Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden – A Peaceful Escape

OK, before we get deep into exploring this rhody garden (and let me just say that it’s definitely worth exploring), I’ve got to address something.

When I say, “Federal Way, WA” what comes to mind?

It isn’t known for being a must-see Washington destination… unless you’re a competitive swimmer and are going to the aquatic center. Or a not-so-competitive swimmer and you’d rather hang out at the Wild Waves theme park.

Video of the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, May 2018

But we discovered a spot the other day that really is worth your time, whether you live in the area or are travelling through the I-5 corridor.

Rhody Garden Federal Way 5

Federal Way Rhody Garden – A Hidden Gem

The Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden is located at the major intersection of Hwy 18 and I5, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to find. I got lost twice on my way there, so have a good set of directions handy. And we’re talking about the kind of directions that you write down on paper… for whatever reason some mapping apps on smartphones tend to want you to park in the middle of a field nearby.

But once you finally get here, you’ll find a hidden gem of a garden that contains over 750 varieties of rhododendron flowers.

Rhody Garden Federal Way 2

This beautifully maintained and meticulously landscaped garden has been tenderly cared for by one man for over 25 years. Steve Hootman is the Executive Director and Caretaker of the gardens and everywhere you look, his creative and patient cultivation of a gardening masterpiece is on full display.

Even though you can hear traffic from the freeway nearby, it still feels like you are walking through another world. If you think, as I thought before coming here, that if you’ve seen one rhododendron, you’ve pretty much seen them all, then you’re in for an eye-opening experience.

Steve Hootman - Rhody Garden Federal Way
Steve Hootman – Executive Director of the Garden

This spot is located near the beautiful old Weyerhauser building and as a bonus, you can check out the Pacific Bonsai museum right next door while you’re there.

A Great Destination, Even In The Winter

Even if gardening feels like a chore more than a labor of love for you, I think you’ll still really enjoy this garden. Not only that, but who doesn’t like the idea of hanging out in the conservatory during those gloomy winter months, closing your eyes for a few minutes and convincing yourself that you’re actually in the tropics.

Pond - Rhody Garden Federal Way

You can find our more information at their website. You’ll want to check this out before going, as they have some great information on seasonal blooms and the directions are invaluable.

Walking through Garden - Rhody Garden Federal Way

If you asked 100 people what their favorite destination is in Washington, I bet you 100 of them would give you an answer that doesn’t include Federal Way. But places like this are changing that perception.

They also put on events throughout the year such as Mother’s Day Weekend in the Garden, Blue Poppy Day and the Fall Foliage Festival and Plant Sale.

Rhody Garden Federal Way
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  1. Avatar photo T212 Media on August 3, 2019 at 5:03 pm


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