The western azalea is one of only two species of rhododendron native to the West Coast of North America (the other is Rhododendron macrophyllum). The collection at the Lake Wilderness Arboretum shows the diversity of the species, blooming in different colors (including pink, white and yellow), shapes (frilly, single or double) and sizes (1/2 inch to 3-4 inches). There are even some that are known as chimeras, which means that the plants have blooms of different colors on different age wood on the same plant. But with all that variety the one thing that stays the same about all of them is that they have the most captivating fragrance. Be sure to visit the garden in May or early June to experience the beauty and fragrance.
In 1989, the Washington State Centennial Commission selected one of Dr. Mossman’s azalea hybrids, [(R. occidentale x R. bakeri) x ‘Santiam’] to honor the state of Washington’s one hundred years of statehood. Rhododendron ‘Washington State Centennial’ has light orange-yellow flowers, gradually softening to white with a blotch of vivid glowing yellow on the upper petal. The frilled petals and fragrant flowers fill the garden with charm and sweetness each spring. It is an azalea truly worth of its place of honor.