Where are the best places to see rhododendrons? If you love these gorgeous displays of colourful flowers, we’ve got the lowdown on the 10 of the best places to see rhododendrons in the UK in May.
Late April to June is when you’ll see the best displays of rhododendrons. There are over 1,000 species of wild rhoddies as well as hundreds more hybrids, so they come in a huge range of size, shape and colour. If you visit a site which specialises in these woody shrubs, it can look absolutely spectacular. We’ve put together some suggestions of where to go, but for more locations near you take a look at The National Trust for Scotland, The National Trust, English Heritage, RHS Partner Gardens and An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland.
1. Best places to see rhododendrons: Emmetts Garden, Kent (National Trust)
Emmetts Garden’s collection of rhododendron and azaleas is vast and stunning – a truly remarkable display of colour is revealed each spring from its 130 species. If you cast your eye out across the landscape in May, then nine times out of ten the colour will be rhododendron or azalea of some description. To find out more, visit the Emmetts Garden website.
2. Rhododendron wood, Leith Hill, Surrey (National Trust)
The Rhododendron Wood was created in the late 1800s by Caroline Wedgwood of the illustrious pottery family who lived at nearby Leith Hill Place, so has to feature in our list of the best places to see rhododendrons. A keen plantswoman and botanist, Caroline was the eldest sister of Charles Darwin who would visit Leith Hill and walk in the woods. To find out more, visit the Leith Hill website.
3. Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland
Rhododendrons love Scotland’s naturally acidic soil, so you’ll be spoilt for choice! The Royal Botanic Garden covers 72 acres, and has a large selection of tropical rhododendrons which usually bloom in early spring. In total, they have 819 species which are used for science, conservation and education as well as decoration. To find out more, visit the Royal Botanic Garden website.
4. Achamore Gardens, Argyll and Bute
Created by Colonel Sir James Horlick with the assistance of Gardener Kitty Lloyd Jones in 1944, Achamore Gardens is the home of Horlick’s renowned rhododendron and camellia collection and specialises in rhoddies, so we had to feature it in our best places to see rhododendrons list. To find out more, visit the Achamore Gardens website.
5. Powerscourt House and Gardens, Co Wicklow, Ireland
A 1,000 acre site just outside double, Powerscourt House and Gardens boasts the Rhododendron Walk which contains many varieties of azalea and rhododendron. Introduced to Ireland by the Victorias, these woody shrubs quickly became popular not only for their decorative qualities but also to provide cover for game birds. To find out more, visit the Powerscourt House and Gardens website.
6. Rhododendron Dell, Kew Gardens, London
Botanist and explorer Sir Joseph Hooker brought back many new specimens of rhododendron from his travels to the Himalaya in the mid-19th century. Struck by the spectacular beauty of these colourful flowers, he exclaimed: ‘The splendour of the Rhododendrons is marvellous: there are 10 kinds on this hill, scarlet, white, lilac, yellow, pink, marroon[sic],: the cliffs actually bloom with them.’ Today, 150 years later, dense clusters of rhododendrons flower in the dell, including unique hybrids not found elsewhere in the world. To find out more, visit the Kew Gardens website.
7. Dunge Valley Rhododendron Gardens, Nr. Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire
Positioned at 1,000ft above sea level, Dunge Valley Gardens have been able to create a reproduction of a hidden Himalayan valley, the rhododendron’s native habitat. They have a collection of over 500 species and hybrids in a setting of streams, waterfalls, bridges and bog gardens. Opening hours are limited so make sure you take a look at the Dunge Valley website before travelling.
8. Best places to see rhododendrons: Sheringham Park, Norfolk
Sheringham Park has a nationally important collection of rhododendrons giving colour throughout much of the year to the garden. During May into early June the display comes to its peak when visitors can stroll down the main drive through the wild garden flanked on either side by flowering plants.To find out more, visit the Sheringham Park website.
9. Muncaster Cacstle, Ravenglass, Cumbria
Muncaster Castle is a hotel, but you can visit the gardens and other attractions separately. Sir John Ramsden, the sixth Baronet, was responsible for the creation of what was, at one time, considered to be the largest collection of species rhododendrons in Europe. The acid soil, proximity of the Gulf Stream and the sheltered steep-sided valleys of the gardens provide a perfect micro-climate for special plants such as Rhododendron broughtonii, Rh. elliottii and Rh. griersonianum. To find out more, visit the Muncaster Castle website.
10. Colby’s Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire, Wales (National Trust)
Rhododendrons are Colby’s speciality and thrive in the garden’s acidic soil; look out for unusual varieties including large-leaved species. To find out more, visit the Colby’s website.
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