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Digital Dirt    May 10, 2001

Field Trip to The Rhododendron Species Foundation Garden

R. irroratum
R. irroratum's fruit punch foliage

You can have Disneyland, I'll take the Rhododendron Species Foundation Garden (sad, yes, but true). We hit this place (it's south of Seattle on I-5) a week ago, just in time to see a number of plants at their peak.

I'm telling you, the emerging foliage on these supremely wonderful shrubs is no less than a reason to live. I couldn't stop screaming with delight, the whole time we were there. The joy of species rhodies vs. your garden variety behemoth comes down to one word: leaves. Who needs flowers when you can have vermillion bud scales and young leaves like lime green rabbit ears?

R. macabeanum
R. macabeanum's bud scales and baby bunny leaves
R. strigillosum
The stars of R. strigillosum

Both of the above views come once a year: on the left, a burst of big-leaved rhodie growth, and on the right, a newborn cluster of the R. strigillosum (no idea if there's even a common name) in all its startling symmetry. I couldn't get a good picture of the spiderweb-like hairs that announce the upcoming leaves, but the sight's easily one of the most blissful come early spring.

Gentian and Hacquetia
Gentiana acaulis 'Clusii' and Hacquetia epipactis

Of course I'm not entirely blind to flowers, particularly this killer combo, blue gentian and the fading beauty of a wonderful late winter bloomer, Hacquetia. Without a rock garden, though, I wouldn't try this at home.
             Ketzel

 

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