Spring in the Arboretum

Spring is when the Arboretum shines the most.  As the weather warms up and the days brighten, the progression of blooms and growth reveal something new each day.

At the start of spring in March, the Winter Garden still has much to offer. Corylopsis species (winter hazels) are at their peak by the end of the month, with their long bright chains of cream and yellow flowers.  Distinctive and textural leaves unfurl after the blooms have finished.  Winter hazels can be found in abundance in the Winter Garden and in the Witch Hazel Family collection area east of the Pacific Connections Garden.


Spring also means that the Woodland Garden is filled with blooms of rhododendron, maples (yes maples have small but beautiful flowers), Fothergilla major (mountain witch alder), Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel) and many others. Rhododendron Glen features many early perennials in addition to rhododendrons. Native swamp lanterns (Lysichiton americanum) bloom all along the stream channel. Don’t be afraid, the other common name—skunk cabbage—oversells its odor!  The blooms are large and bright, and are followed by huge, cabbage like leaves. Primroses and oxalis are also in bloom along the upper stream, and the new fern fronds unfurl in dramatic fashion.There are rhododendrons in flower every month from February to July, with the peak bloom in April and May. Just south and east of the Glen, along Arboretum Drive E, you will find camellias in blooming in white, pink and red through early May. The Camellia Collection is dotted with mature Stewartia trees, their camellia-like white blooms continuing the show through June.

Niall Dunne, Arboretum Foundation
Niall Dunne, Arboretum Foundation

Spring is at its most vibrant along Azalea Way, a ¾ mile promenade through the heart of the Arboretum.  Beginning at the Graham Visitors Center, the wide path is lined with azaleas (which are all technically a type of rhododendron), flowering cherries, dogwoods and magnolias. Many plants date back to the late 1930s and the early development of this signature feature of the Arboretum.

Rhododendron Glen

For a concentrated dose of rhododendron bloom, visit the Puget Sound Rhododendron Hybridizers Garden, featuring over 100 of the many hundreds of rhododendron hybrids developed by local breeders over the last 70 years. The garden is found along Azalea Way just south of the Loderi Valley trail.  Magnolias and Asiatic maples provide dappled shade.

Our Magnolia Collection is one of North America’s finest. Species and cultivars are in bloom between late March and July. Most of the collection is located along Arboretum Drive just south of the Woodland Garden. There are over 200 trees to view in bloom.

Cindy Clark
Camellia ‘Jupiter’

Spring is also the time to view the many native flowers found in the Cascadia Entry Garden, part of the larger Pacific Connections Gardens display. Irises, camas, red-flowering currants, Berberis (Mahonia) spp., and many others are in full bloom.

In every part of the Arboretum spring puts on a show. From the bright new growth on the conifers in the Pinetum to the flowering of the mountain ashes (Sorbus spp.); from the Kousa dogwood in the Woodland Garden to the vibrant bloom of azaleas in the Japanese Garden—each vista and trail has something to see.