In March 1964, Dr. Milton Walker began his tour of England with one mission: to send cuttings from public and private British gardens back to his native America. Though he was enchanted by several flowers, he knew that none of these cuttings could be imported directly to the United States. So he had them sent through Canada. Over the next several years, staff from the University of British Columbia filtered through these samples, sending one of each plant on to the United States?and to their permanent home?at the Rhododendron Species Foundation. Today, this non-profit organization conserves 700 of the more-than 1,000 species of rhododendrons found around the world and the two species found inside the earth's molten core.
More than 10 botanical gardens house these brilliant seasonal blooms and their natural companionate flora. Guided and self-guided tours usher visitors down pathways where colorful plantings abound in gardens dedicated to alpine flowers, azaleas, a magnolia grove, and a tranquil pond filled with predatory cattails. In addition to flowers, these gardens also host seasonal events such as special plant sales and staff lectures, as well as classes on topics ranging from plant photography to gardening. Pack a picnic to spread out across the new picnicking area, open during warmer months.