attn: Paghat, visiting seattle area

Hi Paghat, I'm planning to come out to the Seattle area and was wondering what time was better for seeing lot's in bloom, etc. April or May or neither. and what are some of the best places to go, such as the Bloedel reserve, etc. Thanks!!! Jim
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Either month is great for rhododendrons, late in April or in May. Drive around Queen Ann Hill looking for flowering shrubs in "ordinary" folks' gardens, & end up at Parson's Garden on Queen Ann. For a cheep lunch there's a better-than-average pizza joint atop the hill; for a great dinner I prefer Buddha Garden at foot of the hill alongside the Seattle Center, but it's all vegetarian, so good even meat eaters would love it, but if you must have meat, the Thai restaurant immediately next door to the Buddha Garden is one of the two best Thai places in Seattle though the building is unassuming & it's surprisingly cheap.
Visit most especially the University's Arboretum specifically to take the one-mile walk along Azalea Way which will be at its peak of floweriness. The Arboretum could be a whole day in itself because huge Azalea Way is only a small part of it. The thing to do is to park at the Natural History Museum, walk along the swamp path which takes you along the edge of Lake Washington to the far end of a little island exclusively of native plants, cross the island to the bridge (bring stale bread or left over theater popcorn if you like to stand in goose slime feeding ducks & geese, as you'll be passing an area dense with beggar fowl), then head off to Azalea Way. At the far end of Azalea Way you'll be able to find your way to the Japanese Garden, which is a great one, then walk back by the higher path which takes you through shady areas with a truly great collection of Japanese maples.
If you're not pooped & too worn out & it's not too late by the time you're done exploring the Arboretum, there's a little park not too far off in the Mount Baker neighborhood most easily reached by starting south out of the Arboretum along 23rd which'll eventually end up in Mount Baker. It's called Bradner Gardens & Park. It's kind of funky in the best way, decorated with children's art & folk art amidst beautiful shrubs & flowers. It's not big, it's a real neighborhood park & I used to live fairly close, so I really love it, & I'd rather picnik there than at the Arboretum among so as to be among real Seattleites rather than just the flower tourists. If someone knows their way around to help you not get lost, it's only maybe two miles out of the way to drive down into International District first & go into Uwajimaya (they have easy parking) & buy a couple lunchboxes of sushi or of noodles or whatever, to take to Bradner for a super-fancy picnik.
South Seattle has an even better Japanese garden than the great one at the Arboretum. It's called Kuboto Garden (War Helmet Garden, quite a name, but it's also the Japanese name for monkshoods). It has an incredible collection of Japanese species & cultivars, mixed with Northwest native shrubs. Sometimes crowded, a weekday is best. If you got too tired after Arboretum day to get to Bradner's, then go to Kuboto the next day, then to Uwajimaya for the lunchboxes, then to Bradner's to picnik.
If you do cross Puget Sound to visit the Bloedel Reserve (you have to call a few days in advance to make a reservation as they never let it get crowded), plan it so you can have lunch at Junko's BAINBRIDGE NURSERY which has a humble-looking shack-restaurant that actually makes seriously superior lunches, plus the nursery is arranged like a real park not just a tarmack full of stuff to sell, with a very old woodland walk with many trees planted by Junkoh's dad before WWII, & a nice lawn area near the restaurant shack dedicated to Junkoh's dad & a weird old tree his dad trained into the shape of a donut. So it really is more than just another nursery & makes a good addition for any trip to Bloedel's, especially as you're not allowed to pack in a lunch to Bloedell's. A third spot while on the Kitsap Penninsula may be too much of a drive to fit it all into one comfortable day, but if you do find yourself wanting one more spot while in my county, Seabeck Scenic Beach Park is the best of over a dozen state parks because it has everything you'd want of a state park PLUS an incredible density of native rhododendrons & azaleas packed into every shady corner of the park -- & if you're doing any camp-outs or are in an RV, it's a good place to spend the night even, & experience sunset over the Olympics as seen from the oyster beds.
Back on the Seattle side of the sound, if you have a chance for a separate day-trip, there's another aboretum near Maple Valley (a bit of a drive inland from the south tip of Lake Washington), called the Lake Wilderness Arborteum. The Western Azaleas will be in bloom, this is a huge extensive area just for every conceivable color variant of this one species, & when in flower it's even an incredible experience for the blind it all smells so sweet.
There's much else possible to see garden wise all around Puget Sound, but these would be the cream of the cream for King County and a fun ferry ride away in Kitsap County. Pam may have some additonal recommendations, as no one person ever gets to see quite everything cool around here, there's just so darned much that is great.
-paghat the ratgirl
--
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
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from snipped-for-privacy@netscapeSPAM-ME-NOT.net (paghat) contains these words:
(snip)

What a treat to read that! A great write-up... especially the eating recommendations :-).I've printed it off to stash in my "trips and treats" file of places I mean to get to.
Janet.
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A nice guide even for us Puget Sounders...
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wrote:

paghat did a great job of rounding out some of the better highlights. I would also include a visit to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens - in late April or early May, the perennial border (which is recognized as world class) should be in full glory with irises, peonies, the elusive blue Himalayan poppy and scores of other early season bloomers and they have a very decent Japanese style garden with the usual rhodies and azaleas. If those plants strike your fancy, a visit to the Rhododendron Species Foundation garden in Federal Way is a must - probably the largest collection of species and hybrid rhododendrons in this country, if not the world and May is the peak of bloom season. It is truly breathtaking.
And if you do travel across the Sound, call to make an appointment to visit Heronswood. Not only is this a first class nursery offering some of the best and most unusual plants you are likely to find, the display gardens are quite magnificent and very inspiring. Bring your credit card and a large suitcase, because this place is impossible to leave without at least one, usually a dozen or more, plants. I also highly recommend the Elizabeth C. Miller Garden in north Seattle. Once the private residence of a remarkable collector and plantswoman, this is now a privately funded garden foundation devoted to the preservation of a large quantity of unusual and rare plant material and the continued propagation of the same. Call in advance, tours are limited in number due to its location and need to not disturb the neighborhood.
I am not quite so discriminating about eating establishments......IMO, Seattle and its surrounds is highly underrated for great dining experiences and as long as you avoid the fast food joints, pretty much anywhere you choose will offer a great meal. I found the best Mexican restaurant I have ever encountered outside of Mexico in the Rainer Beach area after a visit to nearby Kubota gardens - who'd have thought??
http://www.heronswood.com / http://www.rhododendron.org/display/SpeciesFoundation.htm http://www.millergarden.org / http://www.bellevuebotanical.org/visitor/fmvisitor.htm
pam - gardengal
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