TRAVEL THERE: CRYSTAL SPRINGS RHODODENDRON GARDEN, PORTLAND OR
Welcome to Oregon! Well, sort of. In June my husband and I spent twelve days traveling the state and now I’m sharing the experience with you. I’ll tell you about the attractions we visited, the meals we ate and where we stayed. Maybe you’ll decide you want to visit Oregon, too. Today’s focus is Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland OR.
If you read my post about Marketing vs. Operations a week or so ago, then you know the first day of my trip didn’t go as planned. Instead of arriving in the morning, getting the rental car and beginning our sightseeing, weather had us scrambling to take care of the necessities late in the the evening . It’s not my favorite travel memory.
Getting to Crystal Springs
But back to the garden. Gardens are a high priority on my list. After losing a day, some folks would have been tempted to merely forego the first day’s itinerary and pick up on the second day, but I wasn’t going to miss the garden. Most guidebooks don’t rate Crystal Springs as a must-see attraction,
but I think they’re wrong. And so does my husband. He said it was the best garden he’d ever seen.
It’s sort of off the beaten track. There’s no real address. Even the garden’s website just lists an intersection and our GPS is iffy about intersections. It did get us in the neighborhood, where there were a few signs pointing towards the garden, but be prepared to stumble around a little bit to find it.
We arrived before 10 AM, which means we got in for free. After 10, it’s only $3 and I’ve paid ten times more to see a lot less. The day was overcast and a little misty. We had the garden virtually to ourselves. We did find one guy sitting on a bench, writing in a journal and stumbled upon a class being taught to a handful of ladies in a corner of the garden, but besides that it was just us and the ducks.
From the second we stepped through the entry portal we felt as if we’d wandered into an alternate reality. Perhaps the weather helped create the other-worldly atmostphere, but we found ourselves speaking to one another in hushed tones. The garden felt like an open air cathedral designed by a master gardener.
I found it amazing that the garden was past its peak, yet still breath-taking. I first planned this vacation for mid-May when the garden puts its best foot forward. Because I love gardens, I kept it on the itinerary and I’m so glad. I think Crystal Springs would be lovely anytime of year, but the first blooms peek out in April and Mother’s Day is supposed to be glorious. We were there for an hour or so and would have stayed longer, but the mist became a hard rain. You don’t need to devote that much time to it, but we had a new camera we were acquainting ourselves with. Well that – and we love gardens.
The Volunteer Factor
Here’s a few things I found interesting about the garden. In case you didn’t know, rhododendron is the family of plants that includes azaleas, but you’ll find more than azaleas at Crystal Springs. The garden is pretty much a volunteer proposition. It’s a city park, but virtually everything that happens there, from design to maintenance, is done by volunteers. I think this may be the reason it’s so under-hyped – and perhaps so charming. It’s a labor of love, not a business proposition.
The garden once belonged to a private citizen and has been through several manifestations. The first rhododendrons were planted in 1917 according to the garden’s website. Today it is a gardener’s paradise. The entry to the garden sinks below the road level protecting it from invasive traffic sounds, then a lovely golf course sets the other boundaries, which isolates the garden from the world. You can escape here, for a little while.
These pictures are the ones we took. I hope they inspire you to make a visit yourself. Our next stop is Lan Su Chinese Garden. You’ll love it, too, so come back next Monday.