SEATTLE — The world’s largest collection of species rhododendron is a short drive from downtown Seattle, at the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way.
The 22-acre “living museum” displays more than 700 species from every continent where they naturally grow. Conservation is also a critical part of the RSBG.
"Many of these plants are extremely rare or even extinct in the wild,” said Executive Director Steve Hootman.
He travels the world studying the species and bringing clippings back to the Pacific Northwest.
The rhodies bloom from mid-March to mid-May, but there are plenty of other things to see throughout the rest of the year.
June is a good time to view Himalayan blue poppies and giant lilies.
“They’re 12-foot high lilies with big white flowers, very fragrant,” Hootman said. “We have a pond, we have a rock garden, we have a lot of native forest. We have an open meadow where you see goldfinches."
During cold winter months, the Conservatory is an escape to the tropics.
"The conservatory is full of tropical rhododendrons and orchids and tree ferns and tropical blueberries, all kinds of interesting plants,” he said.
Visitors can also wander through the world’s largest public stumpery -- people come from other countries just to see it.
Tiana Waterbrook is a regular visitor with her 16-month-old daughter, who she began bringing before she was born.
"I did all my third trimester walking here and got all that cardio you're supposed to get,” she said. "After we had her we bring her here to see all the pretty flowers and trees and birds. This is like a sanctuary, it's just so calm and just relaxes you and helps you feel really good."
The RSBG is 30 minutes south of Seattle, right off I-5. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am – 4pm. Admission is $8 and kids under 12 get in free.
Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden | 2525 S 336th St, Federal Way, WA 98003