Scenic Route: Visiting Rhododendrons
There are many ways to see the rhododendron in its full splendor, including botanical gardens and specialty nurseries. Here are five great gardens to see the flowers in bloom.
Eugene, Oregon; greergardens.com.
Two generations of Greers have made a significant impact on the American rhododendron scene, breeding hybrids and presiding over a 14-acres nursery that now grows 4,500 varieties of plants. The house speciality is rhododendrons, and the luckiest visitors will bump into owner Harold Greer, a world-renowned authority on the genus who is generous with his expertise and advice.
Rhododendron State Park
Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire; nhstateparks.org.
R. Maximum is the only elepidote species native to New england, and here it fills a 16-acre grove. Fragrant clusters of pink blossoms burst into bloom in June and July, and visitors to the park can immerse themselves in their perfume by following a trail that encircles the grove.
London, England; royalparks.org.uk.
This public park on the west side of the city holds a park within a park--the Isabella Plantation garden, which was established after World War II, spans over 42 acres. The garden has 15 varieties of deciduous azalea and house the national collection of 50 kurume azaleas, introduced to the West around 1920 by the plant collector, Ernest Wilson. There are also 50 different species of rhododendron and 120 hybrids, most of which begin blooming in late April.
Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden
Federal Way, Washington; rhodygarden.org.
This living museum is set on 22 acres of the Weyerhaeuser corporate headquarters campus. It hosts a vast collection of the genus, the core of which were grown from cuttings brought over in the 1960s from public and private English gardens. In more recent years, the garden has added plants grown from donated seeds brought back from plant hunting trips around the world.
The Rhododendron Park and Botanic Garden
Bremen, Germany; rhodo.org/park.php.
The garden first opened to the public in 1937 at the initiative of the German Rhododenddron Society, which formed in the same town. Now the collection includes species, yaku hybrids, tropical vireya, and specimens from India and Japan. Peak flowering time is mid-to late May, depending on weather conditions.