Grand opening: Upper Garden at Leach Botanical Garden

Photograph by: James W. Fowler Co.

The wait is over! April 16th, 2021, is the official opening of the Upper Garden at Leach Botanical Garden.

A little history on Leach Botanical Garden:

John and Lilla Leach moved to the 4.5-acre site of what is now Leach Botanical Garden in the early 1930s in southeast Portland, Oregon. They built the existing stone cottage on the banks of Johnson Creek as a summer get-away. In 1936, the newly built Manor House became their full-time residence and they began landscaping and planting the property.

John and Lilla were botanists who traveled the world looking for unique and exotic plants for their garden. In their wills, they donated their property and home to the City of Portland as a botanical park. In 1981, the Leach Gardens Friends was formed by local neighbors, garden groups, and citizens joined forces to help the City care for the park.

The 8-acre Upper Garden area was less developed and served as a great opportunity for the City and Leach Garden Friends to bring their garden expansion visions to life. This was the area James W. Fowler Co. (JWF) worked on constructing a variety of improvements. The new improvements now connect the historic garden to the Manor House through a 350-foot circular aerial tree walk. This areal tree walk gives visitors the ability to experience what it’s like to walk among the tree canopy while taking in the garden’s spectacular views. Elevated thirty feet above ground at the southern end, this feature is one of the few raised garden walkways in the world.

Other improvements include a new pollinator and habitat garden which will teach visitors the role of pollination and sustainable gardening. A children’s garden now provides a hands-on learning opportunity for kids. Various water features and plants are now also part of the experience with the water garden.

Aerial walkway construction in progress.
Photograph by: James W. Fowler Co.

JWF’s scope not only included the garden features and aerial walkway but also improvements to parking for the public; paved and soft surface pathways and trails; concrete and metal stairways; gabion retaining walls; stormwater infiltration systems; and irrigation for all the plants.

Part of the contract requirements included extensive photography to document the project progress. JWF suggested to the City that a drone would be an excellent way to document the project and provide opportunities for publicizing the project after it was complete. The City agreed and JWF purchased a drone. Our superintendent on the project, Todd Nichols, was already an FAA-certified drone pilot, so he was a natural choice to operate the equipment. Currently, Todd is the only private citizen authorized by the City of Portland to fly their parks.

Be sure to Subscribe to us on YouTube so you don’t miss the spectacular drone footage views! Video to come.

To experience the Leach Botanical Garden please visit to schedule a time! If you capture your experience, be sure to tag us (@JWFowler) and (@leachbotanicalgarden) on Instagram! We’d love to see our community enjoying all of these wonderful upgrades.

We are proud to have been a part of this project along with the other subcontractors and teams that helped us get here.

Aerial view of the Leach Botanical Upper Garden site during construction.
Photograph by: James W. Fowler Co.

Read more about Leach Botanical Garden on The Oregonian.