I had long harboured a desire to visit Seattle with a vague notion of a spectacular marine landscape against a backdrop of mountains and conifer forests. I found all of this as well as some wonderful horticultural surprises as well.
A hike up to Lake Serene in the hinterlands near Seattle provided a fix of stunning scenery, early summer wildflowers and moss covered cool temperate rainforest. Spruce, larch and western red cedar forests had me reassessing my views on the ornamental value of conifers. But the highlight of the day was a beautiful lone wild Trillium lily (right) adjacent to Lake Serene.
Apart from the wild attractions around Seattle there proved to be plenty of horticultural action as well. A feature of this and various other USA cities is the abundant hanging baskets that adorn the cityscape. The American love affair with petunias shows no sign of waning. And I can imagine why they celebrate the warmer months of the year this way when I see the temperatures and conditions that are endured through the winter months when any natural skerrick of colour in the landscape would be welcome.
The horticultural highlight of my trip, however, was discovering Chihuly Garden and Glass, a permanent exhibition of the work of Dale Chihuly, glass artist extraordinaire. The exhibition has two main components, an indoor museum and an outdoor garden, both of which feature multi-coloured glass installations of great complexity and beauty.
Of course the amazing garden installations were the ones that drew more of my attention with carefully designed plantings that contrasted or harmonised with the glass pieces. A couple of the indoor installations were apparently inspired by botanical themes.
Last but my no means least in my journey of discovery was stumbling upon a couple of wonderful community gardens amongst the inner city suburbs. The usual array of vegetables was accompanied by unexpected and stunning borders of perennials and beautifully perfumed roses. The eclectic architecture around the city suburbs was often matched by the diverse plantings used around them and my street walks of discovery were the icing on the horticultural cake.
I had not expected Seattle to be of such horticultural interest and I can recommend a visit there during the warmer months of the year through their spring and summer if you are looking for flowers. I have not had the pleasure of an autumn there, but I can imagine that it has a fabulous foliage story to tell. But that is another journey…..