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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).