A Tale of Two Gardens: Volunteer Park Conservatory and the Seattle Japanese Garden

Mobile Workshop

Come on a captivating journey through the vibrant histories of two of Seattle’s iconic cultural institutions, Volunteer Park Conservatory and the Seattle Japanese Garden. Attendees will learn about the rich tapestry of their unique origins and the intricacies of their current operations while getting a sneak peek into what the future holds. This mobile workshop will spark insightful conversations on interpreting, managing, and supporting these precious sites within a public parks system. Join us in unraveling the complexities of heritage preservation, sustainability, programming, and accessibility that these gardens intricately present. Each site also contains a unique history that requires a renewed consideration of cultural interpretation. Exploring how we acknowledge and honor their pasts while moving forward in new ways. Facing these histories daylights issues as complex as colonial resource extraction and the relocation and internment of Japanese Americans. Looking to the future allows us to learn from the past and explore the multiple dimensions of these cultural sites. Get ready to discover, discuss, and be inspired during this enlightening tour.

The Seattle Japanese Garden, operated under a cooperative agreement between Seattle Parks and Recreation and the Arboretum Foundation, is one of North America’s most highly regarded Japanese-style gardens. This 3.5-acre garden, open to the public in 1960, was inspired by the Japanese Pavilion at the 1909 Alaska Yukon Exhibition and included as an addition to Olmstead’s vision for the Arboretum in 1937. The garden was designed by renowned Japanese designers Kiyoshi Inoshita and Juki Iida and constructed largely by local Japanese American gardeners. The garden was created in the ‘strolling garden’ style, which draws visitors along a journey through varied landscapes of Japan and explores themes such as hide and reveal views.

The Volunteer Park Conservatory, proposed in 1893 as a Victorian-style greenhouse modeled after London’s Crystal Palace, serves as a public horticultural display collection and is often described as the “”jewel box”” among Seattle’s Olmsted Parks. It is among the most visited garden sites in the region and features rotating seasonal displays curated by horticultural staff and supported by a 9,000-square-foot production greenhouse. The Conservatory includes a rich history of public-private partnership support and collaboration. 

Please note: This tour includes indoor and outdoor areas. Consider layered clothing and summer weather conditions.