Ask Jeff Sprengel about Panorama’s Plants, Flowers, Trees

panorama lacey
Sprengel has now identified nearly 1,900 plants and trees on Panorama's 1,200 acres.


By Gail Wood

panorama lacey
Jeff Sprengel began identifying plants and trees at Panorama about five years ago.

Five years ago, several residents at Lacey’s Panorama put together a map of their neighborhood, naming some of its plants and trees.

They identified about 30 different types of trees but were stumped by the rest.  Curious, they turned for help and asked Jeff Sprengel for his input. What followed surprised even Sprengel.

Sprengel, who began working at Panorama 39 years ago as a groundskeeper and today both writes and creates graphics for the retirement community’s newsletters, started identifying the plants and trees on the 140-acre facility. Remarkably, he’s identified nearly 1,900 plants and trees.

Some of the plants are exotic – a few Palm trees and a Chilean Fire Tree. Some are native –  Douglas Firs, rhododendrons and a variety of roses. And all of these plants shroud Panorama in this lush green beauty, making it a destination place. Residents are proud to call it home.

“It’s so beautiful,” said Doris Yarbrough, a Panorama resident since 1982. “I think it’s wonderful.”

That one-page map residents gave to Sprengel five years ago to improve on has expanded to 64 pages. He’s put together an extensive booklet that lists each plant and tree, complete with a color snapshot and name.

panorama lacey
Sprengel has now identified nearly 1,900 plants and trees on Panorama’s 1,200 acres.

“When I got to looking around and walking around I identified more and more,” Sprengel said. “I’m surprised. As it turns out, we have one of the biggest selections of plants and trees in the state.”

Two years ago January, a terrific ice storm killed about 130 trees at Panorama. That gave the groundskeepers an opportunity to plan more variety. But Panorama’s huge variety of plants and trees came by more of an accident than design. Residents have chosen a wide variety of plants that caught their fancy. Sometimes it’s a plant from their home state. However, the landscape designers pick the majority of the plants and their decision making includes variety.

“It couldn’t be any better,” said Don Dunlop, who moved to Panorama a year ago and grew up in South Dakota. “It’s very beautiful. You can’t beat this place. It’s a great place to live.”

It’s become a destination for plant lovers. Garden clubs tour the 120-acre retirement community. Occasionally, horticultural classes from South Puget Sound Community College walk the grounds.

Of course, all the flowers and plants require trimming. To keep everything looking beautiful, Panorama has 25 groundskeepers. Every yard is perfectly manicured and taken care of professionally by the landscaping crew.

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Sprengel leads monthly tours through the Panorama grounds.

“Many of the residents aren’t that passionate about plants and flowers,” Sprengel said. “They’re just happy to have something green. Others are long time gardeners and know just want they want. Sometimes they’ll ask for a shrub that our grounds crew will put in. Other times they’ll go out and get things on their own.”

In Sprengel’s professionally formatted tree and shrub guide, he includes 540 photos of flowering shrubs that are on Panorama grounds. During a short tour this week with him, Sprengel pointed to a tree in the courtyard at Panorama.

“That’s a False Cypress,” he said as it began to sprinkle, shortening our walk. “It’s one of four species – two are American and two are Asian. This is an Asian one.”

After a few more steps, he pointed to a Port Orford Cypress, an Evergreen he says is native to southern Oregon. He then named the flowering plant close by – a Lilly of the Valley. Not far from that he made note of a 20-foot Japanese Maple.

After graduating from North Thurston High School in 1972, Sprengel enrolled at Centralia Community College where he took some horticultural classes. When he was first hired at Panorama, he worked as a groundskeeper for a while. He then worked in nursing before landing in communications, helping to create newsletters and advertising for Panorama.

The request to help with the map of the flowers and trees nudged Sprengel back into plants again. From spring to fall, he now leads a monthly tour through the Panorama neighborhood, sometimes touring as many as 30 in a group. The mile-and-a-half walk takes about an hour and half as Sprengel identifies the talks about the plants.

“We’re lucky to live in a climate where you can grow things from so many different places,” Sprengel said. “Almost anything will grow here, except tropical.”

To join a tour, call Panorama at 360-456-0111.  Tours being in May and continue throughout the summer.

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