Where to See all the Pretty Flowers in Seattle This Spring

From Cherry Blossoms at UW to Plenty of Under-the-Radar Garden Gems
March 24, 2023
More from Our Spring Events Guide
We consider the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden to be the best rhodie garden on the planet. (Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden)
David Byrne was obviously talking about Seattle when he sang, “Where is the town? Now it’s nothing but flowers!” Springtime in Growing Zone 8b (that’s Seattle) has started, and the whole PNW is about to absolutely explode with blossoms in every direction, so get ready. You probably know about the cherry blossom trees all over King County (including the UW Quad)—how could you miss them?—but you may not know that we’ve also got dozens of flower gardens, big and small, that’re also well worth a stroll. Here are some of our favorite places to spend a golden afternoon. 

Woodland Park Rose Garden List
This is kind of a sad place in the winter, especially the poor empty koi pond, but oh, what a difference an equinox makes! Built in 1922, the Rose Garden is one of a handful of certified American Rose Test Gardens, and it’s straight out of the Wonderland castle grounds this time of year, or maybe of the gardens at Versailles. This place is home to over 200 different rose varieties, along with water lilies, dahlias, yellow trumpets, several fountains, and some impressive topiaries. Fun fact: Because the garden is pesticide-free, the spent roses are often fed to the zoo animals next door—the gorillas are especially fond of them. A royal-lookin’ rose garden is a great place to eat a sandwich, by the way—maybe make a stop at nearby Paseo List beforehand.
West Woodland, free admission

Dunn Gardens List  
Don’t be put off by the close proximity to the gated community of gigantic mansions, The Highlands, right next door—the Dunn Gardens are open to the public! In 1915, some rich dude from New York used this acreage to build a country house for himself and his family—they lived on First Hill, lol—and hired the freaking Olmsted Brothers to build their garden. Then his son, Edward B. Dunn, grew up to be the president of the Seattle Arboretum Foundation and a founding member of the Species Rhododendron Society and later its president, so that was helpful, too. Dunn Gardens' winding forest trails are in full springtime effect right now, bursting with foxgloves, irises, camellias, hydrangeas—and especially rhodies. That guy sure loved rhodies.
Bitter Lake, free admission

The UW Center for Urban Horticulture List and all the gardens it encompasses
The University of Washington campus itself is pretty much made of dozens of gardens, and the ground zero is the Center for Urban Horticulture. Comprising the Seattle Garden Center Fragrance Garden, the Soest Herbaceous Display Garden, Goodfellow Grove, the UW Farm (an entire working two-acre vegetable farm!!), and McVay Courtyard, the CUH is a whole day of botanical education and wonder. If you’re there for the fleurs, we recommend heading straight for the Fragrance Garden, filled with hyacinths, honeysuckles, hosta, and hella other heavenly scents.
University District, free admission

Thomas Street Gardens List
At just 2300 square feet, this flower garden is tucked between a couple of apartment buildings on the Hill; blink and you’ll miss it! You shouldn’t, though, because man, they packed a whole lot of flowers in this little pocket park. It’s a potpourri of posies here, starring but not limited to roses, poppies, sunflowers, cardoons, dahlias, marigolds, lavender, and big stands of wildflowers with herbaceous borders. A dreamy oasis in the middle of the city.
Capitol Hill, free admission

Pelican Tea Garden List  
Hidden in an alley behind Fuel Coffee on 19th and Roy, this tiny secret garden is technically a community P-Patch, where a group of volunteer gardeners signs up to take care of the collective plot, and the effect is wonderfully hodgepodgey. This may look like a private space, but it’s open to the public, and you’re welcome to admire the daisies and hydrangeas to your heart’s content. Bonus if you happen to meet one of the caretakers—ask them questions about the plants! They like it.
East Capitol Hill, free admission

The Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Gardens List at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
One of the most memorable ways to show off the city to visiting guests, we say, is to take ‘em to the Ballard Locks List and its surrounding seven acres of stunning English-style gardens. (The fact that they’re named after their landscape architect, Carl English, is a fun coincidence. The English Gardens are, in fact, English gardens.) Containing more than 1,500 plants, this place includes rhodies and roses aplenty, along with an extensive display of lilies, bleeding hearts, and fuchsias. Maybe go to Lockspot Cafe List next door and get a thing of fish ‘n’ chips to go, then set up in the Locks and have yourself a time.
Ballard, free admission

Cherry blossom trees, among many other gorgeous flowering trees, at Green Lake Park List
When it comes to cherry blossom tree season in Seattle, the main event is at the UW Quad List , with its grove of 29 Yoshino trees flanking the picturesque Collegiate Gothic university buildings. (In 2023, peak bloom is expected in early April.) But if you’re feeling more meditative, we say nothing beats a 2.7-mile walk around Green Lake, which includes but is not limited to cherry blossoms, tulip trees, flowering dogwood, and purple-flowered empress trees, as well as all the wild birds who live in the park that surrounds it—and the view of the lovely, placid lake itself. Make way for ducklings!
Green Lake, free admission

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival Past Event List
April is tulip time in the Skagit Valley, which was settled largely by Dutch immigrants who brought their blooming bulbs along with them, and it’s a month-long fiesta of flowers starting April 1st. There are a handful of tulip farms in the valley, and most charge admission for a tour and often have beer gardens and food trucks. Roozengaarde has a 25-acre daffodil field, too! It also happens to be the tail end of snowgoose season in the Skagit Valley, which are as noisy as they are beautiful. Bring the kids and a good camera, because the vivid expanses of pink and purple, as well as the clouds of black-winged geese rising above them, are really something to see. 
Mount Vernon and La Conner generally, admission varies

Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden List  
Federal Way’s good for three things: amusement parks, having a shitload of kickass Korean food, and gardens. Wait, is a garden technically an amusement park? Anyway, the 22-acre Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden is easily the world’s most diverse collection of rhodies, and our state flower is showcased splendidly here in over 10,000 examples across 850 species. Special displays include tropical rhodies, a near-complete big-leaf rhododendron collection, and an alpine garden of high-altitude-only specimens—and it’s got the Pacific Bonsai Museum List next door, if your thirst for horticulture is not sated by ten thousand flowering shrubs. We’d say it’s the Wild Waves List of rhododendrons, but it’s actually the best rhodie garden on the planet, so… more like the Magic Kingdom.
Federal Way, $8 general admission

Seattle Japanese Garden List  
Okay, so we all know about the Washington Park Arboretum, right, but the thing is that it’s just so vast! We think the Seattle Japanese Garden, ensconced within the arboretum, is the perfect entree of flowers within the 230-acre botanical buffet. One of North America’s oldest Japanese gardens, SJG is also considered one of the nation’s most authentic. Among many other flowers, its serene walking paths will take you through azaleas, viburnum, osmanthus, enkianthus, camellias, solomon’s seal, lilies of the valley, wisteria, kousa dogwood, and cherry blossom trees, naturally—as well as plenty of ferns, mosses, and Japanese maples. Keep an eye out for koi and turtles in the pond, too!
Madison Park, $10 general admission

Bonus: The Volunteer Park Conservatory (as featured in our guide to unique Seattle date ideas)
Volunteer Park’s best known for its summer festivals, but don’t sleep on the lush, leafy conservatory, which comprises horticultural collections from five different climates. Fashioned after London’s Crystal Palace, it’s a Victorian-styled paradise, especially on a drizzly winter afternoon. Tour the diverse categories by room—individual glass greenhouses are each devoted to cactuses, ferns, bromeliads, palms, and seasonal plants—and marvel at the sheer variety, and then maybe hoof it up to the nearby water tower, Volunteer Park’s signature landmark, to enjoy the evergreen view of our own endemic flora. (Trees is what we mean. Trees for miles.)
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