BUILT IN 1931, Anderson School was Bothell’s first junior high. Today, thanks to the Portland-based McMenamins group, the nearly 5½-acre campus is an entertaining hub of hospitality — and horticulture!
Whether you’re meeting friends for drinks in the Principal’s Office, or booking a stay in refurbished classrooms in the old schoolhouse — gardens are everywhere. McMenamins’ corporate gardens manager Erich Petschke says, “We see the gardens and outdoor spaces as part of the entertainment we offer our guests. And the importance of creating green space for neighborhoods and ecosystem services is a no-brainer.”
Like a horticultural theme park, Anderson School gardens are filled with discovery. But a closer look reveals a broad and eclectic plant palette filled with evidence of our region’s rich horticultural community and the deft plantsmanship of Riz Reyes, the garden’s lead caretaker and curator. Reyes, who also is a garden consultant and floral designer, recently received the 2019 Emerging Horticultural Professional Award from the American Horticultural Society.
Just outside the entrance to the hotel’s front desk, a meadow billows in barely controlled wildness. Reyes says, “We let the meadow kind of take on a life of its own so people can see how plants grow without interference.” Across the walkway, a shade garden glows in every shade of green against the warm brick of the old school, where interesting conifers and broad-leaved evergreens mix with choice perennials rarely found in a commercial landscape.
As we walk along a pathway between the hotel and the dining terrace, Reyes talks about the rewards and challenges of tending what is essentially a very public garden. He basks in the freedom he’s afforded to create a pleasure garden for Anderson School guests and visitors. And he’s learning to cope with an occasional errant footfall on a rare plant, storm damage from “Snowmageddon” and constantly browsing bunnies.
There’s a garden for every mood at Anderson School. Relax in the shade of the historic property’s mature trees on the terrace bar, or soak up the sun in a walled courtyard, where Reyes has festooned an artful fence created by ironwork artist Jeff Allen with fragrant roses and rambling vines.
Back behind the Woodshop/Pub and on-site brewery, a productive kitchen garden steps down a steep hillside, where annual vegetable crops and herbs thrive alongside figs, berries, artichokes, quince and lesser-known crops like goji berries and Sichuan pepper shrubs, supplying Anderson School chefs with fresh produce and cocktail makings. Fragrant lavender is harvested and bundled for sale in the gift shop. Reyes tells me this (delicious) part of the garden is especially popular with garden-club tours and the Friday afternoon cocktail crowd.
Heading across the parking lot, Reyes and I explore the remarkable Desert Garden, one of the more unusual gardens at Anderson School. Reflected heat from the nearby asphalt, otherwise harsh conditions for most gardens, is a plus for hardy agaves and prickly pear cactuses set in waves of grasses and dry-garden perennials. Dozens of metal wine-barrel hoops dancing through the plantings provide a gleaming focal point.
Keeping with our theme-park analogy, a stairway from the Desert Garden leads to the Tropics, where a bodacious border planted with flashy foliage, color and fragrance sizzles at the entry to the Northshore Lagoon, a semi-enclosed saltwater pool with giant open skylights — there’s even a Tiki bar.