Thursday, April 1, 2010

Where Rhodies Rule

It’s that time of year when large clumps of pink and purple flowers begin showing off in front yards throughout Pacific Northwest neighborhoods. Our mix of moisture, mild weather, and acidic soil, make this region a Rhododendron paradise.
The plant’s diversity is amazing. With a native habitat ranging from 19,000’ alpine meadows in Nepal to tropical regions in Northern Australia and the wind-swept coast of Scotland, the rhododendron exhibits a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. The blooming season can extend from early January to mid-summer, but April and May are the peak times for most of our local plants. Fortunately, there are a number of outstanding public and private gardens in the Pacific Northwest dedicated to this species.

Best known in the Portland area is the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden located in the southeast section of the city, between Reed College and the Eastmoreland Golf Course. Once an overgrown, abandoned patch of brambles and brush, the garden was co-founded in 1950 by the Portland Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society and the city Parks and Recreation department. Today, its seven acres include winding paths, a spring-fed lake, waterfalls, bridges, and a wide variety of birds and waterfowl. With over 2500 rhododendron, azaleas, and companion plants, the garden offers a dazzling display of color this time of year.
 I visited the park today and many of the plants are displaying their full glory while others are still thinking about it. Happening this weekend (Saturday April 6) is the Early Show and Plant Sale. Check it out.

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