Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Friday Before

Last Saturday, Alison and I had a grand adventure in the Portland, Oregon area!  On the Friday before, I attended the semi annual Rhododendron Species Garden plant sale (Spring and Fall.)
The RSG exists on the campus of the Weyerhaeuser Company's corporate headquarters in Federal Way, WA in the same general area as the Weyerhaeuser's Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection. 

The day had been fairly rainy and about an hour before the sale opened,  the rain increased to the point that people thought of getting out umbrellas.  For those of you not familiar with this soggy area of the world, we only use umbrellas when the raindrops become so large that a single one could drown you.  Otherwise, we just ignore the rain as we've become accustomed to walking around with wet hair and moist clothes for nine months of the year.  As if  the fates wanted me to shop for plants , the rain subsided just as the sale opened.

One of the cool things about this sale is that it happens outside in a large parking lot so there is lots of space for shopping carts and for the vendors to spread out their wares.  Because this fundraiser is sponsored by the Rhododendron Species Garden, there are rhodies and azelias for sale and also vendors of all kinds of plants! This year, there were about 30 specialty growers/nurseries represented.

 There were lots of great plant offerings like these Sciadopitys verticillata.  I may have bought mine here several years ago.

I first saw and lusted after Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Sunlight Lace' at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in February.  I carried one around for a while but didn't get it.  This time, that beautiful foliage  forced me to put one in my cart.  It also has beautiful cinnamon-colored bark.

Embothrium coccineum are not a temptation for me this year because the one I bought a year ago has grown from this small size to about 4 feet tall.  There is new growth showing on it this spring and I'm hopeful that after trying unsuccessfully with this plant a couple of different times, I've finally given it the conditions it wants. 
 My favorite fuchsia, 'Autumnale' is hardy here in the ground and has even surprised me by returning for a repeat performance after being left out in a hanging pot all winter.  It has nice enough blooms but it's the gorgeous foliage I prize!  
Impatiens omeiana looking beautiful!

Everyone who can should have an Abutilon megapotamicum or several in his garden.  Here in the PNW, they begin blooming now and won't stop until December or so.  Due to our mild winter, mine didn't stop blooming until February and are starting again. Humming birds love this!
Speaking of familiar favorites, look who I found!    Who is that Rock Star?  Why it's the aforementioned Alison!  We had a great time checking out plant offerings together!

What is more fun than a beautiful shallow bowl full of sempervuvum?  One with a plastic dinosaur in it!

Or a motorcycle, your choice.

This Deutzia gracilis 'Variegata' was eye catching.   Will you kids please stop throwing your eyes?!

Geranium phaeum 'Margaret Wilson' was a serious temptation which I resisted.  I know where I can get them though should my resolve weaken. 

With a description like this, who wouldn't want one of these?

So into my cart it went!

Our plants are in the holding area somewhere.

I also had to buy a Rhododendron stenopetalum 'Linearifolium' because Grace posted such lovely pictures of hers!

Alison had to go pick Nigel up at the train station but I lingered a little longer.   I've been to this sale in both spring and fall for many years and have visited the nursery at the RSG but have never walked the gardens.  I had 20 minutes before the garden closed and during the sale, admission was free so I decided to walk over and see the garden. 

I had no idea how large the garden was, nor that 20 minutes was far to short a time to see more than a small fraction of this fabulous place. The brown indumentum on the undersides of the leaves of this rhododendron is gorgeous; those pesky blooms will go away soon!

"Twenty-two acres of year-round botanical splendor make up the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden. It is home to one of the largest collections of species rhododendrons and azaleas in the world. The RSBG continues to support the conservation, preservation, distribution and display of the rhododendron species. Some rhododendrons in the collection no longer exist in their wild habitat.Wild rhododendrons have a great diversity of size and shape with flowers that range in color from white to soft pink, clear yellow, brilliant red and into deep purple. Rhododendrons can range in size from ground hugging alpines to 100 foot trees. The RSBG collection consists of species from North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.A visit to the garden will increase your knowledge of these extraordinary plants that are growing among a forest of conifers and deciduous trees. Exploring the Rutherford Conservatory will provide you with a showcase of tropical rhododendrons as well as many other tropical plants. Hundreds of these beautiful tropical plants are set along a stream with a waterfall and towering boulders. There are over 10,000 rhododendrons in this woodland garden. A gazebo in the center of the garden gives an expansive overview of the landscape. Travel the garden paths to the Fern Stumpery, Alpine and Pond Gardens and the breathtaking Meconopsis Meadow (Himalayan Blue Poppy.) After enjoying this show come and browse the gift show and Plant Sale Pavilion.

So I walked fairly quickly to see as much as I could in such a limited time.  Sweet peony blooming on the forest floor.

Rhododendron campylogynum myrtilloides only grows a foot tall and has these shyly  nodding flowers.  The foliage is sweet too.  Who was I to resist when they were offered for sale at the Plant Sales Pavilion?
 There was so much to see at every turn.

Magnolia (macrophylla, I think) starting to wake up for summer.

So many paths; which to choose?

Again with the roads diverging in a yellow(?) wood.

Rhododendron lacteum

This place is only a 20 minute drive from my house and I've never been through the gardens.  What an amazing garden!  I can't wait to go back when I can investigate all of the paths and see what's around each corner!

Grove of Cardiocrinum giganteum with last year's  spent seed pods.

 It's a delight to see rhododendrons growing as they might in the wild.  Because some of them grow so quickly and are fairly inexpensive, they are often planted too close to houses or directly under windows by developers or homeowners who want a quick effect.  This leads to having what Anne Lovejoy calls a chainsaw relationship with one's garden.  Never fear, there are plants of all mature sizes and shapes in this versatile genus of over 1000 species.

This Schefflera macrophylla in the conservatory has put on some nice growth since I visited it last summer!

 As has this tree fern.

Collected in Taiwan by gifted plantsman Steve Doonan, this amazing Fern is hardy to at least single digits!  Mine is frustratingly slow to grow!  This is the largest one I've seen.

Agapetes somethingorother is quite handsome cascading over rocks.  Do you remember the huge  potted specimen that used to nearly fill one of the houses at Cistus Nursery in Oregon.  Le sigh. 
Hope you enjoyed our little whirlwind tour of the Rhododendron Species Garden and are looking forward to further exploration of this special place!

While we're driving or walking around the 500 acre  campus, the Weyerhaeuser Corporate Headuarters building is rather interesting to look at!   The building is classified as a dam and on the other side of the building there is a lake;  on this side, an expansive meadow.

Here is one of the tiered parking lots and below, you can see the lake.  Bald Eagles soar over the lake and the views from inside the building are spectacular!

Canadian geese love to nest in all of that ivy which is very close to walkways.  Mama geese can get very protective when they're sitting on their nests.  Fun times!
Here are some fun facts from the Weyerhaeuser website:

Our Unique Building

Our many operations around the world coordinate with our Corporate Headquarters in Federal Way, WA. Built in 1971, our Corporate Headquarters building was made to blend with its surroundings and enhance the Northwest character of the 500-acre site and has received awards for architectural design, environmental design, interior space planning, and energy conservation. The building and grounds are host to:
  • An ivy-planted rooftop terraces that link the 354,000-square foot, five story facility at either end with the natural landscape that surrounds it.
  • 400 glass panels, creating the largest set of nonsash window walls in the world.
  • Interior wood paneling made by a Weyerhaeuser plant from teak-finished American white oak.
  • More than 1,000 large-scale interior plants, representing 40+ species, which along with their aesthetic beauty, help break up sound waves and provide privacy.
  • A 10-acre lake fed by Hylebos Creek.
  • An American flag that flies from a 120-foot, 9,400-pound Douglas-fir flagpole crafted at a Weyerhaeuser plant.
  • A beautiful art collection.
  • The Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection.
  • The Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden.
  • Miles of walking and running paths open to the public.


  1. Your Embothrium is 4ft tall!? Wow...I hope mine is similarly happy. Love that you captured that 'rockstar' photo of Alison, perfect!

    1. I've heard that they grow quickly but before, mine have stayed the same size, produced a leaf or two, dropped leaves, looked sad and died. It seems like yesterday that I was carrying mine around in a plastic bag at the NWFGS last year. He came with us to lunch that day. Since he was such charming company, has decided to live and is from Chile, perhaps he should be called Alejandro. What do you think?

  2. Beautiful gardens and the Weyerhauser building looks amazing. Nice overview of twenty two acres in twenty minutes. It seems you could be at a nursery, plant sale, or public garden almost every weekend in your area. The Agapetes is stunning. All those pesky flowers will go away soon so you can enjoy your next visit to the garden.

    We don't use umbrellas either because the rain usually doesn't last long enough and is so rare we relish the idea of being outside and damp at the same time.

    1. The similarities between Texas and Washington are quite interesting!

      The nice thing about the Weyerhauser campus is that it's open to the public, an absolutely beautiful place to stroll, and there are security vehicles that patrol on a regular basis. I don't remember hearing of any bad things happening to walkers, joggers, etc. in that area.

  3. It's such a beautiful garden! I went on Saturday last year and had a nice long walk all around. I was so impressed that the rain stopped when it did.

    I'm tempted to buy an Embothrium, but they're all so small. I want a big one. But maybe I should just buy one at the next plant sale, since your very happy one grew pretty tall in just one year. What conditions do you have it planted in?

    1. I have been told by folks who know that Embothrium grow quickly (15 feet in 5 years,) do better in the ground, and that it's better to plant seedlings than larger specimens. I followed these pointers from the Oregonian:
      1. Plant tree with roots shaded and tops in sun. Best is if the sun is blocked by other plants, ground covers or woody mulch.
      2. Plant tree in lean soil rather than rich, amended, composty soil.
      3. Plant tree in well-draining soil – a slight slope to the north or east is ideal.
      4. Avoid fertilizing, particularly with any fertilizer containing phosphorus or potassium, which can kill Embothrium.
      5. Avoid watering during warm weather. (This can be a challenge with a new young tree but you just have to be careful – try to water a young tree before a heat wave, or in the cool of the night. And avoid the problem by planting early in spring, or in the autumn, so the tree roots in during cool weather.)

      Sean Hogan's book has more detailed cultural information.

  4. I see many return visits in your future. One of the nicest features of the Rhododendron Society's sales here is the staffing by knowledgeable members who can answer any question (at length, so you want to be careful about getting them going).
    I'll take my sempervivums neat, thank you.

    1. You're very good at seeing into the future; can you help me with some Lottery numbers?

  5. That rhododendrum garden is gorgeous!

  6. How very interesting - a building that's a dam! Kinda scary, really. I am impressed with the size of that plant sale! And I'm glad you got the 'Sunlight Lace'. Just gorgeous. I laughed at the term 'chainsaw relationship'. I have that relationship with a few of my plants!

    1. Oh you know, it's always some dam thing or another. The builin dams a creek to make the lake. It's not situated in a deep canyon like the hoover dam or anyghing. Still it's fun to think about.

  7. I completely agree about rhodies in small urban lots--they are like chained beasts, pruned to fit beneath windows. They are so much prettier in the wild. Thanks for the tour!

  8. You have many lovely places to visit in your living area. Once again you show us such a great garden. Thank you for sharing your visit with us, Peter.

    1. We are very lucky. The pleasure was mine, Satu!

  9. I have driven past the signs to turn off the freeway and visit the site so many times and have never gone. After this post, I will have to find my way there. Obviously spring is the perfect time to visit and see the Rhodies in bloom. Gorgeous. Thanks for sharing Peter! Cheers, Jenni

    1. I was surprised and kicked myself for not visiting earlier. Like Arnold, I'll be back! It really is worth the time to see the wonderful garden.

  10. You grow so many plants I've never heard of. I probably would have bought one of everything at that plant sale. :o) Looks like a wonderful day!

    1. Go (North) West, young woman! You'd love gardening here and we're pretty liberal regarding shed usage!

  11. What an awesome post, so full of eye-candy and information. I would love to have a garden like the one you walked through (complete with a gardener.) Yeah, I know, but I like to dream :)

    1. Many of us share your dream. A team of gardeners might be even better!

  12. Don't you just love this time of year? You've really been cleaning up at the sales. Due to colder than normal spring weather, nurseries around here have been slow to stock. I've been driving around like a nut picking up odds and ends here and there. Having it all in one place would be fabulous.

    A friend of mine retired from Weyerhauser a few years ago. She was in HR. I'll have to ask her if she worked in that building.

    1. YES! I love this time of year. Everything is springing to life and the nurseries here are stocked to the gills. Mothers' Day is the biggest sales day of the year for nurseris here so it's a great time to go nursery hopping and plant sale hunting.

      I have a dear friend who has worked in HR at Weyerhauser for the last 25 years or so, they might have known each other! Small world.

  13. hi og, so much in this post to comment on. Very unusual interesting building and fabulous garden. What a lovely climate for gardens, with all that rain. Good luck with your Australian mint bush!

    1. We are lucky to garden here. It's rainy for much of the year but usually July through October,we get litte, if any, rain. Thanks for the mint well wishes! I'll think of you Australian garden bloggers whenever I smell it!

  14. What a fun trip Peter. I'm glad you found yourself a Spider Azalea. Mine is just about finished blooming and I've been painstakingly deadheading as a form of therapy. :) I definitely need me some Impatiens omeiana and that mint bush is interesting. I had a different species Prostanthera years ago but it was too tender and died during a brutal winter. This one looks like a better candidate. I'm equally enamored by Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Sunlight Lace.'

    The gardens look wonderful.


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your thoughts.