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Rhodie garden opening soon


Cecil and Molly Smith rhododendron garden features more than 600 plants

With more than 600 rhododendrons and azaleas, the Cecil and Molly Smith Garden in St. Paul will open for its visitor season April 5.

Ginny Mapes, chairwoman of the garden committee, said the garden was started in the 1940s, after Cecil and Molly had married in 1941.

“They built a little house then decided to put in it this wooded area where it’s located now,” Mapes said. “They cleared some of the trees, started collecting rhododendrons and exchanging seeds with a seed exchange and collected plants from growers all over the world so he had this beautiful woodland garden.”by: SUBMITTED - In bloom - The Cecil and Molly Smith Garden will open for visitors April 5. The garden southeast of Newberg features more than 600 types of rhododendrons.

She said the garden essentially started the American Rhododendron Society, specifically the Portland chapter.

“There were lots of rhododendron gardens in England and other areas but no American rhododendron society, so people of Portland formed the Portland Rhododendron Society, then all the different chapters grew,” she said. “Cecil was a very early member helping get that garden established, so he was kind of the person starting that.”

The garden remains a destination despite the deaths of Cecil in 1998 and Molly in 2007, with visitors from all over the world.

“We wanted to keep it an open garden so the Portland chapter office bought it with donations from all over the world,” Mapes said.

And the garden continues to grow.

“Some plants will die off, like some big trees have fallen down (over) the years and taken out some plants, so we try to keep replacing them with some new hybrids that the public might like to see,” she said.

Many of the “rhodies” are for sale as well.

“Rhodies come in all different sizes, some are taller than the Smith house that they planted in 1962,” she said. “But others are very, very small depending on what the person would like for their yard or their apartment. There’s some we propagate, so there will be plants for sale.”

Although the garden is open every weekend in April and May, except Memorial Day weekend, Mapes said visitors should come more than once to truly experience the garden.

“People should not just come once, maybe in April and then again in May because different plants bloom at different times,” she said. “Even if they came every weekend there are different things to see because there will be different things in bloom.”

For more information about the garden, visit smithgarden. org.