Tag Archive: rhododendron

We were very lucky to have a morning to spare before travelling home from seeing friends in Cheshire, recently. Tatton Park was a half hour drive away, so we headed off. I was eager to see this garden which is a prominent National Trust property (though run by the local Council) and features in the annual round of RHS Flower Shows. I wasn’t disappointed…

Our friends took us straight to the most talked about area here, the Japanese Garden. WOW! It was a delight, especially as the various Maples were newly in leaf. The sun was out and the garden, with its changing levels, water and Japanese feature buildings and monuments, was breathtaking.

After this we had an hour to get round as much of the rest of this beautifully kept estate, including fernery and palm houses, bothy, walled garden, tower garden and wider woodland areas with some superb early Rhododendrons. You could easily spend a day or two here exploring the wider parkland as well as the 50 acres of richly varied gardens…enjoy the pics!

Further information:

National Trust website

Tatton Park website

Old School Gardener

WP_20150515_11_05_33_ProOn our way home from Sussex last week, we manged to call in on two other National Trust properties. The first was Emmetts Garden, near Sevenoaks, Kent.

Though situated in a commanding hillside location, the garden is tucked away a bit, but we eventually found it after some tortuous lanes and slippery hill climbs! Our stay was short,but the garden didn’t disappoint- masses of spring interest, including a very attractive rockery with plenty of alpines on display. The Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Bluebells were also looking superb in the bright sunshine.

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Wikipedia describes the gardens:

‘Emmetts Garden was open farmland until 1860 when the present house was built. The name ’emmett’ is a local word for ant and refers to the giant anthills that covered the area until the 1950s. The house and land was purchased in 1890 by Frederic Lubbock, a banker and passionate plantsman. Lubbock’s elder brother was John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury, coincidentally a world expert on ants, which may have influenced his decision to purchase the property.

The gardens were initially laid out between 1893 and 1895 under the influence of Lubbock’s friend William Robinson in the fashionable Edwardian style popularised by Gertrude Jekyll. The shrub garden was added later in 1900-1908.

After Lubbock’s death (1927), the estate was acquired by an American geologist Charles Watson Boise. He made various alterations to both house and garden but retained the original character of the gardens…

The garden, which covers an area of about six acres (approximately 2.5 hectares), occupies a commanding site on a 600-foot (180 m) sandstone ridge, overlooking the Weald. One of the highest points in Kent, it offers expansive views towards the North Downs.

It is mainly planted with trees and shrubs in the form of an arboretum; a magnificent 100-foot (30 m) Wellingtonia fortunately survived the Great Storm. There is also a rose garden located next to the Victorian house to which the gardens once belonged.’

Further information: National Trust website

Old School Gardener

First Rhododendron of the year, seen at Repton’s Sheringham Park, yesterday.WP_20150308_15_21_00_ProOld School Gardener

Conifers can be pretty! Flowers like these help to relieve otherwise ratehr monotonous foliage. Picture by Anne Burgess
Conifers can be pretty! Flowers like these help to relieve otherwise rather monotonous foliage. Picture by Anne Burgess

An interesting question about propagating from hardwood cuttings, this week, from Gary Oakeshott of Dorset:

‘Some conifer cuttings I took during the summer have [produced a hard knobbly base but not roots. what has caused this and will affect rooting?’

Hmm.. Gary, this knobbly surface is called callus and usually develops around a wound when favourable conditions for rooting are provided. It seems to be essential in the process of forming roots. The acidity of the soil can affect the production of callus: too much lime and the callus may be hard and prevent roots from breaking through.

I suspect the cause of your problem might be that you’re checking your conifer cuttings for root growth too often? A case of ‘digging up the plant to see if it’s growing’!! Each time you lift the cutting, another tiny wound may have been made and this will have had to callus over before rooting can occur. I suggest that you remove the hard callus with a clean, sharp knife and replant your cuttings- but this time be patient and leave them alone fora  good 2-3 months! Here’s a simple video of the conifer propagation process- useful if you want to extend a hedge with your own cuttings, for example.

The process of wounding cuttings to encourage rooting is an interesting one. You might think it opens up the risk of letting in disease, and whilst this is a possibility, the wounding of the base of woody cuttings seems to be beneficial, especially with those species that are difficult to root, such as Rhododendrons. the wound appears to stimulate root formation, and the cut area allows the roots to emerge from the stem more readily. For the greatest benefit, the cuttings should be treated with a hormone rooting compound after wounding prior to sinking them into compost.

Further information:

Taking hardwood cuttings- RHS advice

Old School Gardener

Rhododendron viriosum - picture by Brian Walters

Rhododendron viriosum – picture by Brian Walters

Just about now many of the heritage gardens of Britain are coming alive with Rhododendron colour. Rhododendron is named from the ancient Greek words for  “rose” (rhódon)  and “tree” (déndron). It is a genus of over 1000 species of woody plants in the heath family, and are either evergreen or deciduous. Most species have showy flowers. Rhododendrons are extensively hybridized in cultivation, and natural hybrids often occur in areas where species ranges overlap.They were introduced to the UK in the late 18th century from the Himalayas and China.

There are over 28,000 cultivars of Rhododendron in the International Rhododendron Registry held by the Royal Horticultural Society. Most have been bred for their flowers, but a few are of garden interest because of ornamental leaves and some have ornamental bark or stems. Recent genetic investigations have caused an ongoing realignment of species and groups within the genus. Horticulturally, rhododendrons may be divided into the following groups:

  • Evergreen rhododendrons: the main category

  • Vireya (Malesian) rhododendrons: these are tender shrubs

  • Azaleas (a section of generally small-sized, small-leaved and small-flowered shrubs), further divided into deciduous and evergreen hybrids. They are distinguished from “true” rhododendrons by having only five anthers per flower.

  • Azaleodendrons – semi-evergreen hybrids between deciduous azaleas and rhododendrons

Rhododendron luteum

Rhododendron luteum

Species names include:

R. arborescens = tree like

R. augustini = after Dr. Augustine Henry, famous 19th /20th century irish plantsman.,

R. balsamiaeflora = balsam-flowered, the double flowered florist’s balsam.

R. campanulatum = bell – shaped flowers

R. campylocarpum = bearing bent fruits

R. cinnarbarinum = cinnabar red

R. decorum = shapely or becoming

R. fastigiatum = fastigiate or erect branches taperign to a point

R. flavum = yellow (also known as R. luteum)

R. impeditum = twiggy branches

R. laponicum = of lapland

R. molle = soft or velvety, refering to the leaves

R. myrtilloides = myrtle – like

R. nudiflorum = naked flowered, i.e coming before the leaves

R. ponticum = Pontic, a  region of the Black Sea

R. rhodora = old generic name signifying rosy-red

R. russatum = reddened- the foliage

R. sutchense = from Szechuan

R.vaseyi = discovered by Mr. G.R. Vasey, 19th century botanist

R. viscosum = sticky or viscous

R. yunnanense = of Yunnan, southern China

Rhododendron ponticum

Rhododendron ponticum

The rhododendron is the national flower of Nepal, where the flowers are considered edible and enjoyed for their sour taste. The pickled flower can last for months and the flower juice is also marketed. The flower, fresh or dried, is added to fish curry in the belief that it will soften the bones!

Some species of rhododendron are poisonous to grazing animals because of a toxin in their pollen and nectar. Rhododendron is extremely toxic to horses, with some animals dying within a few hours of ingesting the plant.

People have been known to become ill from eating honey made by bees feeding on rhododendron and azalea flowers. Xenophon described the odd behavior of Greek soldiers after having consumed honey in a village surrounded by Rhododendron ponticum during the ‘March of the Ten Thousand’ in 401 BC.Pompey’s soldiers reportedly suffered lethal casualties following the consumption of honey made from Rhododendron deliberately left behind by Pontic forces in 67 BC. Later, it was recognized that honey resulting from these plants has a slightly hallucinogenic and laxative effect., the suspect rhododendrons being R. ponticum and R. luteum (also known as R. flavum). Eleven similar cases have been documented in Turkey during the 1980s. The effects of R. ponticum was mentioned in the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes as a proposed way to arrange a fake execution.

Rhododendron 'Lemon Dream'

Rhododendron ‘Lemon Dream’

Rhododendrons are grown for their spectacular flowers, usually borne in spring. Some also have young leaves and stems covered in a striking dense woolly covering (indumentum) and some – the deciduous rhododendrons or azaleas – have good autumn colour. Some species (e.g. Rhododendron ponticum in Ireland and the United Kingdom) are invasive plants, spreading in woodland areas replacing the natural understory. R. ponticum is difficult to eradicate, as its roots can make new shoots.

Sources and further information:


BBC video of Rhododendrons in the Himalayas

RHS- growing Rhododendrons

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh – Rhododendron collection

Quizzicals: answers to the two clues given in Plantax 10…

  • Evader of women – Ladies Slipper
  • Oriental busybody – Japanese Medlar

..and 2 more cryptic clues to the names of plants, fruit or veg…

  • Where policemen spend their holidays
  • Feline relative

(thanks to Les Palmer, answers in the next Plantax!)

Old School Gardener

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IMG_5527We had a very enjoyable walk around one of our local ‘haunts’ on Sunday – Sheringham Park, in north Norfolk. I think we can honestly say that we’ve visited this beautiful landscape in all weathers – I recall the children sledging down some of the steep slopes in the snow and also the time we took some visiting friends there in the pouring rain!  Fortunately the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky on this latest visit.

The Park surrounds Sheringham Hall (privately occupied), but Sheringham Park is in the care of the National Trust and is open for visitors. The Park was designed by the famous Landscape Gardener, Humphry Repton, who presented his proposals in July 1812 in the form of one of his ‘Red Books’ – he showed ‘before and after’ fold – out images to illustrate the differences his design proposals would make. He described Sheringham as his ‘favourite child in Norfolk’ and he is buried in Aylsham Church, about 15 miles to the south. At the time he was in his later years and his star was on the wane, but this Park is described by some as his most successful landscape design. Abbot and Charlotte Upcher bought the Estate in 1811, and successive generations of the Upcher family did much to develop it, as well as the Hall and the park, and also built a school.

The landscape has been moulded to make the most of the natural hills and vales (formed by glacial gravels). Many of the trees are now of a very mature age and there is some evidence of felling or ‘natural topple over’ as they near the end of their normal lifespans. The Trust has done much new planting and maintains the ‘wilderness’ feel of some areas, along with mature woodland with glades and pools, surrounding heathlands (with interesting views towards the restored North Norfolk Railway, the coast and North Sea), plus all the elements of the romantic landscape around the House and its setting.

The woodlands also contain a large variety of rhododendrons and azaleas. In the early 20th century Henry Morris Upcher obtained rhododendron seeds of various types from plantsman ‘Chinese’ Wilson. Many other species of tree and shrub are represented in the park, including fifteen kinds of magnolia, maples, acers,styrax, Eucryphia, Davidia involucrata and a fine example of the ‘Snowdrop Tree’,  Halesia. Several outlook towers and viewpoints provide good views over the park and of the nearby coast and surrounding countryside. Recently a new ‘Bower Garden’ has been created which provides a wonderful den building area, enclosed seating area and widllife pond which had many tadpoles, pond skaters and the like on our visit.

If you visit you’ll also have the benefit of an interesting exhibition about Repton and the development of the estate, a number of marked walks plus all the usual National Trust attractions – I particularly enjoyed some Stem Ginger Ice Cream!

Old School Gardener

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