Saturday, May 29, 2010

The remains of an old nursery

The mossy, old boiler house, slowly sinking into the water-logged ground...
This morning, an article about the historic Winters House in Bellevue being on the way for light rail construction caught my eyes in The Seattle Times. I drive regularly past the building, but being a rather ugly, Spanish Mission style house from the 1920s, it has never really roused my interest. Behind the house, the Winters had a nursery that grew and sold azaleas, daffodils and irises from the 1920s to the 1940s. After that, a rhododendron nursery operated for years in the same location. A brief note that the remains of a sinking old boiler house still stand behind the house woke immediately up the "ruin romantic" in me and I just had to brave the miserable weather and venture out to take a look.
The mouth of the rusty old boiler stands gaping above a mirror of water. Heat from it was led through pipelines to seven hothouses where azaleas were propagated.
The mossy remains of a hothouse are barely visible under the rhododendrons gone wild.
* *
With water dripping down my neck and my camera carefully bundled under my raincoat, I trailed along the boardwalk built on the boggy terrain, admiring one of the most impressing, accidental rhododendron parks I've seen. The moss-covered, gnarled trunks stood up from the water-logged soil, mingling together with ferns and great horsetail plants and sending up desperately beautiful trusses of bright flowers in all shades of whites, pinks and maroons. Beneath the glossy leaves, remains of the seven hothouses could still be seen, their broken roof lines slowly rotting away and sinking into the soaked ground. In one corner, between tangled rhododendron trunks, giant leaves and slender white flowers of the umbrella tree, Magnolia tripetala, tried to make their way towards the light.
A boardwalk leads through the area, as the soil is covered with water most of the year. Hundreds of old rhododendrons fill the ground, fighting for place amongst the ever increasing native vegetation.

Pink and red rhododendrons growing through a carpet of horsetail.

As the Seattle Times reported, the Winters House is now under threat of ending under the new light-rail to be built through the area, and of course, the construction would alter the parkland behind it too. Somehow, despite this closer inspection, I couldn't quite warm to the house itself, but I loved the overgrown, forsaken old rhododendrons patiently growing through the watery marshlands, like giant old ladies who still were putting up the show even if all the money was gone a long time ago. Completely realistic about the barren economic climate of today, I understand it would require a miracle to raise the funds and build a tunnel just to save an abandoned, old nursery, but it still would be lovely if someone would come with a miracle wand and make it happen...

The Seattle Times: National register house in Bellevue lies within path of light rail.

More information and old pictures of the place is found on: History of the Winters House.



Sophia Callmer said...

Vilket fantastiskt ställe! En glömd värld med rhododendron som fått leva sitt eget liv. Gamla plantskolor har en speciell känsla, jag förstår din fascination. ha en skön helg/Sophia

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Visst var det en trolsk stämning, de frodiga blommorna gjorde en härlig konstrast mot all vild vegetation omkring dem. Ha en härlig helg, du med!

Laura said...

That looks like a good place for a stroll. It is beautiful how the Rhodo is fighting for a few moments in the sun.

James Golden said...

Thanks for this visit. I like seeing the former "gardened" land returning to total wildness, the former equilibrium sliding toward chaos. Entropy reigns. It's a reminder that we garden as on the edge of a knife.

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

What a story, and what a great storyteller you are! I'd love to see those wild rhododendrons. What will happen to them?

NinaVästerplana said...

Fantastiskt! Var det kriget som blev dödsstöten för plantskolan? Skulle gärna ha tagit en promenad i området.... fast det hade kanske blivit ett vått äventyr ;-)
Ha´t himla gôrgôtt

Sophia Callmer said...

Ja det var lustigt med våra plantskoleinlägg, åkte förbi St Herrestad lite på inpuls, men det var verkligen en stark upplevelse och gå där i raderna och känna att snart är det slut, och även om där inte kommer att vara plantskola finn sen fantastisk samling träd , buskar och växter kvar. Detta ligger dock så att någon säkert köper stället, men plantskola blir det nog inte igen./Sophia

Jeff Branch said...

Great story and photos. As you say, I hope someone comes to the rescue.

Ruben said...

Vilken spännande vandring du fick göra tack vare Seattle Times.
Ha det gott!

nilla|utanpunkt said...

Sagolik - ofta betyder ju förgängelse att platser blir fula och skräpiga. Här ger det snarare en extra dimension, och magiskt "vilt" därtill.

Alice Joyce said...

Entrancing post. Can feel and small the air and scents through the computer screen.
The possible demise of Winters House reminds me of the gardens that had to be moved/razed south of the city for the airport expansion: A private Japanese Garden, in particular - name I've forgotten.
But then the Highline Sea Tac Botanical Gardens were created: an incredible effort by volunteers that I greatly admire.
All best to you...!