Bainbridge Gardens – The Harui Family Legacy

Bainbridge Gardens is an integral part of the island’s history and a tranquil and serene spot to spend a few hours exploring.

When Zenhichi Harui emigrated in 1908 from Japan to Bainbridge Island, he started a small garden, growing various plants and flowers. As his passion for beauty and nature grew, so did his garden, budding into a beautiful twenty-acre sanctuary of flowers, sculpted trees, bonsai pines, Japanese red pines and lily pad-covered pools, as well as a small store and gas station. The gardens offered enjoyment to garden lovers and visitors from near and afar. Tragically, the gardens were deserted in the early 1940s when Mr. Harui and his family were forced to leave along with thousands of other Japanese-Americans, and although friends did their best to maintain the magical sanctuary, the Harui’s returned to find their gardens and nursery beyond restoration.

Zenhichi’s son, Junkoh, followed in his father’s footsteps and created his own nursery business on the island, which he ran for over forty years. In 1989, Junkoh began the restoration of Bainbridge Gardens, clearing tall weeds and blackberry brambles and uncovering many of the original plants Zenhichi had sowed from seedlings brought over from Japan. Without Junkoh’s vision and determination, the magical beauty created by his father would be lost forever.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting with Donna Harui, Junkoh’s daughter, who now owns and operates the gardens (Donna’s brothers also consult at the gardens), to learn more about its history and legacy. Today Bainbridge Gardens occupy six acres of the original land, and is home to the Harui Memorial Garden, which features the original pear tree Zenhichi grafted into a gorgeous topiary and two lion statuary, which had been lost when the original gardens were deserted (they were recovered after word got around that Junkoh was restoring the gardens). In addition, the gardens feature several old and original bonsai pines, Japanese red pines and original wisteria, which trails over a bamboo trellis in the Harui Memorial Garden.

The many greenhouses (although not original) were restored to their original locations and the remaining portions of the original buildings were rebuilt and now honor Zenhichi and his wife, Shiki.

There is also a nature trail where you will see some of the original Japanese red pines planted by Zenhichi.

The nursery is well stocked with large trees, native plants, an unusual variety of shrubs, bonsai, seasonal plants, pots, garden art and everything else you need to build a beautiful garden sanctuary of your own. Donna also teaches a once-a-year class at Sakai Intermediate School, discussing her family’s history on the island.

One of the most important things I learned from Donna and my visit to the gardens, is that it’s almost impossible to express in writing the true beauty, the sense of history and serenity that Bainbridge Gardens offers, it is something that must be experienced in person. The gardens are Zenhichi and Junkoh’s legacy, a legacy I hope lasts for many more generations to come.

After touring the gardens, stop at the on-site New Rose Café, which offers a delicious variety of sandwiches, salads, pita pizza, soups and other delights, as well as full service espresso drinks, shakes and smoothies. Seating is available outdoors, or in their enclosed heated dining area. There is also a children’s play area, tons of parking and an extensive gift shop, which offers an eclectic variety of gifts.

Bainbridge Gardens offers a several classes and events (, as well as consultation services, special orders for the unique or hard-to-find plants and delivery on and off island (

Don’t miss the Holiday Open House on November 10th, where you’ll experience beautiful Christmas tree displays, as well as the opportunity to find magical gifts for all your loved ones.

If you’d like to learn more about Bainbridge Gardens, add a visit to the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, which proudly displays the original Bainbridge Gardens sign (

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