Bovees specializes in vireyas, which comprise about one third of the genus Rhododendron and are native to Southeast Asia. Only a handful of vireyas tolerate frost, and the hardiest only tolerate brief periods down to 10F, under ideal conditions. The majority of these diverse and fascinating rhododendrons are tropical and require a frost-free environment to survive. In the Pacific Northwest, that means a greenhouse, sun room, or (for the smaller varieties) a bright window in winter with as much humidity as you can provide. While I've only been growing vireyas for about two years, I've had more than enough success to continue cultivating these fantastic plants. It helps that I have far too many plants indoors over the winter (according to some people, at least), which create their own humid microclimate. Experience growing orchids is also beneficial if you're interested in trying these tropical shrubs, as they frequently grow as epiphytes and need excellent drainage.
In addition to incredible vireyas, Bovees also offers a selection of extremely choice, rare, and unusual plants to grow outdoors in mild climates like the PNW. Some of the more hardy plants, like Shortia and Soldanella, are in high demand by hobbyists on the East Coast and are rarely offered anywhere. I adore their list of hardy plants as much as their vireyas (possibly more, but only because I have more room for hardy plants).
As with any specialty nursery, there is a garden filled with fantastic plant specimens mirroring the passion of the owners. In the case of Bovees, featured are huge hardy rhododendrons crammed into a relatively small space, giving the effect of a rhododendron forest in the wild (though far more diverse) with many wonderful understory plants. Edit: The rhododendrons in the garden are not vireyas. They are hardy species and hybrids grown simply for the owners' and visitors' pleasure, not as displays for their sales stock.
Pass through the gateway into a magical woodland world of sinuous trunks, fabulous foliage, and brilliant blooms.
|I was a bit late for the main show, but there were plenty of spectacular rhododendrons in bloom.|
|I believe this is Gaultheria x wisleyensis. In addition to rhododendrons, I'm quite enamored with the genus Gaultheria.|
|Bovees boasts the largest patch of Adiantum venustum I've ever seen. This photo doesn't even cover the entire patch.|
|Rare openings in the canopy revealed towering rhododendrons in full bloom 20 or even 30 feet overhead.|
|The twisting, sinuous trunks and large foliage gives an absolutely otherworldly effect, transporting visitors to the rhododendron forests of Asia.|
|Possibly the largest rhododendrons in the garden was this 'Loderi King George', with massive trunks supporting the huge canopy.|
|Rhododendrons deserve to be better known for their diverse and attractive foliage, such as this Rhododendron wasonii with thick brown indumentum ("fur" on the bottom of the leaves).|
|Rhododendron bureavii has very attractive new growth and mature foliage.|
|Another feature that is not often recognized in rhododendrons is attractive bark, such as this Rhododendron 'Dawn's Delight'.|
|Another specimen of Rhododendron bureavii from a different source (Bradley)|
|Another rhododendron with amazing, smooth, lavender-grey bark. Sadly this one wasn't labelled.|
|Same as above but lower on the trunk, showing the darker outer bark flaking off in paper-thin layers. Seriously, if anyone can tell me what rhododendrons have bark like this, please tell me.|
|Rhododendron barbatum (C Smith) did have a label. At least in the trunk, this species gives an effect very similar to large manzanitas or Pacific madrones. If you've got too much shade for either of those, why not try this rhody?|
|Another R. barbatum, this one from the U.S. National Arboretum.|
|This dog must have stumbled upon a Gorgon while digging for bones. I thought Gorgons were only found in the Mediterranean.|
|Bovees also offers several kinds of Agapetes. My favorite is still Agapetes serpens, shown here.|
|A large and wonderfully fragrant vireya. Some of the plants were labelled with numbers instead of names. I forget if this was one such plant or if I was just too mesmerized by the blooms to think to look at the tag.|
|Like their hardy counterparts, many vireyas also have very attractive foliage, like Rhododendron phaeochitum|
|For addicts of alliteration, I present Rhododendron 'Rangituto Rose'. With such a gorgeous flower, it's easy to forgive the R-full name.|
|'Hugh Redgrove' was named for a well-known individual in the vireya world. What a tribute!|
|'Kisses' held lovely, abundant flowers.|
|'Kisses' again, showing it's many flowers.|
|The flowers of 'Ra' are a suitably fiery orange and yellow.|
|The emerging flowers of 'Sparkla' are absolutely exquisite. Who needs fully opened flowers with buds like these?|
|Last but not least, the spectacular foliage of Vaccinium stapfianum, a blueberry species from Northern Borneo. I didn't see these in the sales area, but var. minus is listed online and may find it's way into my collection eventually.|
|I love R. alborugosum both for the white, tubular, fragrant flowers and the red-veined leaves with a dusting of rusty scales.|
|I'm especially excited for the Gaultheria forrestii (left) to bloom. The flowers can be fragrant and the berries are a beautiful blue.|
|'Ruby' is full of blooms. With two Gaultheria mucronata and great swaths of native salal, I should get plenty of berries.|
|One of the Gaultheria mucronata even had a berry on it, so I get a preview of what it will look like. Both plants have since come into bloom with numerous tiny flowers.|
My one real criticism of Bovees is that, except for the obvious plants right in front of the checkout, their sales areas are not very well-marked. The vireyas for sale in the greenhouse were often labelled with codes rather than names, and were not well set-up for shopping in person. But they are primarily a mail-order nursery and I get the feeling they don't get a whole lot of visitors. So while I recommend buying plants from their website, the garden and nursery are definitely worth a visit! With the sale going on I'm not sure I'll be able to resist ordering a few more plants. Besides, it's an excuse to go back down and see that marvelous garden and greenhouse again!
I hope I haven't exhausted anyone with my rhododendron addiction. Last Sunday we visited the Rhododendron Species Botanic Garden in Federal Way, WA and I have lots of pictures to share. I'll try to shave it down to only a few of the approximately 600 photos I took. Hey, some of them were triplicates, ok? Stay tuned for a rhododendron addict's overdose.