It’s Spring Time Again at the Bellevue Botanical Garden


Despite the wettest weather we’ve had on record, signs of spring are everywhere in the Pacific Northwest. I visit the Bellevue Botanical Garden at this time of year to admire the plants, flowers and trees that remind me that this is the season of rejuvenation. The garden is undergoing extensive renovation to improve the visitor’s experience. Remarkably, admission is free of charge. Located just off the urban core where Bellevue’s downtown area is experiencing explosive growth—too much steel, concrete and highrise for my taste—the garden is a sanctuary of quiet, serenity and beauty.

Bellevue Botanical Garden
12001 Main Street
Bellevue, WA 98005
425.452.2750

Orchids of the Atlanta Botanical Garden


I thought I’d seen almost all the interesting orchids there were to see. I’d been to several world-class botanical gardens, each with very fine orchid specimens. When I walked into the Fuqua Orchid Center of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, I knew from the outset that the collection was exceptional. What I saw was only a portion of the 2,000 species that the center cultivates. Come back in a couple of months and the display will be different. The gallery of images below makes no attempt at identification and certainly is a small portion of the (then) current exhibit.


Chiles Growing in Seattle?


While no one would ever mistake the climate in the Seattle area for Mexico or the Southwest, or eastern Washington even, King County Master Gardeners are intent on proving that chiles can grow quite successfully in our climate. True, they will never develop the legendary heat of Hatch chiles, but it is possible for our gardens to produce more than just bell peppers. No doubt, our unprecedented run of warm, dry weather was responsible for a surprisingly robust crop. I was struck by the variety that was growing in the Bellevue Demonstration Garden. These were just a few varieties.

Of New Zealand Dahlias


Not only was I captivated by Hagley Park’s begonia display but its dahlia border garden, too. The dahlias occupy a small strip along the periphery of the much larger rose garden, a great attraction in itself. The stunning variety represents the hybridizer’s craft. On one end are the single-row specimens from their native Mexico. How they were hybridized into much more complex forms is and will remain a mystery to me. This amazing morphological variation is showcased in the much larger dahlia garden section by flowers developed by New Zealand horticulturists, including the intriguing ‘cactus’ varieties.

Double-Flowered Begonias, Townend House (Christchurch, NZ)


In January-March, flower lovers are treated to one of the most spectacular displays of begonias in the world. Townend House, part of the Hagley Park Conservatory, has a seasonal exhibit of double-flowered begonias, many of them hybridized by New Zealand horticulturists. All I could do was gawk—and snap away with my camera.

Redwood + Ivy, Hagley Park (Christchurch, NZ)


Hagley Park in Christchurch has some magnificent sequoia redwood specimens. I happened to be walking past one when I noticed something odd. Seemingly growing right out of the base of the trunk was an ivy, incredibly old by the looks of it, appearing more like tropical vines, a growth that needed to be cut out. It apparently is doing no damage to the tree. The more I stared at it, the more I admired its artistic effect and the chutzpah it took for the caretakers to leave it alone.

Is It Autumn in the Northwest?


No, we’re still enjoying Spring. But, the Bellevue Botanical Garden has these nice Japanese maples with reddish foliage: a laceleaf (Acer palmatum ‘Garnet’, above) and tree (Acer palmatum ‘Burgundy Lace’, below).

maple-bbg

Washington Park Japanese Garden (Portland, OR)


Moss is your friend.

At least, that’s what I try to tell my friends who’ve been battling to remove it from their Seattle lawns. I have long since given moss full sway in my front yard rather than covering it with sod. I’m allergic to grass anyway. After many years of inattention, there is a luxurious moss carpet underlying mature cedars and rhododendron plants and providing a home for ferns, salal, Oregon grape and periwinkle that would do a Japanese garden proud.

And so it is with the Japanese garden in Washington Park. It seems that mosses cover every square inch of this beautiful garden, considered one of the most authentic outside of Japan. I recall coming here with my family many moons ago without the reaction both my wife and I had today. The garden has greatly matured since our last visit and there has been added a beautiful gravel footpath beyond the entrance gate that is a preview of what treasures lay inside and an alternate way to the ticket booth from the parking lot. Otherwise, a shuttle can take you the long way.

We noticed the very mature Japanese maples, many of them very tall, which signifies significant age since they grow so slowly. The laceleaf maples, many of them quite old, have been beautifully shaped and maintained. A stunning specimen was just outside the pavilion whose leafy, domed canopy can be enjoyed from the veranda or whose spectacular twisted trunk and branch structure can be admired at ground level. Doubtless that at the peak of fall color, the garden will be ablaze in red and orange hues. In a different way, the colors must be spectacular at the peak of rhododendron, azalea and camellia season, too; only a few specimens were still in bloom today.

Otherwise, the garden can be appreciated for its sense of tranquility and design of spaces defined by trees, shrubs, water, rocks, changes in elevation, even man-made structures like footpaths, teahouse, bridges, shelters or stone pagodas. Also admirable is the meticulousness with which every aspect of the garden is maintained, from the careful pruning and snipping of plants with tiny trimming shears to the hours required to rake and shape the rock gardens.

And, of course, there is the moss.

Even if the weather was inclement, we were very impressed. I thought Seattle’s garden was nice, but Portland’s is vastly superior, so striking is the difference.

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Spring in the Bellevue Botanical Garden


The recent run of good weather made it ideal for us to visit a local garden and admire the springtime displays. One of the small horticultural treasures in the Seattle area is the Bellevue Botanical Garden, a stone’s throw away from the Bellevue commercial district. It’s a resource for gardeners and a showcase for flowers, shrubs and trees that are native or adapt well to our climate. Despite the northern latitudes, many plants thrive quite well here because of the moderating influence of the Japanese ocean current and our legendary moisture. The garden recently expanded its mission by acquiring adjacent properties to include native wetlands and woodlands.

The images below (specimens are not labeled) show that there is much to enjoy at this time of year.  They were taken on two separate visits (today and April 24).
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