- PORTLAND -
Nestled between a college and a golf course, this garden is home to more than 2,500 rhododendrons.
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden started as an idea of a rhododendron garden. Sam Jackson, a Portland local who owned the Oregon Journal, donated 27 acres for the garden on a site near Terwilliger Boulevard. But the land turned out to be too steep and rocky. The garden was moved to a site once known as Shakespearean Island, due to its history as an outdoor stage for Reed College students performing the works of the bard. Though less steep than the former site, Shakespearean Island was overgrown, dense with brush and blackberries that were cleaned up by volunteers. Crystal Springs held its first rhododendron show in 1956 and became an official garden in 1964.
Today, the garden is lush and sprawling, with more than 2,500 rhododendrons and other plants. Spurting fountains and meandering trails diversify the many ways to see the flowers. To some in Portland, the garden remains a secret—overshadowed by the city’s famous International Rose Test Garden, which was constructed during World War I to save and cultivate different kinds of European roses. Surrounded by the waters of Crystal Lake, the garden also serves as a waterfowl refuge. Ducks and geese frolic in the lake, and red-winged blackbirds and scrub jays perch in the trees.
Twice a year, the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden hosts free flower shows. At the Rhododendron & Daffodil Show in April and the Mother’s Day Show in May—peak blooming time for rhododendrons—local gardeners pit their flowers against each other in a showcase.