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?