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The Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle

The Sunny Bank I was very excited to get the opportunity to visit this garden because I've heard so much about it. It did not disappoint. The garden was created by Elisabeth Carey Miller and her husband Pendleton who purchased the house in 1948. Mrs. Miller was a self-taught gardener who used her artistic skills (she majored in Art History) to create the stunning garden which features a dense canopy of native conifers. She became a plant collector and tracked down unusual specimens and was known as a well-respected plantswoman in the horticultural community. The front entrance Visiting this garden is not exactly easy. It is situated in a restricted community and there is a limit to the number of visitors per year. You must make an appointment on the website at designated times or you can find a tour group like I did. The address isn't listed either although even if you had it, you would have to get past the security guard at the gate to the neighborhood. I think if I lived in

The Cecil & Molly Smith Garden


The Hardy Plant Society of Oregon's Open Gardens is now in full swing and is a wonderful opportunity to see some great gardens in the area. Every weekend through mid-October, private gardens and some nursery gardens are open. I saw a lot of the gardens two years ago after moving here but did not go to many last year. This year, I hope to catch up on some of those that I have missed as well as new ones on the list for the first time.

A garden that I have really wanted to see is the Cecil & Molly Smith Garden in St. Paul, Oregon. The Smiths are no longer with us and the garden is owned and maintained by the Portland chapter of the American Rhododendron Society


Cecil Smith had a passion for rhododendrons and he was fortunate to live in an area where they flourish. The Smiths built their house in 1951 on a north-facing hillside. Their windows overlooked the slope which were developed into a spectacular woodland garden filled with rhododendrons.


Today, many of the rhododendrons are massive specimens. Winding pathways meander through a lush valley of rhododendrons, wildflowers and ferns.




Some of the rhododendrons were labeled but many were not. The white one above was particularly stunning.


One of my favorites was this pink beauty. I could not find a name on it. 

'Eddie's White Wonder' dogwood with Rhododendron augustinii in the background. I purchased one of these rhododendrons while I was there!

Rhododendron 'Ken Janeck'

'Seaview Sunset'





A neighbor was burning brush which was a bit unpleasant but it did provide some dramatic lighting for photos.








The Cecil & Molly Smith Garden is open to the general public on weekends in April and May. The admission price is $3. It is well worth the drive to St. Paul. There are also a great number of fantastic nurseries in the area. Plan a day for it!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. You certainly saw this garden at the perfect time. So lush and colorful. I can see why you would want many of these Rhodies.

  2. Such a beautiful and natural-looking garden. What a pleasure to wander among these gorgeous specimens, a special legacy the Smiths have left.

  3. It looks like a wonderful place to visit and it's definitely the right time of year for it, although it's quite wonderful at any season. That last photo was very appealing: I like the contrast of the delicate pink bloom with the dark, coarse-looking leaf.

  4. Beautiful! Thanks for the tour.


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