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Garden of Delight

Cultivating a true appreciation for a local jewel

Article by Bree O'Brien

Photography by Bree O'Brien

Originally published in Bellevue Lifestyle

When Susie Marglin, a docent at the Bellevue Botanical Garden, reached out to let me know I’d made an unfortunate choice of stock photo for a previous mention of the garden in Bellevue Lifestyle, she also offered to give me a guided tour. She told me she’d brief me on its history and “How it became the Botanical Park instead of just another beautiful community park asset.” 

I arrive for my tour on a beautiful spring day and see many shades of foliage illuminated by the sun, punctuated by assorted blooms big and small. Susie’s passion for the garden and the plants growing in it is immediately evident. “I have been involved with the garden at different levels since its inception over 30 years ago. Now I do the floral arrangements for events, work in our Perennial Border which is the largest such border in the United States run by volunteers, and obviously I am a docent,” she says. She introduces me to volunteers and employees and describes how the park started out as 7.5 acres of private arboretum land, deeded to the City of Bellevue with the provision that it remain a public park. Three more land acquisitions in various forms add up to the 53 acres that comprise the park today.  

Marglin is not only knowledgeable about the types of plants and their care, but has stories pertaining to them; like how the Dawn Redwood was considered extinct until a forester discovered a group of the trees in Central China. Seeds were procured from those Chinese trees, and after millions of years absent from North America, they were re-established here - including at the Botanical Garden. 

We wind through the park, taking in Japanese iris, western azalea, a mason bee house, into the Yao Japanese Garden, and across the 150-foot suspension bridge spanning a deep ravine. While I patronize the Garden d’Lights around the holidays - an undertaking that requires over 6,400 volunteer hours a year - I hadn’t explored the botanical garden otherwise. It feels peaceful being amongst all the greenery and blossoms, especially on the Lost Meadow Trail which features the Night Blooming sculpture, and in the Native Discovery Garden. As Marglin said, “People come here as a place of respite from the craziness of the world,” and I could see that in the faces of those who were wandering the park along with us. Plan your own stroll in the garden at


  • A volunteer tends to the beds
  • A bee seeks nectar
  • The Yao Japanese Garden
  • The suspension bridge over the ravine