Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

World’s largest collection of Rhododendron species found in Federal Way

As a living plant museum, the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden (RSBG) provides visitors with 22 acres of blooming natural spaces.

When Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden (RSBG) Executive Director and Curator Steve Hootman walks around the garden, he says he feels pride in how far the garden has come in the 29 years he has worked there.

Since Hootman began working at the garden, they have added a new greenhouse, the Victorian Stumpery, the Rutherford Conservatory and expanded their rhododendron collection.

“When I see people walking around and taking pictures and enjoying it, and just knowing we did this, that we’re making people happy and we’re educating people, that makes me feel great,” Hootman said. “And I really like the fact that we did something worthwhile.”

Federal Way’s RSBG is a non-profit organization founded in 1964 that features the largest collection of Rhododendron species in the world, alongside other botanical delights.

As a living plant museum, the display garden focuses on conservation and education, while providing visitors with 22 acres of blooming natural spaces. Plant-lovers can also stop by the nursery and take home some of their favorites.

“I always feel like I’m on a little journey, because the garden looks kind of wild,” said Britt Board, program and outreach manager. “Even though I’ve walked it, who knows how many times, it always still feels like I’m discovering something. It at once feels familiar, and then also really new.”

Although the Rhododendrons primarily bloom from March to May, RSBG is open year-round. The garden’s summer months showcase the azaleas, hydrangeas and Giant Himalayan Lilies.

Hootman said his favorite part of the garden is the Big-Leaf Rhododendron Garden and remembers collecting the seeds from the wild and raising them himself.

RSBG offers activities and learning opportunities for all ages, including lectures and virtual and in-person events hosted by staff.

RSBG conducted its annual Rhododendron Symposium from June 25 to June 27, featuring local and international experts. In October, RSBG plans to host its annual Fall Foliage Festival and plant sale.

The Visitor Center has been temporarily closed to adhere to pandemic safety measures, but visitors can make certain purchases from the Visitor Center window. Vaccinated visitors are no longer required to wear masks while exploring the outdoor gardens.

“I think it’s a national treasure,” Hootman said.

The garden is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free for children under 12, $8 for adults and $5 for students and seniors (65+). For more info go to rhodygarden.org.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@federalwaymirror.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.federalwaymirror.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in News

Photo courtesy of FWPS
Federal Way Mirror Female Athlete of the Week for Sept. 17: Ashley Lee

TBHS sophomore works hard on and off the golf course.

Photo courtesy of FWPS
Federal Way Mirror Male Athlete of the Week for Sept. 17: Alverez Filisi-Hemphill

Todd Beamer High School senior excels in the classroom, on the football field and with JROTC.

Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror
3 Federal Way nonprofits receive Waste Management grants for sustainability work

$47,000 given to the Multi-Service Center, Goodwill and South King Tool Library.

T
Meet King County Council District 7 candidate Dominique Torgerson

Torgerson is running against incumbent Pete von Reichbauer in the Nov. 3 general election.

T
Meet King County Council District 7 candidate Pete von Reichbauer

Incumbent is running against challenger Dominique Torgerson in the Nov. 3 general election.

Mirror file photo
Man, 41, found dead in Des Moines garage after reported shooting

A 33-year-old woman was arrested at the scene, police say.

Photo courtesy of Red Robin Gourmet Burger's Facebook page
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers is returning to Federal Way

New location expected to open in early November, company says.

A volunteer packs grocery items into a paper bag at the MSC Food Bank on Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo
Multi-Service Center food bank in need of volunteers

The Federal Way food bank is seeing an increase in customers.

Most Read