Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens: Why you need to visit Portland’s hidden serene surprise

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens

Portland is nicknamed “City of Roses,” but after our visit to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens, maybe it should be “City of Rhodis.”

Learned

…The many-hued flowers of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens are a sure sign that spring is here…
…The humble, subtle, beautiful rhododendron deserves so much more credit than it gets…
…A heron can perch on a thin, arched bit of a stick standing in a pond…
…Tall fountains always bring out joy…
…A drizzly spring day can be the perfect time to wander around a peaceful garden.

Made

…A moment of calm in the midst of a bustling day heading home from a trip…
…The togetherness glee that comes when you happen to see baby ducks in a pond…
…Those boots-over-gravel crunchy noises that, when you notice them, make you realize how quiet everything is…
…Loop after loop passing little waterfalls, logs by the pond’s edge, and stunning wooden bridges…
…Certain that we will not take our beautiful Oregon rhodis for granted again.

Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens

Vibrant colors, such as these bright pinks, mark the full arrival of spring.
Vibrant colors, such as these bright pinks, mark the full arrival of spring.

Let’s take a moment for the rhodi

The rhododendron can be a bit unappreciated. Rhodis don’t have the scent or sensual shape of a rose in full bloom. But they do something that even roses don’t: They make it clear that spring’s full bounty of color, flowers, and vibrancy has arrived.

Along with having an amazing climate for roses, Portland (and Western Oregon in general) is a perfect place for growing rhododendrons too. Their deep green leaves help you feel alive, especially after the grays and browns of winter.

And there are the blooms.

Rich, creamy white blossoms also bring pops of central color, such as these bits of purple in the center.
Rich, creamy white blossoms also bring pops of central color, such as these bits of purple in the center.

Rhodis come to full flower in so many colors. Pinks and whites are common, but so are rich, show-stopping reds, as well as subtle yet sumptuous creams, oranges, purples, and yellows. At our house, a red rhododendron in the front garden is one of our sure signs of spring, from warmer temperatures to sunnier days.

While planning a May visit to Portland and the Columbia Gorge, we learned about Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens for the first time. We’ve long adored Portland’s International Rose Test Garden, Japanese Garden, and the Lan Su Chinese Garden. Yet until now, we’d never even heard of the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden.

Refreshed, restored, and ready for the journey home.
Refreshed, restored, and ready for the journey home.

But on a drizzly Monday in May, on our way back to Eugene, we visited this serene rhododendron garden. We left feeling like we’d been granted a glimpse of a truly special, surprising place, a haven of rhodis and so much more, hidden away in the City of Roses.

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First family visit since COVID, Columbia River Gorge, and these Surprising Portland Gardens!

The rhodis can speak for themselves

The rhodis can definitely speak for themselves. These colors are so bright, they're shouting like kids at a party.
With colors this vibrant, the rhodis can definitely speak for themselves.

And that’s not all there is, too.

Little waterfalls inspire deep breaths and little smiles.

Great herons perch on thin arched sticks poking out of a pond.

Find the heron!
Find the heron!

A tall fountain brings out oohs and aahs from both kids and adults.

An arched bridge, combining a straight span with round supports, casts beautiful curves on the water.

A perfect spot for reflection of all kinds.
A perfect spot for reflection of all kinds.

Aster calls out in joy: “Baby ducks!”

Could we wax all poetic about the glory of the rhodis in bloom? About the calm that suffused the Gardens? Or that hygge way that tall, old plants have of turning paths into tunnels of quiet glee?

Sure… but we don’t really need to. The rhodis can speak for themselves. And when you’re there, in the quiet calm of leaves and blossoms, don’t be surprised by the calm joy you can hear in your own heart.

Visit Portland’s Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens

A visit to Portland's rhodi gardens is definitely good for the soul.
A visit to Portland’s rhodi gardens is definitely good for the soul.

Map and directions to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens, Portland

Over bridges, across ponds, and along winding paths up and down wee slopes, the 10-acre Gardens are located in Southeast Portland, next to the Reed College campus:

  • Rhodis bloom in the spring, but the Gardens are lush and beautiful year-round
  • Address: 5801 SE 28th Ave., Portland, Oregon, USA
  • Keep an eye out for wildlife, especially birds such as ducks, herons, and even bald eagles!
  • Garden gate is open Thursday through Tuesday, 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. (1–3:30 p.m. on Wednesdays)
  • Mondays are free admission, great for families!

Accessible travel at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens

Wide paths at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens can make it easy to get around.
Wide paths at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens can make it easy to get around.

While there are slopes and inclines, the trails are paved, and generally accessible for visitors who uses wheelchairs or have other disabilities.

See the latest from the Rhodi Gardens

Follow @csrgrhodigarden on Instagram:

Hashtag #rhodigarden

About the author
Learners and Makers
We are the St. Clair Family: Anthony, Jodie, Connor, and Aster. As Learners and Makers, our family of four slows down, connects, and enjoys the world and each other's company. We have been traveling full time since 2022.

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