Rhododendron habitats in the wild, particularly in China, are under constant threat from humans. Some are chopped down for firewood. Others fall under the road-builder’s heavy equipment or the farmers’ need to clear land for crop production. Except for a handful of dedicated botanists, few seem to care about their future.
Robert (Bob) Zimmermann fell in love with rhododendrons over forty-five years ago. He began cultivating them on his kitchen stove and now grows species rhododendrons in the greenhouses of Chimacum Woods on the Olympic Peninsula. (A “species” rhododendron is a non-hybridized plant, which en mass, form a stable population in the wild without human intervention.)
Although hybrid rhododendrons offer beautiful flowers, species rhododendrons are Bob’s primary interest. Some 300 species populate the collection in his garden, providing a reliable source of seed and cuttings. He has paid particular attention to collecting plants true to the species description.
Bob has traveled with botanists five times to China, and once to Tibet, sometimes braving adverse weather, leeches, and the very rugged hiking and mountain climbing conditions to study the plants he loves so much.
Raising species rhododendrons is an investment in the future.
Given the constant threat to rhododendron habitats in Asia, it may well be that we in the West will one day be able to return offspring of these plants to China and other countries in future generations, when there is greater appreciation for the diversity of Mother Nature.
We invite you to become part of preserving the gene pool of these magnificent plants while you enjoy their natural and enduring beauty in your garden. Keep them watered, but not soaked, and remember them sparingly with fertilizer on Valentine’s Day and Mothers Day.
Careful, you may fall in love with them too!
To produce and provide quality species rhododendron plants
To show how species rhododendrons can enhance gardens
To educate gardeners about species rhododendrons
To help our customers and visitors enjoy the beauty that gardens and rhododendrons bring to life
To help preserve endangered species for future generations
About Our Rhododendrons
Most of our rhododendrons began as seeds that were meticulously hand-collected from species “parents” in their native habitats.
After germinating in the potting shed, each tiny rhododendron sprout is moved to a 2″ pot where it can begin to grow without competition. About a year later, each rhody baby is transplanted into a 4" pot and moved to the greenhouse. Once it outgrows this pot, it's transplanted into a one-gallon container and moved into our hoop houses.
Our signature size two-gallon pot comes a year or two later, when we transplant each rhododendron by hand one last time. This means that every two-gallon rhododendron you purchase from Chimacum Woods is at least five years old (and sometimes older).
We also maintain a large area—often referred to as Sherwood Forest— dedicated to larger plants growing in larger containers under the woodland canopy. These mature plants are perfect for those who desire more instant rhododendron gratification.
About Bob and Beth
Bob Zimmermann and Beth Orling met in grammar school in Ohio many years ago and married in 2001. They now dedicate most of their time to the nursery and the gardening challenges of Chimacum Woods—working hard to keep a healthy, happy growing space for the plants they have propagated mostly from seed and cared for faithfully for many years.
Bob and Beth find this work akin to a spiritual journey, offering both challenge and peace. Although much of the work is solitary, they value time spent with visitors and staff. Customers not only sustain the nursery, they are valued friends whom Bob and Beth have come to cherish over the years.
Bob is a member of the American Rhododendron Society, and is involved with their Seed Exchange Committee. He is also a past president of the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way, Washington.
Kim helps us with our babies, easing them out of their communal pot when they first germinate and moving them into their very own two inch pot, where they can establish themselves as plants ready to become an independent rhododendron. It’s tedious but rewarding work that Kim does well.