If you’ve visited Portland before, you’ve likely admired the thousands of blooms at the International Rose Test Garden. Perhaps you’ve even wandered the rows of rose bushes at Peninsula Park. Now it’s time to round out your floral explorations with a visit to Southeast Portland’s lush Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.
Flora and fauna
Tucked between Reed College and the Eastmoreland Golf Course, Crystal Springs was founded in 1950 as a rhododendron test garden. Today, the park boasts more than 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas and other plants spread across 9.5 acres (4 hectares). Small placards identify the flora for visitors, and self-guided tour booklets are available on-site.
One of Portland’s best waterfowl-watching spots, the garden is home to nearly 100 types of birds and other wildlife. Settle in on a bench by Crystal Lake and enjoy the sight of dozens of ducks and geese swimming merrily by. Listen for the trills and squawks of scrub jays, red-winged blackbirds, songs sparrows, green-backed herons and many other bird species.
Two bits of avian advice before you visit: First, don’t plan on bringing a snack for the birds. (A sign at the entrance declares “No bread, please!”) Secondly, decades of visitors have made these waterfowl rather brave when faced with human guests. So if a gaggle of geese blocks your path, it may be wise to choose a different route.
Rhododendrons typically bloom from late February through July, and peak in late April to early May. But thanks to the park’s many other plants, animals and water features, you can enjoy Crystal Springs all year. The park features a number of benches and ADA-accessible paths, allowing folks of all ages and abilities to enjoy the grounds. Even dogs are allowed, provided that they are leashed.
The park is open daily from dawn to dusk, year-round. Admission is $5 from 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays, from March 1–Sept. 1. At all other times, admission is free. (Entry is always free for children 12 and under.) Bathrooms and parking are available on-site, and group tours can be arranged with advanced notice.
Events at the garden
Crystal Springs hosts two annual flower events, presented by the Portland chapter of the American Rhododendron Society. The Rhododendron & Daffodil Show and Sale takes place in early April. The larger Mother’s Day Show and Sale is held during Mother’s Day weekend (which is also peak bloom time). Both shows feature a large plant sale and a judged flower show that is open to all competitors.
Crystal Springs is also a popular spot for weddings, photo shoots and other events. Portions of the park may be closed for private celebrations on weekend afternoons in the summer. For more information, visit weddingsatcrystalsprings.com.