A world-class garden in Eastern Washington? Who knew! Spokane continues to surprise with this 100 year old jewel that’s free to visit all year round.
Established in 1900 as Montrose Park, the location was originally an underdeveloped recreational area and zoo. Through the years it earned funding and saw a name change to Manito which translates to “Spirit of Nature” in Algonquian.
Along with other Spokane city parks, Manito got some redesign guidance at the hands of the world famous Olmstead Brothers. The Olmsteads were a landscape design firm that have designed numerous parks across the country including the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition grounds, now the University of Washington campus in Seattle.
A striking symmetrical, European-style garden, the beds are changed with the seasons. The Duncan Garden covers 3 acres with a large granite fountain in the center and a gazebo at the rear. The garden is named after John Duncan, the parks superintendent from 1910 to 1942 and the man responsible for first bringing the symmetrical style to this garden.
At the south end of Duncan Garden is the gazebo which was added during the park’s centennial in 2004. Looking northward, you see our next stop, the Gaiser Conservatory.
The Gaiser Conservatory holds tropical and desert plants with displays changing seasonally. It was orginally at another location, but relocated to it’s current spot in 1912. It is named for longtime park board member Dr. David Gaiser. At Christmas, the conservatory lights up with 30,000 bulbs (of the electric variety), an event which is also free to view.
The Joel E. Ferris Perennial Garden provides an excellent example of the tremendous variety of colors, textures and flower types found in perennials. A seasonal variety of colorful displays begins in early spring and continues into late autumn.
This garden is named posthumously after Park Board member Joel E. Ferris.
What’s in a name? Spokane is a sister city of Nishinomiya, Japan. Ed Tsutakawa was the local man who pushed for that sisterhood and helped design and develop this site for a Japanese Garden. When he died, the city of Spokane honored his dedication to the cause by officially adding his name to the park.
The well-known Japanese landscape architect, Nagao Sakurai, who at one time was in charge of the Imperial Palace grounds, was enlisted to design the garden in 1967.
Construction of the waterfall and pond began in 1970. Before the pond was filled two girl scouts from Japan blended water from Spokane and Nishinomiya and added that to the pond.
The garden was dedicated by both cities on May 17, 1974.
Manito Park is completely free to visit year-round. The Gaiser Conservatory is closed on major holidays and is often closed on Wednesdays for “pest management.” The Japanese Gardens are closed for the winter, from November to April.
Parking is free both in the park lots and on nearby streets in the lovely South Hill neighborhood.