Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Behind the scenes at the RSBG

It's a long standing tradition that Andrew and I stop in Tacoma on our way to Seattle for the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival. We have lunch, I drop him at the Tacoma Book Center, then I zip up to the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way. This year I decided to try something different. Since I knew my friend Ann (the amateur bot-ann-ist) was also headed up to Seattle, I asked the folks at the RSBG if they might give us a behind the scenes tour, and they said yes! 

That's Ann (L) and Nursery Manager/Assistant Curator Atsuko Gibson, who was kind to spend her afternoon with us.

This is a ginormous orchid loving the conditions in the greenhouse.

I love the metal hanging basket planters seen here and in the garden's conservatory. This photo is a reminder for me to try to making something like this.

I did not catch the name of this fern, but I love it's green rhizomes. **UPDATE, Ren Oliver shared that it's Polypodium formosanum**

This is my newest fern crush, Christopteris sagitta. An online search says it's going to be completely impossible to find, so I'll be counting on the RSBG/Hardy Fern Foundation folks to make more! 

Another long standing fern crush that I've only seen available at a nursery I'd rather not order from; Pleopeltis lepidopteris 'Morro dos Conventos' aka Brazilian hairy sword fern.

I didn't catch the name of this fuzzy bunch of seedlings, but they glowed.

Snow had been predicted for the Portland area the day before we left home, but none fell at our place. We did however see it along I-5 as we headed north, and there were patches around the RSBG. Sciadopitys verticillata, the Japanese umbrella-pine...

And a great bird's nest...

In another greenhouse, lycopodium.

Columnea microphylla

There wasn't a name on this epiphytic cactus.

But I loved the color. Just a little too early for the blooms darn-it!

There are lots of plants being grown here, it was exciting to see.


Rhododendron rivulare 

Word is the fabulous color on the foliage is fleeting.

This particular plant caught my eye and when I read calluna (something like Calluna 'Askival' RSBG) on the label (out loud) it elicited quite the shocked verbal response from Ann, Atsuko and Emily Joseph, who had joined us. We joked that someone should have recorded it, it was that good. Who knows if that was the correct label though, it certainly doesn't look like a calluna. ***UPDATE, James Andrew Gould shared what looks to be the correct name: Cassiope ‘Askival’*** 

Definitely a cool plant!

Hoop-house magic...

Accidental shot, but it's kinda cool.

Me thinks this rhododendron leaf pressed into the cement was not an accident.

The old lath houses are falling apart, but still completely fabulous.

I snapped a few shots out in the garden, like this winter heath (white indeed!).

Magnolia (Michelia) platypetala

Adiantum some something inside the conservatory.

And a azalia/rhododendron (?) in bloom that I didn't catch the name of. ****UPDATE, it's Rhododendron boothii, thanks to Eric for the name****

I also have to include a photo of the pyrrosia I LUST after every time I visit.

Because guess what!?! I went home with one! Here's a photo of Ann and I with our treasures.

My Pyrrosia sp. SEH#15113 (SEH = Steve Hootman Executive Director/Curator at the garden).

And Ann's Aeschynanthus tengchongensis JN#11049 RSBG, it had the most incredibly thick succulent leaves.

I also grabbed this Brassaiopsis hispida for sale in the gift shop's plant sales area.

Spiky baby!

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  1. The bird's nest image, the accidental shot and the Rhodie leaf in cement deserve their own post. A wonderful trio of images.

    1. Glad you enjoyed them! After your comment I was going to pop over to Instagram and share them there, but they ended up being bumped by the snow storm...

  2. So lucky, getting a behind-the-scenes tour! Are any of the seedlings you showed for sale through their catalog?

    1. Oh definitely! Which ones though I can't say, I just remember Atsuko referencing sections that were catalogue plants.

  3. I worry about the B. hispida I left behind! Pretty sure it succumbed in the dry months. That whipcord calluna makes me gasp too! So nice to browse plants with you and Ann -- and the Nevelson yesterday is extraordinary, thanks for the different photo angles of it.

    1. How large was your B. hispida? I'm going to have to go search your past blog posts for images.

  4. What a great addition to your trip! I love that Cassiope ‘Askival’, which looks very succulent plant-like in your photo but, based on the photo I pulled up elsewhere is anything but a succulent. It looks interesting in full flower too, not that I have a chance of growing it.

    1. Aren't the flowers on that Cassiope ‘Askival’ just cool? I've got major plant lust.

  5. Interesting place, great plants, thanks for the look at it. Old lath houses are charming, always.

    Spiky Baby is a gem, as is your fern.

    1. Fingers crossed I can keep Spiky Baby (which is how I will refer to it from now on) alive.

  6. Look at you being so bold and asking for a tour. What a fantastic opportunity! Like Linda, I find the birds't nest photo totally amazing!
    Online pictures suggest the "Not" Calluna 'Askival' would look fantastic in a rock garden, or a crevice garden...

    1. I think you are correct on the Cassiope ‘Askival’ placement. And my idea wasn't totally out of the blue as I knew another friend had toured, I am generally not good at bold.

  7. douglas e BallingerFebruary 23, 2023

    very cool I need to make a trip up north soon, so much to discover.

  8. Hi Loree, Really sorry I was not able to be there to show you around but I know Atsuko did a great job. Sorry about the confusion with the Cassiope ("calluna"). The Ericaceae is our prime collection and one I take great pride in. Not sure how the name calluna made it onto that label but I will make sure it is corrected. That genus is quite hard to come by and quite difficult to cultivate. That plant is from cuttings I took from the original plant at the Askival nursery in Scotland so you can imagine I am a bit embarrassed with it being labeled a simple calluna! Glad you and Ann enjoyed your visit.

    Steve Hootman

    1. I would have loved the opportunity to pepper you with questions, maybe next time! I am sorry to hone in on the mislabeled cassiope, but it just called to me and I had to go to it. It's a fabulous plant. As for mislabeled how could that not happen in a collection as large as this? So many fabulous plants and all looking happy and healthy.

  9. Wow! You do get to see some very cool plants!

    Fingers crossed that some of them make their way over here in the not too distant future.

  10. I'm pretty sure those darling little fuzzy leafed plants are rhododendron edgeworthii rooted cuttings

  11. R. edworthii I just commented on do look like seedlings more than cuttings


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