Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sun, Rhodies and a Plant Sale

I went to the plant sale at the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way today (Saturday). What a great sale! A large number of small nursery vendors took over about half the parking lot area of the garden. It was warm and sunny (in fact, I got sunburned, d'oh!) I took one long turn around, looking at everything, and then went back and picked up all the things that I had noted the first time around. They had a few grocery type shopping carts as well, and I managed to snag one. Fill 'er up!

There were plenty of plant vendors and plants to choose from!

After the sale, I locked my new purchases in the car (hoping they wouldn't get too hot in there), and checked out the Rhododendron garden. I'm not a big fan of rhodies, to be honest. Yes, they're evergreen, but I've never grown one that had dense enough boughs to make a good screen. And they flower briefly in the spring (right now in fact), and then just ordinary leaves for the rest of the year. They seem to have a tendency to get twiggy and weak down below, which means they look somewhat better if you limb them up. But that, of course, makes them even less effective screens.

It's a lovely shaded walk from the parking lot to the garden.

But they are beautiful when they flower.

They smell nice too. I never noticed a scent on the rhodie I grew in my garden in Massachusetts. But there was definitely a lovely, delicate scent in the air at the garden.

This bumble bee's butt didn't even twitch as I approached. I managed to get a picture using my macro setting, up close and personal.

I came around a curve in the path, from shade into bright sunlight, and saw this hanging overhead. Just beautiful!

Fortunately, if you're not that into rhodies, there are plenty of other plants there to amaze you.

This Arbutus menziesii is a fascinating specimen, with its twisty branches.

The trunk had the trademark peeling bark.

Under some trees a little further on is an enormous clump of Solomon's seal, looking to me like ballet dancers.

Many were about to flower.

Others were still emerging.

Stumps and logs everywhere were covered with various kinds of moss.

I came around another curve in the path and was confronted by this intriguing collection of stumps and twisted limbs. Is this what they call a stumpery? It was like a magical fairy tale land. I fully expected a wood nymph, or one of Tolkien's elves, to appear.

Rocks and soil were still caught in the roots of an upturned stump

Look at that blue sky!

A magnolia tree was also flowering.

I only just scratched the surface of what's there at the Rhododendron Species Garden. There was so much more to see, but I was afraid my plants were frying in the car.

So what did I buy?

Peltoboykinia tellimoides -- I had never heard of this before, but I couldn't pass up those leaves!

Oplopanax horridus, a native whose common name is devil's club

Look at those spikes on the stem!

Even the underside and top of the leaf bristles!

Filipendula 'Red Umbrellas'

Jeffersonia diphylla (aka twinleaf), an eastern native. I always wanted one when I lived back east.

Saxifraga x geum 'Dentata'

Aren't those the cutest leaves ever?

Begonia grandis

Cardoons, which are edible, but I bought them for the foliage

Two shrubs, -- Callistemon subulatus and Grevillea 'Poorinda Leane.'

I bought the shrubs from The Desert Northwest. I emailed Ian Barclay, the owner, and requested that he set them aside for me, and he very gladly did! He chose fine specimens for me.

I hope you enjoyed coming along with me on my outing. I really want to go back and see even more of the garden! There's a lot I missed.

If you want to learn more about the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, check out this link.


  1. Beautiful! I love the enchanted walk to the gardens. And there is something so lovely about the arbutus, I wish they would grow here. Nice purchases, can't wait to start shopping!

  2. The glade o' stumps looks like the perfect place for Dryad's to habit :) Oh, I do envy you getting to go to plant sales! Great choices, it will be fun to see where you place all of your new treasures :) Cheers, Jenni

  3. You got some great plants at the sale, Alison! I think Loree is luring you over to the spiky side seeing that Oplopanax horridus. And I think you have excellent taste in choosing the Saxifraga dentata (just as I did a few weeks ago) ;) I think you'll love the Calistemmon and the Grevillea, too. Great shopping!

  4. I'm like you, not overly fond of Rhodies and Azaleas but this time of year, I love to admire them from a distance. I love the gnarly old roots and logs. And the moss of course is wonderful. Your purchases are delicious. Last year a friend gave me a slip of the Saxifrage. I figured I'd lost it but it looks fabulous this year. Those leaves are to die for. Thanks for taking us along. I got sunburned yesterday too. It felt wonderful.

  5. What a fun day!! I love your new plants. I've seen Devil's club and the thorns always scare me :)
    I'm not a huge rhodie fan either, although I rarely say that because it seems to be sacrilege around the PNW to not like them. I have two huge ones that are probably original to our yard and they are really pretty in bloom and probably nothing else would grow where they are so they stay. We did cut about 4 giant ones down in full bloom in our front yard right after we moved in. I'm sure out neighbors thought we were nuts, but I don't miss them a bit.

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