience the garden from a more meditative perspective. Advance reservations for all experiences are required. See the community events page to hold your spot.
Whether you’re here to experience a flower paradise, connect with nature or find a family-friendly activity, Southeast Portland’s Leach Botanical Garden is a great space to unwind, recharge and appreciate the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
Round out your floral explorations of the Rose City with a visit to Southeast Portland’s lush Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. The park boasts more than 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas, with blooms from late February -June.
This serene woodland sanctuary in Northeast Portland features 62 acres (25 hectares) of lush botanical gardens. No matter what time of year you visit, the Grotto offers calm, peace and introspection, transcending boundaries.
Portland Rose Gardens and Where to Find Them
Portland has a long-standing reputation as the City of Roses — so we dive into the city’s history with the fragrant flower, share the lowdown on rose gardens around town and offer tips for visiting the Portland Rose Festival in late spring.
Lan Su Chinese Garden
This year-round wonder houses an authentic Ming Dynasty-style garden built by Suzhou artisans, offering a peaceful escape in Portland's historic Chinatown.
Was this page helpful?