The absolute best place to see rhododendrons in University Place and possibly Tacoma is at Homestead Park on Bridgeport Way near the Whole Foods.
Or so I’ve heard.
Veronica, Catarina and I recently decided to check out this little 5.5-acre park we had passed many times but never been to.
Surrounded by towering fir trees, Homestead Park features a creative playground with toy slugs, trees and other forest creatures. It has a nice big grass field, and plenty of dirt paths winding through a massive garden area featuring every kind of rhododendron you can imagine.
Some of the bushes are dedicated to people from the area. There are also placards telling visitors the type of plants you are looking at, as well as a kiosk near the grass field in the east end of the park that tells what rhodies are in what part of the park.
According to a sign in the park, the land was purchased by the city in 1996 from the John Broback family. The original park beds were designed by Dr. Gary Becker of Gig Harbor, a member of the Peninsula Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society and a renowned hybridizer of rhododendrons. Becker donated many of the rhododendrons planted in the park.
When the rhododendron garden was created in October 2000, it had 400 plants. It now has more than 1,000 rhododendrons and azaleas planted in the park, along with ferns and many others.
There are also a few benches and a nice display with an historic wagon, featuring flowers provided by the Tacoma Garden Club. There are also azaleas and a fern grotto.
It is a nice place to take a shaded stroll and stare at beautiful flowers, unless, that is, you visit when we did: the summer.
Plan to visit Homestead Park in the spring when the rhododendrons are actually blooming in all of their majesty. I can’t imagine how gorgeous the park is at the time of year, not that it was ugly in the summer by any means, but rhododendrons are pretty much just green accent plants the non-blooming time of year.
Anyway, if you want a chance to see our state flower in abundance with all kinds of different species and colors, do yourself a favor and head to University Place for a gander next spring.
– Craig Craker