Stroll Among The Trees and Shrubs at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden

May 6, 2019 By , , ,

Located just minutes from downtown Portland near Reed College, the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is a riot of color in the spring.

The botanical garden has over nine acres of spectacular specimens of rhododendron and azalea planted alongside Crystal Springs Lake, which is fed by the property’s natural springs. The meandering paths that take you across bridges and alongside waterfalls are surrounded by flowering plants of every size, shape, and blooming stage.

The garden was established in 1950, but some of the rhododendron specimens have been growing here for over 100 years. As you stroll among the rhododendrons, you may be struck by their size. Many of us know rhododendrons as foundation shrubs in our Portland-area yards, but some of the specimens in this botanical garden reach tree-like heights and provide a continuous forested canopy to walk under. The shade in the image above is provided by stately white-flowering rhododendrons.

The garden grows as a multi-storied forest with visually complimentary evergreen trees like the western red cedar and Douglas-fir towering over the tall rhododendrons, which shade the low-growing azaleas. The unopened blooms and small leaves on the low-growing azalea seen above at left grows in contrast to its neighboring 15-foot tall rhododendron with six-inch leaves and clustered open blooms.

Botanically speaking, azaleas are a series of the huge group of rhododendron. These evergreen and deciduous shrubs generally grow best in filtered sunlight, high moisture, and well-drained soil. The amount of sunlight each variety can tolerate varies and a visit to the garden might help you determine which variety to plant in a particular site in your yard, as many of the plants are labeled.

The Portland chapter of the American Rhododendron Society holds an annual plant sale on Mother’s day weekend at the garden in May. This is during peak bloom time and is a great opportunity to begin growing a variety of rhododendron you admired growing in its full glory at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.