Floral Show Stoppers

It’s getting near the end of the spring bloom season in a lot of gardens. The rhododendrons are hardy, though, and can bloom well into June. As a lot of my blog followers know, I frequent a favorite garden of mine, the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, located in Federal Way, Washington. Above is the latest image of the entry gate area to the garden. Pink rhododendrons and white Viburnum blooms currently grace the front entrance. The Pacific Bonsai Museum is adjacent to the botanical garden.

Starting in late February and continuing into June, there is always something new blooming in the garden. Just about every week or two, you will see another species blooming. This parade of blooms continues throughout the spring blooming months. One is never bored with the same blooms in this garden. I am amazed at the hundreds of different plant species here and how ingeniously this garden was planned. And it’s all set in a natural Pacific Northwest forest setting.

The reason I made a scheduled trip to the garden this day was to check on some orchids that were starting to bloom in the glass conservatory. A week ago I had noticed one of the hanging orchid planters had some buds that I had never seen before. I was excited to see this new species and, with all the sunny, very warm weather we had been experiencing lately, I knew they would be in bloom very soon. Well, my hunch was correct! What a surprise that greeted me as I walked into the conservatory! Directly to my right was hanging a large cluster of  small, white and orange orchids. I had never seen such a display like this one before. Absolutely gorgeous! Last week, when I visited, I asked one of the gardeners about these soon-to-be bloomers. He mentioned that they are a Dendrobium orchid species. Here are a few images.

I wouldn’t wait too long to see these beautiful blooms, if you desire to do so. I don’t know how long they will stay in bloom. I have noticed that some species of orchids have a long bloom life while others are pretty short.

Another show stopper in the conservatory that has just bloomed is Rhododendron dalhousiae. This is a gorgeous bloom that you just gotta see! The large, trumpet shaped flower is white with red stripes. This Asian rhododendron is native to the Himalayan regions of northeastern India, Bhutan, and southern Tibet.

Moving along to the outside garden, here are some of the rhodies and azaleas that are blooming.


Here are some of the companion plants blooming in the garden right now.

A Rodgersia species. These pink flowers give off a very sweet fragrance.

Star flowered False Solomon’s Seal

I am not sure what this plant species is. The leave structure reminds me of a False Solomon’s Seal. It has white, bell shaped flowers on red, branching stems at the top of the plant.

The Himalayan Blue Poppies are still blooming strong. I would expect them to start fading sometime in June. I took this picture on purpose to show what next to expect to bloom in the garden. In June, the Giant Himalayan Lily will show off its head of fantastic blooms. You can see the large, tall stalk already, next to the Blue Poppy. It will be the last of the garden show stoppers to make an entrance for the season.

If you live in the area, or are passing through and have the time, stop by this beautiful garden of delights before they are all done blooming for the season. They are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10am – 4pm.

All image property of Peggy A Thompson


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“Washed Ashore” Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium Exhibit

Welcome to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, located in Tacoma, Washington. I have been taking advantage of our lovely weather and recently visited our local zoo to see the new “Washed Ashore” Exhibit that showcases colorful, giant sea creatures made from plastic ocean trash found along our ocean beaches. Come along with me as we explore these marvelous works of art!


Just look at all the pieces of plastic used to make these sculptures! Amazing! The pieces are afixed to the sculpture base with metal staples.



This colorful Weedy Sea Dragon was one of my favorites. The hundreds of plastic bottle caps really made this sculpture pop!

Weedy Sea Dragon

Parrot Fish



Sea Turtle riding a wave


Just loved the new exhibit! I think I may have missed the Anemone sculpture display. Not sure how many there are all together. If you are visiting the area, make sure to stop by the zoo to see these wonderful sculptures. The kids will love them and so will you! And, you’ll learn about recycling! For more info on the current exhibit and zoo information, click on the links at the top of this blog post.



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Pilgrimage to Mount St Helens Volcano

Ranger led talk at Johnston Ridge Observatory, Mount St Helens

It’s been 37 years since the eruption of the Mount St Helens Volcano, located in southwestern Washington State. And just about every year, it’s been almost like a religious routine for me to visit this once symmetrical and beautiful, snow capped mountain, on or around the anniversary of the “big blast.” On May 18, 1980, forces of nature not seen by most modern day Americans were unleashed by a sleeping giant in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. A moderate sized earthquake beneath the trembling mountain helped uncork the volcano’s pressure, releasing tons of ash into the air along with searing heat, incinerating everything in it’s path. Left behind are “ghost forests,” some remnants still standing, but most blown down in an instant, lying like matchsticks.

Today the forests around the mountain are slowly rebuilding. If one visits certain viewing areas within the national monument, it would be hard to believe that such a cataclysm ever took place here. Nature has once again reclaimed the land. Acres and acres of ashy landscape devoid of any life have been replaced by grass, trees, shrubs, flowers, and wildlife.

Upon entering the Mount St Helens Volcanic National Monument, one has the opportunity to pull over in a few parking areas to get a sweeping view of the Toutle River Valley and, of course, the volcano. The small lake to the right in the image below is Castle Lake, formed as a result of the May 18 eruption.

A popular lookout, Loowit, is the stop just before the Johnston Ridge Observatory that is built on the side of a ridge overlooking the lahar plain, at the foot of the volcano. One is standing within 5 miles of the crater here.

There are plenty of these cute, little Ground Squirrels scurrying about the ashy landscape.

Here is what the landscape looked like on this day, when leaving the Loowit lookout area.

Once at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, you may peruse the exhibits or watch a fascinating movie in the auditorium that is played on a regular schedule. This is a fee area, but certain permits are allowed if you have one. Get a sweeping view of the lahar valley below and zoom into the crater with your photography equipment.

Also, just peeking up over a ridge, the upper portion of Mount Adams, another titan in the Cascade Range, can be seen from this viewpoint.

Mount Adams

In the distance, one can espy a portion of Spirit Lake. With a permit, one can hike into the backcountry on trails within the monument. These are desolate areas, and one needs to be fully prepared with life sustaining supplies when hiking into these areas. There is no shade, and the sun beats down relentlessly. It is especially dangerous during the summer months.

There is also an outdoor amphitheater adjacent to the observatory building. During the summertime, ranger talks and music performances are held here.

Adjacent to the observatory building is an ADA accessible trail to the top of a viewing area. The front side is clear of snow now, but the rear side of the hilly trail is not completely clear of snow yet. In fact, I encountered areas of the trail completely covered with snow for several yards.

On the rear side of the trail is a monument to the 57 lives lost during the May 18 eruption.

Continue following the path down the hillside that leads to the rear of the main parking lot.

As a postscript, I wanted to mention that the colorful, spring wildflowers have not yet bloomed. We experienced a harsh winter and cold, wet spring. Look to June for the blooms. Have fun and enjoy your national monument!

All images property of Peggy A Thompson

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May Blooms in the Garden

Meconopsis lingholm

Yipee! It’s Blue Poppy time at the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden. Just visited the garden today, and the blooms just keep on coming! As soon as one species fades out, another one makes its appearance. The fragrant Azaleas are now in full bloom as well. Lots of colorful and, oh, so beautiful tropical species are blooming in the Rutherford Conservatory. Here’s an image of a really beautiful, orange colored Rhododendron in full bloom in the conservatory.

Rhododendron polyanthemum

Just look at these orange blooms with the shrubs of pink rhodies outside, as seen through the conservatory window! Beautiful!

And these long, tubular Rhododendrons are blooming as well.

These other white beauties are also in bloom.

When first entering the gated area to the garden, notice these large Rhodendrons in bloom.

Rhododendron sinogrande

You’ll find a lot of this pink, bell shaped Rhododendron species blooming in the garden.

Rhododendron orbiculare

Just look at these gorgeous, huge species of Peonies!

Primula species are in full bloom.

Here’s a Blue Poppy along with the Primulas.

There is one big patch of these tall, yellow Doronicums that sway in the breeze.

In the Victorian Stumpery, there are some rhodies still in bloom.

Found this interesting species of flowering plant called Podophyllum aurantiocaule, a native species of Tibet. The leaves were just starting to fill out.

I found this lone Viburnum species in the corner of the garden where the Azaleas are. The shrub is loaded with these snowball shaped blooms.

I hope you get to visit the garden soon if you live in the south Puget Sound area. It’s worth the trip! Blue Poppy Day – Art in Bloom is May 20. Come and enjoy the Blue Poppies and art in the garden.

All photos property of Peggy A Thompson.


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Tiptoe Through the Tulip Fields

The tulips, once again, are coming to an end of their glorious blooming. Their blooms came later than usual this year, due to the below normal temps we experienced in March, here in the Pacific Northwest. That, plus the above normal amounts of precipitation, made it very difficult to visit the tulip fields, but I finally found a dry enough day to make the trip to a regional tulip bulb farm , before the flowers were topped off. I found that having puddles in the field make for more interesting photos. Here are some samples to enjoy.

All images property of Peggy A Thompson

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