9 May 2019

In Pictures: Ravishing rhododendrons

Rhododendrons are beautiful and their sumptuous blooms look spectacular in full flower. Spot our rare species and gorgeous specimens across Wakehurst.

By Joanna Wenham

Rhododendrons at Wakehurst

Reginald Childs, Rhododendron uvarifolium

A beautiful specimen of this can be found in the Water Gardens. This clone was introduced by Wakehurst , and registered in 1976. It has pretty pink to white bell-shaped flowers, usually spotted or blotched in a large truss of six to 18 flowers, blooming throughout March and April.

Reginald Childs, (Rhododendron uvarifolium)
Reginald Childs, (Rhododendron uvarifolium)

Rhododendron mallotum 

This rare Rhododendron can be found near the viewpoint over Westwood Valley.

In the wild, this species occurs on the border of China and Myanmar. It is Red-listed as endangered with extinction,  particularly as a result of new road construction. Its stunning crimson to scarlet flowers in early spring contrast with its dense cinnamon-brown indumentum (fine hairs) on the undersides of the leaves.

Rhododendron mallotum
Rhododendron mallotum Credit: Jim Holden/RBG Kew

Rhododendron arboreum      

This is the national flower of Nepal.

In early and mid-spring, trusses of 15 to 20 bell-shaped flowers, up to 2 inches big are produced in red, pink or white. This plant holds the Guinness Record for World’s Largest Rhododendron at 20m in height recorded in India. Beautiful examples can be found on the slopes of Lady’s Drive (the main path through Westwood Valley).

Rhododendron arboreum      
Rhododendron arboreum      

Rhododendron barbatum X arboreum 

Bursting full of flower by March and April at the top of Westwood Valley, this grand specimen visibly marks the beginning of the vast collection of rhododendrons. Over 1800 accessions are in the valley, and 300 are Red-listed, helping to make our collection globally significant.  

Rhododendron barbatum x arboreum
Rhododendron barbatum x arboreum

Rhododendron argyrophyllum subsp. nankigense

This species is found in China and is Red-listed as vulnerable.

In the wild, this species is severely fragmented, occurring in thickets and known from only two localities widely separated, one of which consists of just 200 plants. In spring it is covered in stunning clusters of lightly-scented, pink, trumpet-shaped flowers.

Rhododendron argyrophyllum subsp. nankigense
Rhododendron argyrophyllum subsp. nankigense

Rhododendron sutchuenense 

This Sichuan tree is found in south west China. and has drooping leaves up to 30cm long. Trusses of up to ten bell-shaped flowers bloom in early spring, ranging in colour from pale pink to a rosy lilac with red or purple spots. This species can be found on the path below the Himalayan viewpoint at Wakehurst.

Rhododendron sutchuenense 
Rhododendron sutchuenense 

Nobleanum, (Rhododendron X pulcherrimum)

A cross between R. arboreum and R. caucasicum, this species is a favourite of one of our long-serving members of staff who has now retired. Ted was responsible for maintaining these plants in their early years. The plant, which can be found just below the Water Garden, has abundant flowers in early spring full of a deep and brilliant rose colour. 

Rhododendron X pulcherrimum
Rhododendron X pulcherrimum Credit: Jim Holden/RBG Kew

Rhododendron meddianum 

Listed as vulnerable, this species naturally occurs in the region between China and Myanmar where it grows in thickets along streams and rocky slopes. It has crimson or scarlet flowers in March and April. It can be found below the Himalayan viewpoint on the path up from Westwood Lake.

Rhododendron meddianum
Rhododendron meddianum Credit: Jim Holden/RBG Kew

Rhododendron nitidulum var. omeiense

This compact plant has small dark purplish blue to lavender-blue coloured flowers. Its wild populations occur in moorlands and rocky slopes in central Sichuan, where it is restricted to a small population on the slopes of Mount Emei.

You can find a small specimen of this in the Asian Heath Garden at Wakehurst.

 

Rhododendrons at Wakehurst

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