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World class rhododendron garden's new conservatory goes tropical with vireyas
The Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden is opening the new Rutherford Conservatory, the first public conservatory built on the West Coast in recent history, according to assistant director Shara Smith. The new building will house vireyas, a tropical strain of rhododendrons, along with some other tropical plants.
“A world class collection right here in Federal Way,” Smith said.
The idea for the conservatory began more than 20 years ago. There was lots of planning, fundraising and collecting of the plants, many of which can only be found in remote tropical locales.
The conservatory is named for the late Francis C. Rutherford, who was very active at the garden.
In addition to the large collection of plants in the 5,000-square-foot conservatory, there is also a rock sculpture, a fountain and an outdoor paved terrace that can be rented for events. The conservatory, like the rest of the garden, will be open year round. Inside the building, there will be bright colors year round.
There will be several hundred species of plants inside the conservatory.
“Everything is something you can’t see anywhere else,” Smith said. Some of the garden’s rhodys are from areas that are no longer safe for travel, including the mountains of Afghanistan.
The garden also propagates and sells the species found at the garden.
“Our focus is not just beauty, but trying to conserve the species,” Smith said.
There are over 550 species of rhodys at the garden from all over the world, including Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.
Check it out
The grand opening for the conservatory will run 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 25 at the garden, 2525 S. 336th St. on Weyerhaeuser campus. Standard gate rates are $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors. Members get in free. There will be local dignitaries, tours and light refreshments.
For more information, visit www.rhodygarden.org.