The flowering season for rhodies is a little late this year so plenty of time to plan a visit to see them at their best, if you don’t grow them at home. Few who have marvelled at these plants when they are in full show would have any idea that they are not native to the British Isles, so well do they proliferate when conditions suit them. Wild rhododendrons out compete native woodland plants and can even be a bit of a problem. But what a pretty thug!
Native Plant of Nepal
In fact, the Rhododendron is the native plant of Nepal originating mainly from the Himalayas, where they can be seen in approximately 600 varieties. The tender species grow at lower altitudes, whereas the big leaved ones with leaves up to 75cm long can be found in conifer forests at about 3000 metres. Further up in to the mountains, above the tree line, you find some of the more interesting and small leaved rhododendrons with dwarf species growing in alpine conditions, under snow for most of the year.
Something for Everyone
Plant breeders have developed increasingly exotic hybrids over the past century so that there are now about 20,000 registered varieties. Something for everyone from large woodland sprawlers to those suitable for a tub on the patio. Just the job to brighten up your outdoor metal furniture in the spring! The startlingly bright red and pink showy blooms are a wonderful foil for the dull gleam of cast aluminium patio furniture, giving the bronzey hues a real life.
A Show of their Own
The RHS National Rhode drum Show at the RHS’ Rosemoor, Torrington, North Devon takes place every April (this year on the 26th) where they have a mind-boggling 60 different classes covering all different types of plant as well as stalls offering advice and trade products (even the odd bit of metal garden furniture I dare say!)
One of the best places to revel in rhodies is at Bowood House & Gardens in Wiltshire. Opening on 25th April until mid June, a separate rhododendron garden of over 60 acres is open to the public and boasts a spectacular show of rhododendrons, magnolias and azaleas. Recently, gardeners at Bowood discovered over 30 original hardy hybrids thought to have been extinct. The original plants date back to 1854 when the 3rd Marquis of Landsowne first created the garden. The woodland rhododendron garden is planted around the family mausoleum one of Robert Adam’s finest classical buildings. A new four-acre section within the Rhododendron Walks, named the Jubilee Garden was planted in 2006 by the present Marquis of Landsdowne.
You can even arrange to have a private guided tour by an expert.
A final thought – nothing looks more fabulous than a couple of cut rhododendron blooms in a small jug on the aluminium patio table.