When Rhododendrons are at their best


I have recently read a couple of posts about the merits (or not ) of Rhododendrons and I was reminded of them when I visited Portmeirion the other week.

I can see some people’s point of view of that Rhododendron flowers can be garish and when they have finished flowering there is little of interest about them and it is difficult to grow anything under them.  However, I love Rhododendrons when they are grown in a naturalistic way and allowed to behave as they would in the wild. 

The wild garden at Portmeirion was originally planted in the 1850s by H S Westmacott and then Sir William Fothergill Cooke with evergreen exotics including Rhododendron and especially Rhododendron arboreum (Cornish Red).  They were then developed by Caton Haig, one of the best authoritis on Himalayan flowering trees.  In 1941, after Haig’s death, the land was acquired by Clough who owned the adjacent land on which Portmeirion is built.  Therefore many of the Rhododendrons in the wild garden, or Y Gwyllt, are very old and consequently very large.

This is what I find so fascinating about them and what takes me back to my childhood.  Like others who have recently posted on the subject, my school was surrounded by Rhododendrons and I agree they were horrid dark things but I remember vividly visiting Virgin Water, nr Windsor, frequently where there are large plantings of these plants and being thrilled, as a young child, at the opportunity to walk amongst the branches and hid from the grown ups – to me it was like a magically world.

So when we walked through the wild gardens at Y Gwyllt I was transported right back to my child hood by this majestic plants.  If you are wondering just how big they are look at the picture below and you will spot my two sons – one is 6’3″ and the other 5’11”!!!


How can anyone not be impressed by this majesty?

6 Comments on “When Rhododendrons are at their best

  1. I remember making a den in the middle of some huge old rhododendrons and feeling utterly hidden. I have four here and thought I did not like them much when I came – too blowsy, not native enough – but I have been totally won over by how fabulously over the top they are in flower.

  2. Holy Hannah! Those are HUGE! I don’t think I’ve seen any so mammoth. What a great idea of how big they are by having someone stand next to them. Thanks for sharing this. I learned something today.

  3. I’ve visited Portmeirion many times – the first was when I was about 9 and we used to stay at a little guest house in Barmouth. Back then it wasn’t the fabulous buildings in the village that made an impression on me, but the atmospheric woodland filled with rhodies. I was amazed at the size of some of the leaves.

  4. Very cool looking trunks! They remind me of something out of a fantasy novel or movie. I would love to have one or two of them around our yard.

  5. Those are giant. I thought the Coastal type here were big, but they are small compared to those. I also like when they get large and you can appreciate their trunks too.

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