Monday, February 15, 2016

Mrs. Piper's forgotten garden


Carkeek Park has a trail system through the woods in addition to the more familiar beach access.  Following the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 that destroyed his bakery, Andrew Piper and his wife, Minna, moved to what is now Carkeek Park and settled on land that had abandoned cabins on it from earlier logging.  They planted an orchard, vegetable and flower gardens.  After the Pipers passed away their heirs sold the land to the Carkeek family who later donated it to the city in 1927 for a park. 

My aunt and uncle once had a home near Carkeek Park.  Bob and I mentioned that we had taken walks in the park and my uncle asked us to see if his water wheel was still on the property the next time we did that.  He also wondered if we had walked down to the orchard.  The next time we went on a walk in the park we stopped by where their house used to be but is no longer standing.  However, the water wheel is still there. This time we approached the orchard from the bottom instead of walking down the hill from the house as I remember doing with my brother and cousins when we were kids. 

A section of the old orchard

The orchard was left fallow until 1983 when it was accidentally rediscovered by a group of orchard enthusiasts who noted orderly rows of fruit trees among the alders, maples, blackberry vines and other undergrowth.  Volunteers associated with the Western Cascades Fruit Society cleared the area and eventually planted other trees so that today there are early varieties of apple, walnut, filbert, chestnut, quince, pear, cherry, hawthorn, hickory, and elderberry growing on the hillside.  These volunteers continue to maintain the orchard.  Most of the trees bear fruit that is no longer produced commercially. Some of the very old trees dating from around 1900 have partially fallen over but still produce fruit.  Cider made from the apples is used at Adopt-A-Park and other city sponsored events.  There is a placard at the foot of the orchard hill with photographs and a diagram showing the location of the trees.  Most of the fruit trees have metal tags identifying them.

Informational placard

It is an easy walk up to the orchard from the parking lot.  A short distance off the path and hidden along the stream that runs alongside the orchard there are still flowers that Mrs. Piper planted.  If one goes in mid February it is possible to come across thousands of snowdrops.  To find Mrs. Piper’s forgotten garden and see so many of these delicate lovely flowers in such profusion is a delight.

 Snowdrops now growing wild


  1. What a captivating history and spot! Thank you, Laurie! :) I look forward to making my acquaintance with this quaint and restorative secret garden.

    1. You are very welcome. It is rather like stumbling on a fairyland garden when all these snowdrops are blooming.