My grandmother had a Fragrantissima and I loved it for its perfume so I decided to plant one in my garden where it has really failed to thrive…code for a few straggly stems … but it does flower and as I enjoy the fragrance in the air, all is forgiven.
I also planted a creamy coloured hybrid but it too is a pretty poor specimen so after consulting the experts Ted and Joy at Jubilee Nursery I have decided the problem is the heavy clay where I live. Ted and Joy sometimes open their own private garden as part of the Open Garden Scheme and I can recommend it as a rhodo lover’s paradise.
Rhododendrons look magnificent in the wild. I had never thought about where they came from until I saw them growing on the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal. Breathtaking massed colour is my overwhelming memory. But they can become an invasive weed outside their native environment.
Queenstown, Tasmania is a case in point. I could not believe my eyes when I saw them creeping up the bare hills competing with native vegetation for a foothold on what seems like bare rock. It is a real dilemma. After decades watching the gradual and encouraging greening of the hills with nature fighting back, it seems a travesty to have to pull the rhododendrons out but the rhodos and the radiata pines will have to go to make way for the re-emergence of the bush.
I hadn’t been thinking about rhododendrons of late so it was an unexpected delight to find myself walking around the Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden just outside Burnie last weekend. Being there, I decided for plants like rhododendrons, massed plantings in public gardens is the way to go. It is another example of Tasmanian volunteerism at its best. For more than 25 years a small group of people have created an oasis with the first rhododendron planted on this eleven hectare block on 11th November 1981.
Now there are 434 species of the 700 known species worldwide growing here including some that have been lost in the wild.
Niveum from Bhutan is a case in point. Maintaining global biodiversity is something Maurice and Pam Kupsch take very seriously. He explained as we wandered through the gardens that the plantings are organised in geographical regions from Bhutan, Sikkum, India, Nepal Sri Lanka and China to Europe. In China the rhododendrons are being lost at a great rate as a result of the logging of the forests and the clearing of the understorey. As chief garden maker Maurice has devoted years to this garden and as a registered charity, this society of 200 members needs our moral and financial support.
I was there to launch Scott Jordan as our Green candidate for Braddon and he had chosen the venue in part because it has such great memories for him as he was married there. It was good for both of us to mix work with pleasure. As Peter Cundall would have said, “Bloomin Marvellous.”