The Leach Botanical Garden was home to John and Lilla Leach who purchased the former 4.5-acre pig farm in the early 1930s in southeast Portland. John became a successful drugstore owner and Lilla continued her career as a teacher while pursuing her interest in botany. The couple had two burros and enjoyed going on botanizing trips to SW Oregon. During these excursions Lilla discovered five new plant species previously unknown to science. Their story involves early Oregon history, botany, business and civic involvement. John willed the property to the Metropolitan Park District, present day Portland Park Bureau. The wills also stated that if the Park Bureau neglected the property, it could then be claimed by the YMCA. As the deadline for action approached, friends and neighbors urged the City to take action, and they did. Through the years the Leach Botanical Garden has been working on raising money, designing the future state of the park, and starting construction on the planned development.
James W. Fowler Co. worked with the City of Portland to develop the Upper Garden area, roughly 8 acres of land. Currently the garden attracts more than 22,000 visitors, and while seeing over 1,000 botanical species is extraordinary, visitors now will have a more pragmatic experience. The Leach Botanical Upper Garden now is home to a wheel-chair accessible 350-foot circular aerial tree elevated 30-feet. It provides a thrilling view of the tree canopy, as well as, the forest floor for all visitors. The new Pollinator and Habitat Garden is an educational platform for visitors to learn the role of pollination and sustainable gardening through the highly floral garden. The Garden also intends to expose children to plants within the Children’s Garden. This section of the Upper Garden will allow children to play, engage, discover, and learn through hands-on activities and attractions. Children will learn about habitat, water, climate change, and plant migration. The Children’s Garden also includes environmental sculptures to play on and a grass maze. The new Water Garden will introduce visitors to features such as fens, bogs, and a roof-fed alpine brook. These features will educate, inspire, and inform on the importance of these resources. Finally, the 21st Century Physics Garden exhibits plants as botanical medicine used to treat physical and mental ailments and plants that could be sourced for
sustainable cosmetic, textile, and industrial products.
The project included construction of an aerial tree walk, fireplace terrace and arbor, event spaces, a habitat and pollinator garden, upper garden parking, a safe path between the upper and lower gardens, and a welcome sign. Other improvements and construction included stormwater infiltration systems, parking lots, trails, utilities, irrigation, rest rooms, site furnishings, and right of way improvements. Improvements on paths and trails included paved and soft surface pathways, concrete and metal stairways, retaining walls (concrete, stone, and metal), and an entry gravel gathering area. Right of way improvements included utility installation. Maintenance of access to the public, Friends of Leach Garden and guests attending events, as well as, the protection of existing plants and the environment were special project requirements.
James W. Fowler Co. is thrilled to have helped expand the capacity of the Leach Botanical Garden to help accommodate tens of thousands of visitors. There is warmth in knowing this garden will help connect visitors to nature while in a dense urban setting. The community will also be positively impacted by the improved air quality, increased healthfulness, overall economic development, and employment boost generated by the garden and its visitors.