Tucked into the historic Eastmoreland neighborhood of Portland you’ll find an amazing retreat with one of the world’s finest collection of rhododendrons and azaleas. The gardens of Crystal Springs feature more than 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas, hostas and native plants in a quiet setting. You can wander by small lakes, explore paved and unpaved paths, cross bridges and stop to admire fountains, and small waterfalls as you explore the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden History
The gardens are named for Crystal Springs Creek, which flows through them. W.S. Ladd, a prominent developer in early Portland, owned Crystal Springs Farm in the area. Ladd’s 500-acre Crystal Springs Farm was developed into residential Westmoreland and Eastmoreland in the early 1900’s and forty acres were donated as the site for nearby Reed College. These historic neighborhoods and the college campus continue to be beautiful places to wander on a warm spring day.
Eventually covered with unruly brush and blackberry vines and the remnants of a Shakespeare theater constructed by students at nearby Reed College, the Crystal Springs area you see today was transformed into a rhododendron test garden in 1950.
Although no longer a test garden, volunteers from the Rhododendron Society, Master Gardeners, and other experts care for the plants and maintain the garden year-round.
Discovering the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
While the area is a great place to visit year round, the rhododendrons are in bloom from early March through the middle of June. The peak bloom period coincides with Mother’s Day. The gardens are surprisingly accessible. There are pathways that are wheelchair accessible and loaner chairs are available at the entrance office.
When you visit, you’ll enjoy the feeling of descending into a small canyon. Take the path across the bridge or wander lower trails to see the first of three trickling waterfalls. On a warm day, these shaded areas are refreshing.
As you continue to explore the garden you’ll discover Crystal Springs Lake with a large fountain in the middle. The spring-fed lake surrounds most of the garden and is home to waterfowl. The geese and ducks let you know it’s their home. You’ll often find them nesting close to garden paths or sitting atop a rock wall waiting for a hand-out.
As you discover the shady glen of hosta plants, the open grass meadow surrounded by huge rhododendrons and the wetlands, you’ll soon forget you are close to bustling downtown Portland.
Things to Do at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
Crystal Springs is frequented by birders, especially during the winter migration season. Close to 100 species of birds have been seen in the garden, among them the Great Blue Heron, Wood Ducks, Mallards and the American Coot. Canada Geese roam the paths and often nest at the gardens.
The gardens are popular for weddings and family photographs. Great times to enjoy photography is in the early morning and at sunset. To photograph birds, you probably won’t need a long lens as many are fairly close to the paths and boardwalks near the lake areas.
Crystal Springs is a place to relax, sit on a bench and read a book or just discover new blooms along the trail.
Special events such as the Mother’s Day show and plant sale and the annual Birdathon are hosted at the garden.
When You Go to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron
The gardens are open daily from dawn to dusk. Before 10am you can enter without charge. The entrance fee is $5.00, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., March 1st – September 1st, EXCEPT no charge Monday & Tuesday. There is no charge for children under 12 years of age. You are welcome to bring your leashed dog, too.
The entrance is located at: 5801 SE 28th Ave (between SE Holgate and SE Woodstock) in Portland. Check the garden website for additional information.