History and design
It is likely that Capability Brown extended the Rhododendron Dell in the 1770s, possibly with excavation assistance from the Staffordshire Militia. He named the feature Hollow Walk and planted it with mountain laurels. In 1847, the dell was replanted as a shrubbery.
Kew's rhododendrons have charmed generations of Londoners and visitors from further afield.
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It was around this time that Sir Joseph Hooker travelled to the Himalayas on a plant-collecting mission. Kew’s annual report for 1850 recorded the receipt from Hooker of '21 baskets of Indian orchids and new species of rhododendrons'. The latter were planted in sheltered parts of the Gardens, including the dell that is now a popular showcase for these profusively flowering plants.
Sir Joseph Hooker introduced 14 of the 25 rhododendron species described in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine between 1852 and 1856. The first species of the genus to flower at Kew was R. ciliatum, in 1852.
Hundreds of specimens now grow in the Rhododendron Dell, including some unique hybrids not found anywhere else.
Woodchip paths wind around beds containing specimens such as the pink-flowered Rhododendron myrtifolium, from the Carpathian and Balkan mountains, the highly-scented R. Kewense ‘King George’, and Kew’s oldest specimen, R. campanulatum. Mature hollies and oaks provide shade.
The Rhododendron Dell is at its prime during April and May.
Things to look out for
Close to the Rhododendron Dell is a solar-powered interpretation post, enabling visitors to identify birdsong from some of the Garden’s regular feathered visitors. These include the robin, goldcrest, golden pheasant, green woodpecker, long-tailed tit and nuthatch.