Amazing Rhododendrons – Part 2 of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

Interestingly, this was written in 2009, revised in 2011 and left untouched. I kind of feel no need the change anything – even the cold part, lol.

I’m on a small story-telling bender. This one is recirculated yet again, for the reasons I outlined dealing with my post speaking of my experience with 100 sticks of dyanmite and landscaping, a couple of posts below this one.

Fortunately, this post here has abundant rhododendron pictures, which was the impetus behind the posting in the first place, until I wandered off into the personal. This is also important because it is freezing outdoors, lol. I mean, not a little.

(It is all of 7 degrees here in Louisville, Kentucky, as I write this. It was a balmy 27 yesterday at times, ย so I am more driven to see something to mitigate this Winter pain. My stay in Louisville has been marvelous from a strictly people aspect. Taking care of my Mother is like – well – it IS actually – a walk in the park. No stress, lots of family for a change and my peripatetic daughter is in classes in San Diego. Life is good – if freaking cold. And it is cold. I do not much like it, lol. Let me rephrase this – it is dreadful. I am far too ‘West Coast-ish’, if that’s a term, which 42 years there would do to one. Plus, we get another few months of this, unless Global Warming gets it done!

This post was composed in May of 2009. It is a long one, filled with pictures of flowers, lakes, sun, ducks and some writing about someone I don’t mind reposting about – a fine person. Just to keep the Springtime vibes alive, read and I hope you enjoy:)

“Extravagance” is the term I am so often set with concerning Rhododendrons. Like the Proteus plant, the simple size, girth and literal glamor of the bloom have few peers anywhere. The profuseness of a Rhododendron when in bloom I honestly believe has no peer anywhere in Nature. I love so many plants – they have been my stock in trade – but this one hovers in another sphere of general gorgeousness.

(click any image to enlarge like mad…click twice for superdetail))

In the Northwest, there are rhododendron gardens all over the place. This week (May) in Florence, Oregon – on the Oregon Coast – there is a Rhododendron Festival, a full-fledged Rhodie fest complete with parades and displays and thousands of believers. Of course, everyone loves a party – so there is that. It’s been a long winter here – so there is that as well. But they’ve been having this particular festival for long years now. Love for the Rhododendron is not new here.

For purely selfish Photo Contest reasons, I add this earlier-blooming item here. I can’t imagine it not “belonging” anywhere, frankly.


When I lived in British Columbia, naturally a mainstay for visitors was the trip over to Butchart Gardens in Victoria – a world-famous garden and rightfully so, rich indeed with its own stash of thousands of rhododendrons and azaleas, like this Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland, just 4 times bigger and ten times more groomed and cultivated.

Naturally, there are plants other then Rhodies to slake the thirst for extravagant beauty. Take these pictures, above and below, of Double File Viburnums – how those branches seem to be wearing epaulets of blooms down their long arms, making them appear to be wearing instead of producing them.

These are somewhat groomed for the appearance, yet this plant casually shoots off these blooms in a very regular fashion no matter how determined its pruners are to show off.

Other places in British Columbia and Washington have rhododendron festivals. And many, many other places have small parks – often made by devoted Rhodites (my newest shiniest original English! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) on farmland or just a once-open bit of land where someone tinkered themselves into some stunningly magnificent park, for which they collect money to visit and for which I was always so grateful to pay, just to see those exotics and bizarre rare species of Rhododendrons which eccentrics would specialize in. These were once virtual Hobby Farms, now ranked as parks. And there are more than one thinks.

I recall landscaping an estate in BC – 10 acres set in deep woods with 2,000 year old Douglas Fir stumps whose bodies had been felled in the original flurry of construction at the turn of the 20th Century, filled with a gassy pitch and crumbling peat-like deteriorated cores. One ravine near the home was particularly suited for Rhodies – deep shade with some dappled sunlight. I resolved to fill it with my own brand of a similar park but, naturally, budget concerns worried me immensely.

I consulted my usual nursery and had a line on some great buys of very small starter rhodies – with, naturally, a very restricted base of species and color. It weighed upon me as I drove the back roads of Langley and Surrey, BC, which was where my project was located.

While driving, I happened across a home – just caught by a glance out to the right of my window – where it appeared someone had themselves what looked like their own private nursery. I was curious and always looking for deals and I knew how cash spoke to growers – always subject to the whims of their small market of buyers. I braked, reversed and drove into the drive way.

As I drove in, I noticed a dilapidated older car parked, its door open and some cigarette smoke wafting from the driver’s seat. Walking up the small rise, I also noticed that as far as I could see, the entire nursery was of Rhododendrons. It stretched at least 100 feet to my left and was a good 20 rows deep of large – some huge – rhodies. This was a gold mine of specimens – gigantic and mature plants – and a variety to literally die for. I was nearly shaking after beholding all this because I really knew what I had found. (Hey, you had to be there.) ๐Ÿ™‚

The man in the car was very old now – 77 – a Russian immigrant whose wife was cooking inside and whose relaxation and privacy included this car to a degree I speculate was pretty intense. He coughed and looked up as I stood outside the door of his smoking chamber and gave a big smile. He was delighted to have company. It made a great start to a long and wonderful relationship. How no one had found this man is still beyond me to this day. I am positive he never would have sold Plant One had I not stopped by – or some other young and enterprising landscaper – there is that.

He had a hothouse where he was cultivating starts – some from seed – and always had. He just loved Rhododendrons. As we ambled around the stock, his 6 foot 6 inch frame would bend over at a particular plant and I would get its very history. He knew each plant like children. It put a near religious reverence to the entire operation, I swear. Some of the newer Rhodies were 3 feet tall, lined up before being separated later to accommodate for their later growth. Meanwhile, some of the others were a true 8 feet tall – worth thousands of dollars each and too large even for me to relocate. I was boggled beyond belief.

He asked if I wanted to buy some of them, getting the hint when I told him I was a landscaper. Naturally, I said yes and awaited his pricing with some trepidation. “Which ones do you want?” he asked. When I showed him a 5 foot high plant in full bloom which any nursery would charge a full $400-500 for, he looked at me, squinted in the sunlight and said:

“What would you say if I wanted $25?” ๐Ÿ˜‰

I laughed and said I would take it, of course. “Well, how many do you want?” was his next question. He then ran off the list, pointing to each plant and never going above 50 bucks for any plants – even the most extravagant and large. It became almost embarrassing and there was no way I was going to rip him off after the efforts he had put in. I gave him a figure that doubled or tripled what he had asked and he started blinking, counting up the dough. I also said I would begin with 100 plants. There was no way I was leaving that field without buying as many as I could.

He was delighted, but I was not done. I wanted to know why he wanted to sell them at such discounts after all the love he had labored over to get them started. I asked him point blank. He was so easy to talk with, it was crazy. We had definitely hit it off.

“Well, I am dying. I never wanted to make some big amount of money off these plants. There was a landscaper I used to sell 3-4 to now and then and it would be some cash for us. I spent a lifetime logging and doing the garden here just became a lot more of a hobby than I thought it would. We had all this land and it’s great land – perfect for Rhodies. If I could make sure the Missus has a few things before I go, I would be real happy. Heck, the land here is worth enough to retire on if we sold it. The Rhodies are just sort of gravy.”

He had a heart condition which gave him about a year to live. He had found out earlier that very week, it turns out. It’s funny how events gravitate towards one another in life. He looked at me with some real big eyes, smiled and knocked me over:

“I was hoping you would come by,” he said.

I felt overwhelmed by events on this boring Wednesday afternoon as I made my way through another torridly-paced business day, lit up on vanity, career concerns and selfish business worries like a junky. Then this tall Russian elderly drink of water delivered that line which I have never forgotten. Among my life’sย most miraculous events, I always reflect on this moment as one of those. The suddenness and raw clarity of a synchronicity of need and of something more – maybe just Love itself – made its way deeply into my heart like a bolt of lightning.

A few tears streamed down my face as I drove home that day, in a bizarre mix of gratitude, joy, and simple awe at the outrageous unthinking compliance of Fortune itself. Oh – and I made me a great friend. That should be assumed.

Well, he lived for another two years. I was young and just starting out in landscaping but I had enough dust to provide his grateful hands with about $6,000 in purchases and – Man! – did I ever make out, too. I also bought one of those 8 footers. It took all day for 3 guys to transplant it at the new spread. The timing was stunningly apt – it had just begun blooming and, once planted, was in full flower when their homeowners – a local builder – had their house-warming party. Their gratitude for my work was pretty much off the charts and I won an award for the job – my first ever.

Today, that plant might fetch the entirety of what I paid for all 300 plants I got from Vladimir.

I did not plan to write all that but it’s one of those “Rhodie stories” I have that seemed natural to share. After all, one good turn deserves another, doesn’t it?

Crystal Springs Rhodie Garden – Deja Vu All Over Again

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, set deep in downtown Portland, Oregon, neighboring Reed College, executed it’s amazing Spring showcase of Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Mariesii Viburnums and the likes in spectacular fashion this week. I feel incredibly lucky to have caught things in this state – as one can see, the thrills just never stop. Well, yes, I AM somewhat easy to please, but just the same, it’s looking spectacular by any criterion.

A big theme at this early Spring blooming period is the color Blue:

(Click any image to enlarge)

Blue, blue and more blue, these gorgeous Rhodies deliver with some impact.

They play well with others…………



And they stand alone quite nicely as well!

And now for the Meat and Potatoes, a minimum of writing today, just pretty pictures of real plants, doing real things, for which we should all be grateful.

Here’s some stunning Spring color:

And more………….


Just keep scrolling…………….. ย ๐Ÿ˜‰

Mixes well with Gunnera…………..


and cherry blossoms…………………….

These segmented blooms may be my favorite.

I have often felt the reddest reds in Nature are rhododendrons…………see what you think –



Heck, even hillbillies like Chris and Bob like these Rhodies! ย Yeeee Hawwww!!

Honestly, the day has been so great, you could talk with a post. Everyone was boucy and gregarious, talking with new friends and “Ooohing” and “Ahhhing” together over such splendid stuff. I met some truly wonderful people, talked long and hard about Louisville, Portland and plants, plants, plants. There was pretty much nothing not to like.

Less than nothing, actually.

I mean, how on Earth can one complain while in the middle of all this?

And such an amazing canopy.

3-4 great little creeks and waterfalls……………quieting things and producing that famously peace-making trickle that water uses to sooth the troubled mind.

You can take stuff less seriously with your soul filled up with natural beauty.

Even the Mollis Azaleas, those pedestrian suckers, get a nice long look for being so darn pretty.

Hanging around is also popular…….




I’m wrapping this one up. I’ll gladly continue it in a day or two.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden – Early Spring Stuff

(click on images to enlarge)

Spring hit a second gear this past week. We had 3 days in the 70’s and the plants decided it was time to put it all together. Funny, it was a full month later last year when I visited this gorgeous urban garden, dead center in the middle of Portland. I now realize we caught the latest-blooming rhodies at that time and that we had missed something really special. Today’s trip through the garden was a revelation of early-blooming species of all types – from rhodies to Cherries to perennials and bulbs. This is an equally cool time to visit this place, my point being.

We were greeted by this charming couple as we arrived. The cherry tree above blossoming like some elegant aristocrat was taken from this spot, hard by our greeters. They were very untalkative and I got the impression they somehow even resented our presence. It’s funny how snobbery can cross species lines. I did not take it personally and showed my maturity by moving right on along to my destination.

This next picture is by my reckoning my best picture of the day. I happened onto this tableau during our first circle of the place and it nearly took my breath away. The picture below this one will show what the bronze highlight in the middle of those branches above emanate from – a Japanese Maple I never tire of photographing. If you enlarge this picture, you get a far better idea of what we were looking at. There are times I see absolute genius in this design. Which, come to think of it – is not very surprising.

I also never tire of the waterfall and running creek. This is set up magnificently with a moderate amount of water but an amazingly well-designed branching of the creek itself. Indeed, there is even another small feature 10 yards away with the smallest little waterfall – a precious and needless addition to perfection but one which is so welcome to the senses. This garden in many ways is an overload of beauty – if such a thing can be said.

It was nice catching the very, very early development of plants such as the Gunnera below. At this stage it is tentatively stretching out. In two months, those leaves will be as much as 6 feet across – apiece!

This outrageously huge and totally impractical plant is one I have actually planted – almost wherever possible in the North West, anyway. A water-lover, Gunnera amazes kids and has this built-in protective apparatus called thorns, lol, which keep people admiring from a distance. I guess it is the North West version of Cactus, in an odd way. But for sheer effect, few things beat the Gunnera for outrageousness.

This fern is getting ready as well. I have always loved seeing the way ferns “unfurl”. There is a sensuality to their development that is large and obvious. These plants become huge themselves over time and they show us why they are so severely pruned once finished for the year. Obviously, this plant loves starting over.

Even the reeds in the nearby lake are feeling their oats. With such a stunning local environment – the nearby golf course, the lake that separates the park from the golf course and all the just soothing sights and quiet sounds abounding here – this park remains one of my favorites the world over. I am personally delighted we take pride in our parks. I think the reasons for enjoying them – as well as my own personal feelings on the issue – are obvious in here.

There are abundant native plants as well. These Oregon Grapes are looking about as good as they can. Thise flowers will berry later in the season, yielding the Concord-like “grape” which gives this state plant its name.

Back to the rhododenrons – I can see I’ll have to divide this post up. Here are some splendid rhody shots of shameless beauty. I’ll finish my visit in another post. Enjoy………………

Man!ย  Is this one ready to “pop” or what?ย  ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thanks for dropping by. I’ll finish the visit in a couple days.

The Incredible Rhododendron – Crystal Springs Rodie Garden Again – Part 1

Well, I did it again. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I nearly blew up my camera taking pictures. I think I ended up with 132 clicks of the ole shutter. Now I find there are not 2 but 3 most definite Spring rotations to the blooms here. This visit would be during the “middle one” for catching the best and biggest blooms from Rhododendrons. Now, having said that, this is probably the very best time to catch all the other plants blooming as well – the Double File Viburnums, Azaleas, even the young but amazingly robust Ferns in the deep forest sitting by the waterfall and creek.

Any way you cut it, I am almost totally convinced there is no bad season here at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, set hard in the middle of Portland, Oregon.

Come along with me now and we’ll see what this gorgeous garden has going for it now.

(click all images to enlarge hugely)

First off – What made the day even more special were the large number of reasonably well-behaved kids, some brought by parents and some – like this unruly little crowd below – apparently on their own. It can be disturbing seeing this sort of wild behavior in Nature. It’s as if all these little ducklings cared about was swimming around and trying to have fun. If you look closely, I mean all you see is smiles.

The entry to the Garden is always spectacular. I absolutely cannot get enough of this particular vista. This view comes as you enter the very gate to the premises, where you find yourself pretty much above this large ravine they inherited, perfectly-shaded and so very lush and perfect for our blooming subjects. That one can concentrate so much condensed beauty into this space still astounds me.

We were delighted to see that some families were stunningly well-behaved. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The scene below gave us hope for our future on this planet. My friend did, however, have to go and mention what he noticed – it appears there is a remaining rebel – will this ever stop??? – following behind the lot.

Moving long now……. ๐Ÿ™‚ ……As we enter, we start getting peeks at what is to come. This is some serious acreage, so it all unfolds in various ways, depending on the route one takes. Among my favorite Japanese Maples in the world, this one has been a subject of more pictures from me than any other. Set hard in the midst of the park, it can be seen from almost anywhere, prominent and bronze. The color contrast it always offers just seems breathtaking to me.

We had visited here in another post a month or so ago and these Gunnera to the right had only peeked up just a tad. Well, they aren’t “tads” any more. Soon their growth will get simply outrageous as the leaves themselves will reach 6 feet in girth. Spikey, with these stickers that actually pack an irritating venom, these are great to look at and pleasantly lush and freaky, but you don’t want to go playing around in them. Better to find a bowl of Pirahna and wash one’s hands in some good old pork gravy.

In that prior post, we had seen the waterfall, featured below. At this time of year we now notice a virtual explosion of Hosta at the break separating the branching stream flows as well as the placement of those aforementioned Gunnera above.

As well, the young, unfurling Ferns we noticed back then have taken on a brand spanking and mighty powerful new look as well:

And now onto the stars of the show, the luscious and mind-bogglingly rich Rhododendrons.

I am convinced every color on the color chart is represented, along with some New Age – more electrical – colorations that even an advertiser could not match. From here to my last picture – a shot of a desperate family who apparently dropped their camera in the lake – I will just let you scroll and stroll a bit.

Bon voyage!

“Madge, dangit, where is the camera!ย  I know I dropped it around here somewhere. Blast#@&%!!?**$$#!!!!!”

“Good Lord, Henry, you dropped it again? Here, Eloise and I will give you a hand.”

Huge sigh. “Bottoms up! It has to be around here somewhere.”