Fall Color in Seattle

Just got back from a long weekend in Seattle, and was reminded about why I love this city. Living in San Francisco, I’m constantly surprised and delighted by the many awe-inspiring views of the landscape – built and natural twining together in a fabric of architecture and sky and water and green. It never gets old. I feel the same way about Seattle – except I don’t live there – so the awe-inspiring views inspire that much more awe. October visits are that much more special because of the fall color. Breathtaking! It’s the sort of trip that takes me out of the gardens I create and reminds me to consider THE LANDSCAPE.

When I go, I love to visit Gasworks Park. It was the site of the last operational coal gasification plant in the United States. The city of Seattle purchased the land to create a park in 1962. Though not accessible to visitors, a good portion of the gasworks stands as a monument to its technology. The signs warning swimmers of the toxicity left in Lake Union tell the other side of that story… But I love it when city planners get it right! The views from this park are tremendous – downtown (and the Space Needle) seemingly rises out of Lake Union as sea planes touch down. Charming water craft go to and fro, and houseboats ring the edge of Lake Union. And did I mention fall color? Amazing.

If you’ve never been, the Olympic Sculpture Park is a must. I give another tip of the hat to Seattle in reclaiming this former toxic UNOCAL petroleum transfer and distribution site, and creating a green public space in the downtown area. Olympic Sculpture Park is part of the Seattle Art Museum – and it’s always fulfilling to see sculpture in the landscape, particularly one as amazing as the views of Puget Sound. From its inception, the Seattle Art Museum had a vision for the park to be a connection between the built and pre-built environment. That dedication is evident as you walk through the sculpture garden and experience the native flora. Did I mention the fall color?

I’m always fascinated by the dry stack rock walls in Seattle. They’re everywhere – and they’re HUGE! We could never build anything like these here in California. I was snapping some photos to show folks and had to get my friend in one of them to get a sense of scale. Elena is an average-size woman – not a gnome! Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we can typically build dry stack walls 3’ high or shorter. Amazing! This wall was along our Fremont shopping trip. I’m also fascinated by what I call “root lava.” The roots of these trees fill up the spaces they’re allotted – and then keep spreading, which is kind of like Platanus racemosa, but more exciting to see on vacation.

Running around to see all of those sites makes a girl hungry! Good thing Seattle is a foodie’s dream city. We enjoyed delicious baked eggs at the Fat Hen, some crazy cheddar bacon biscuits with and egg baked right in at Oddfellows, phenomenal housemade ham and butter sandwiches from Melrose Market, and the much anticipated and highly enjoyed Delancey pizza. But the piece de resistance is the Caribbean Roast sandwich from Paseo. While none of this is particularly landscape related, who doesn’t want to see good food?

As fun as traveling is, it’s always great to come home to our city by the bay. And while our region isn’t necessarily known for fall color, there are fantastic options for bringing that feeling into your garden. Think about trees like Japanese Maples, especially Acer palmatum ‘Sangu Kaku’, Crepe Myrtles, Chinese Pistache, Scarlet Maple, Flowering Dogwood, Liquidambar, Gingko biloba and Persimmons to name just a few.