Seattle In The Springtime
Bob and Marge Badger
If you have never seen Seattle and the Pacific Northwest in the springtime then you must come to the ARS Convention in Bellevue and the first International Rhododendron Species Symposium in Fife in late April and early May.
For those of you who have never visited our glorious Pacific Northwest in the springtime we should perhaps describe a typical rhododendron lover's year here in our gardens. When most people still have winter, our spring is starting. Those of our members whose gardens lie in close proximity to Puget Sound - say within a hundred feet or so of elevation above the water - experience such a unique climate that it is hard to describe to those of you who have not experienced it. We have stood before plants of R. dauricum in full bloom at Thanksgiving time and R. mucronulatum in full bloom on New Years day. We have seen the first trusses of 'Nobleanum Venustum' floated in a bowl as a centerpiece on a Thanksgiving Day table. 'Lee's Scarlet' unfolding its trusses on an early December day and 'Olive' gracing the garden on a chilly early January morning. R. floribundum (with its raucous light purple flowers), anthosphaerum (with flowers of a soft pinkish cast), barbatum (with glowing red flowers), and lanigerum (with its large trusses of flowers of pink and red tones) all vying for attention in a February garden, trying their best to steal the attention away from the smaller rhododendrons such as R. moupinense, 'Bo Peep' and 'Yellow Hammer'.
Yet just four miles away, as the crow flies, from the Saltchuck climate, the frosty mornings may have delayed the blooming of the same plants by as much as six to eight weeks. The myriad of microclimates in our Pacific Northwest are so varied as to enable a gathering of rhododendron lovers to display the same plants in bloom the same day though actually they bloom two months apart in their respective gardens. We rhododendron lovers in the Northwest always experience this condition and consider it the norm.
Towards the end of February and early March the "big-leafed" species and some of their hybrids begin their dazzling displays and we are swept into our spring with the earliest daffodils, flowering cherries and the other multitudes of flowering shrubs and trees.
As April approaches the intensity of the spring flowering comes in great waves of color and several early rhododendron competitions are held by various chapters to celebrate the full arrival of spring. By this time of the year the Northwest hybridizers are beginning to see the first flowering results of their newest creations. April is filled with the daily opening of new and varied flowers in everyone's gardens. The infrequent frosts of early spring are usually ended sometime in early April throughout our region and the great variety of earlier European hardier hybrids have begun their bloom cycle. These are of course those rhododendrons that the general public is most aware of.
By early May several dozen rhododendron shows are in progress around the greater Pacific Northwest and gardens and parks are filled with large spectacular blooming rhododendrons and azaleas of every color. Have you ever seen our Pacific Northwest in earliest May? Have you ever seen our Puget Sound area in earliest May? Have you ever seen Seattle in the springtime? If you have not, then change your plans immediately and come to Bellevue for the ARS Annual Convention and tours. Come a little earlier and attend the R.S.F. International Species Symposium at Fife just some twenty-five miles away
At the time of writing this article in mid January our Tour Committee has just notified us that an additional garden has been added to the North Tour in the Seattle area. We have been privileged to be invited to stop at the garden of a former well known ARS President, Mr. Edward Dunn. This is an unusually fine garden featuring an outstanding display of the earlier hybrid creations of Half-dan Lem, Endre Ostbo and other hybridizers of that era. Many of the specimen plants have now obtained a mature size that is almost unknown in most gardens. This will enable the visitors to evaluate these plants for use in their own gardens. Ed's garden is on a relatively flat site with large lawn expanses, a cover of tall conifers providing dappled shade. It extends outward from the home in a remarkably unified concept. It is a very pleasant garden in which to walk in, to chat with friends, to enjoy and to photograph. We strongly recommend that you bring an extra roll of camera film just for this garden.