JARS v44n4 - A Pilgrimage to the Pacific Northwest

A Pilgrimage to the Pacific Northwest
Felice Blake
Kallista, Victoria, Australia

"This spring's superb adventure calls..." And so it did and found me exploring gardens of the Pacific Northwest in the spring last year. What a rewarding adventure it was. So, if you have not visited the Northwest, perhaps you would like to join me on my pilgrimage to some of the many fascinating gardens I saw in this favoured part of the rhododendron world. We will not venture, at this time, into those famed and captivating gardens in and around Victoria, British Columbia, as they have already quite recently been featured in the ARS Journal .
We will fly south from Victoria down past magnificent Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens to Portland, Oregon, where garden visits were a continuing delight. We have all read about and seen photos of the Portland Chapter's precious Cecil and Molly Smith Garden at St. Paul. This garden was high on the priority list. This is an old, established, mainly woodland garden brimful of quality, with subtle blendings of many harmonious colours. A number of rhododendrons were in flower lighting up the woodland. I saw two lovely children of 'Noyo Chief, raised by Cecil Smith: the deep pink 'Noyo Brave' and the white 'Noyo Maiden'. The pale moonlight colour of 'Lionel's Triumph' from Exbury demanded and received due attention. The lovely blue 'Crater Lake' made a fitting foil for the aptly named 'Goldstrike', whilst Rhododendron davidsonianum in both the 'Ruth Lyons' and 'Exbury' forms provided a sheet of glowing pink.

R. 'Noyo Brave'
'Noyo Brave', Cecil and Molly Smith Garden,
St. Paul, Oregon
Photo by Felice Blake

A most interesting aspect of this garden lies in the companion planting. Drifts of Trillium ovatum , erythroniums, anemones, cyclamen and dodecatheons added so much to my enjoyment. More about this garden was included in the Summer 1989 and Spring 1990 ARS Journals.
Other gardens visited in Portland included Crystal Springs Garden and Berry Botanic Garden both of which were also mentioned in the Summer 1989 ARS Journal . I particularly recall the serene lakeside setting at Crystal Springs making a beautiful backdrop to the massed rhododendrons. Whilst at the Berry Botanic Garden I was intrigued by the collection of old stone troughs housing interesting alpines. I also enjoyed seeing the fascinating rock garden in addition to the rhododendron collection.
North of Portland just across the mighty Columbia River, I visited the garden of Dr. David and Betty Goheen at Camas, Washington. Dr. Goheen is one of the number of hybridisers interested in indumented species and hybrids. To me this is one of the most important aspects of hybridising, as foliage ranks equally in significance to the flowers. One of Dr. Goheen's great successes is his 'Neat-O' with beautiful indumentum inherited from its parents, R. campanulatum and R. yakushimanum 'Koichiro Wada'. On my visit, this rhododendron was just about bursting into flower from striking rose-pink buds. There were, of course, many other notable rhododendrons in this seven acre garden.
Quite some distance away southwest of Portland lies the most charming garden of Connie Hansen at the coastal town of Lincoln City. An aura of tranquility surrounds this garden with its wealth of plant variety, including many rhododendrons. But plantings of exquisite double primroses were, to me, one of the most outstanding features of the garden.
As a member of the Rhododendron Species Foundation at Federal Way, Washington, I looked forward with keen anticipation to our visit there. Actually I made two visits ten days apart, so I was fortunate in seeing a great number of species in flower. There are over five hundred species in this twenty-four acre garden, so there is much of note, and on both visits I was fortunate to have very knowledgeable companions. There is a great view of part of the garden from the gazebo across the rock garden, with its dwarf rhododendrons, to the pond beyond. Approaching the gazebo I particularly admired the plantings of R. yakushimanum . But there were many highlights, a perfect dome-shaped bush of R. pseudochrysanthum , the lovely yellow R. wardii KW470, R. campanulatum 'Knap Hill', the beautiful pink R. orbiculare , the unusual R. cinnabarinum var. blandfordiaeflorum and much more. This garden is a must for every rhododendron lover.

Rhododendron orbiculare
Rhododendron orbiculare ,
Rhododendron Species Foundation, Federal Way, Washington
Photo by Felice Blake

A visit to Port Ludlow, Washington, and Warren Berg's incredible garden was most memorable, with the emphasis on the choicest species, and the wonderful collection of Warren's own dwarf hybrids, especially the charming moonlight yellows. Outstanding among the species included, I thought, were Rhododendron pronum , R. globigerum , R. recurvoides , R. pachysanthum , R. anthopogonoides and the most perfect specimen I've seen of R. proteoides .

Warren Berg's garden, Port Ludlow, 
Warren Berg's garden, Port Ludlow, Washington
Photo by Felice Blake

Vancouver, Canada, is noted for its gardens, and there were a myriad to visit: the University of British Columbia including the Asian Garden, VanDusen, Queen Elizabeth Park, Minter, Stanley Park, the unique Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and many notable private gardens. The Asian Garden was of particular interest, apart from the collection of rhododendrons, many other Asiatic plants claimed attention, including drifts of primulas. The wonderful stands of the giant Himalayan lily, Cardiocrinum giganteum , alas! were not in flower but showing promise of the glories to come.
The VanDusen garden demands a return visit, there was so much to absorb and there were many highlights: the beautiful lake, lovely vistas, rhododendron banks, the laburnum walk. I saw private gardens both large and small, hillside gardens, woodland gardens. One lovely garden was backed by lakes with massed old rhododendrons in full glory including 'Rainbow', 'Susan', 'May Day', 'C.I.S.', 'Exbury Naomi', 'Lamplighter' and the beautiful yellow 'Mrs. Lammot Copeland'. One could go on and on!

R. 'Mrs. Lammot Copeland'
'Mrs. Lammot Copeland', Dr. Otto's garden,
West Vancouver, British Columbia
Photo by Felice Blake

Here, I pause for a moment's reflection on the Pacific Northwest, and many facets spring to mind. I think of the wonderful gardens that seemed blessed with an extra glow, woodland gardens in North Saanich, in Woodinville and Lake Oswego; hillside gardens in North Vancouver and Malahat; gardens with fabulous water views in Vancouver, Sidney, and Whidbey Island; gardens in Shelton, Sequim and Port Angeles with the magnificent backdrop of the snow-capped Olympics; gardens from the smallest to large acreages, all replete with a host of bewitching plants; gardens, fifty-eight in all, so it is not feasible to mention each one. I remember twelve memorable plant nurseries with a wealth of plant material to enrich gardens in the Northwest.
I think of the warm hospitality I enjoyed. I think of gracious homes with fascinating architecture featuring the beauty of the native timbers. I think of memorable meals with good friends. I think of the superb scenery, already alluded to, but I also think of Mt. Baker arising from the rosy mists of sunset. I think of the twinkling lights of Vancouver at night viewed from Grouse Mountain. I think of the wonderful conifer clad hillsides, of deer by the roadside, of squirrels scampering through the trees, of tiny exquisite humming birds at home in so many gardens.
Above all I think of those kind friends without whose enthusiasm my trip to the Northwest would not have become a reality - to each and every one of them my grateful thanks...

Felice Blake, a regular contributor to the ARS Journal, visited the Pacific Northwest in the spring of 1989. Many ARS members had the pleasure of meeting her as she toured the area and attended the ARS convention in Victoria, British Columbia.