Where We Live: Portland’s secret garden

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Tucked away in a Southeast Portland neighborhood is one of the city’s most prized natural gems — but it’s often overlooked. 

Rhododendrons in bloom at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. (Courtesy to KOIN) 

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden is a lush botanical garden nestled between the Eastmoreland Golf Course and Reed College. 

Those who visit the garden will understand how it got its name: dozens of rhododendron bushes explode with color in early spring, showering the park with pale pink, white, magenta and purple blooms. Numerous springs within the garden supply the many water features. 

A wedding at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. (Courtesy to KOIN) 

Volunteers tend the more than 2,500 rhododendrons, azaleas and other flowers that fill the garden — all of which were donated.

Fountains, winding pathways and public restrooms make Crystal Springs a popular site for events like family reunions and weddings. 

While visitors can walk through the garden for free from October through February, a $5 admission fee is charged during the rest of the year. Mondays are free year-round. 

Admission proceeds are used to help maintain and enhance the garden, according to Portland Parks and Recreation. 

Many visitors — and even residents — don’t know Crystal Springs exists. Other botanical sites, such as Portland’s famous International Rose Test Garden, often overshadow the lesser-known rhododendron garden. 

“It is a secret for a lot of people,” said Dan McLaughlin, chairman of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. “They don’t know it exists.” 

In the 1800s, Portland Mayor William S. Ladd donated the land that would later become the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. (Courtesy to KOIN)

The 9.5 acres that would later become the garden were donated in the 1800s by Portland Mayor William S. Ladd. 

The Portland chapter of the American Rhododendron Society developed the property as a rhododendron test garden in 1950, replacing the original test garden site on Terwilliger Boulevard which was owned by Oregon Journal owner Sam Jackson. 

The site officially became known as the Crystal Spring Rhododendron Garden in 1964. 

Although Crystal Springs is a city park, it’s maintained by volunteers who say the garden is currently in need of some improvements. Click here to learn more about how to get involved.

Rhododendrons in bloom at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. (Courtesy to KOIN) 

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