Streissguth Gardens are a hidden gem

A map of the Streissguth Gardens, a hidden gem on the Northwest side of Capitol Hill in Seattle.

A map of the Streissguth Gardens, a hidden gem on the Northwest side of Capitol Hill in Seattle.

A Garden For All: Streissguth Gardens are a hidden gem

We must have been a sight to see last night. Twenty women lined up in a row, on the narrow paths of the Streissguth Public Gardens, with wine glasses in our hands, nattering away about the plants, trees and flowers on the hillside.

“What did she say this tree was?”

It was like a game in kindergarten.

“She said it was a Stewartia.”

“She said it was a Stewartia…”

“She said it was a Stewartia…”

Pass it on…

What a treat to see! This lovely oasis is right in the middle of Seattle, on the northwest side of Capitol Hill. If you ever get in a traffic jam on I-5 going north around Roanoke, you might have a chance to see it from that perspective, otherwise, the garden itself offers many views of our wonderful city: Lake Union, the Ship Canal, downtown Seattle and the Olympic Mountains on the horizon.

But it was the garden that our club had come to see. The Streissguth Gardens is about one acre in size, and built on a hillside – “50 vertical feet of change.”

I felt like a mountain goat.

“Did she say peach or beech?”

“Beech, peaches don’t grow here.”

“Oh ya….”

Daniel Streissguth built his house just north of the public garden space in 1962. About three years later, he lined up his own “girl next door” by referring his future wife, Ann, to his neighbors, who were looking to rent their house for a couple of years while they went overseas.

Ann gardened behind her house, while Daniel gardened behind his. The seeds of love were eventually sewn, and three years later, the two gardens became one.

In 1972, the couple purchased the land to the south of the house, and continued growing and gardening. It is this parcel that was gifted to the city in 1996, and is now the Streissguth Gardens.

“She has a blue poppy.”

“A what?”

“A blue poppy, they are really hard to grow.”

“I thought they were a perennial…”

“A tender perennial.”


Their pamphlet has the stats: 68 trees, more than 280 shrubs, about 200 labeled plants, more perennials that they care to count, it’s in bloom all year round, special displays of fall color, winter blooms and millions of early crocus. (I’m so there!)

They must have a small army of volunteers as almost every switchback offers something new. They “pushed back the tangle of blackberries, clematis and horsetails” and are still doing so – the garden is expanding even more this year. They are going native…

“What did she call these?”

“Black raspberries.”

“What is that flower?”

“This would be a great spot for a cheap date.”

“Can you hear her?”

“Hair? What hair?”

Look forward to their new book, “In Love with a Hillside Garden,” due out soon. With more photographs than pages, this book documents the work, partnership and philosophy that the Streissguths have developed while working with the garden, and their neighbors.

Forty years of experience in blending people, gardens, indoors and out, gardening on a hillside and more – it is sure to be a treat too. All proceeds go toward the Arboretum. I don’t think it can get much better that that.

“Is that a Viburnum?”

“What did she say?”

“That is so pretty!”

“Just lovely.”

Pass it on.

Streissguth Gardens


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