Rhododendron Splendor

In a burst of pink my daughter and I began our trek through the rhododendron splendors of the Mendocino Botanical Garden forest yesterday. The magnificently beautiful journey was well beyond either of our expectations. We quickly found ourselves immersed in unspeakable flower power, the spirit of which emanated from all the regions through which we ventured, mouths agape, and cameras clicking. We gave thanks for having gotten ourselves there before the end of the peak season, which is month’s end, especially knowing the heavy recent rains had probably damaged some of the showy petals. We encountered a lovely woman named Christina who had been working in the gardens for ten years. “Yes, we had a lot of rain,” she smiled, “but there are always new blossoms.” Aw, yes, the renewing and refreshing and ongoing cycle of life upon which we were able to count. Lucky us!

Quietly we walked through the beauty, managing just barely to take in all we were beholding. A sheer three or four steps found us before yet another example of the glory of the rhododendron. That someone had actually assembled such a gathering of beauty in this moist forest setting, where they do well, is an incredible blessing. Might we kiss someone’s feet to have created such a place for us to visit! Christina explained that the rhododendrons were divided loosely into three large areas. The initial paths would take us to the hybrid rhodies; the inner more off the beaten track paths would put us among tender species rhodies, gathered from far and obscure places in the world and acclimated to the coasts of Mendocino; and that once we were past the Deer Gate, we would be walking among the large leaf rhododendrons. That was as much detail as I seemed to need for this trip. So, beginning our walk among the hybrids, here are some highlights from what we beheld.

If was fascinating to learn that the rhododendron is the national flower of Nepal.

The name rhododendron comes from the Greek rhodos, “rose” and dendron, “tree”. I think prior to this adventure I more thought of rhododendrons as shrubs rather than trees. Now I will more fully appreciate their place in a moist forest setting.

Moving into the interior we found these. I love the juxtaposition of the dark leaves framing this lovely dual colored rhodie.

And who would not be impressed by the spectacular color of this lovely offering?

Suddenly we arrived at what we realized was the “Deer Gate”. And what a memorable creation it was! I loved it!

What lay beyond this gate I am saving for another day, dear readers. Yes, I am. It was nothing I expected and deserves its own story. I will leave you instead with more wonderful images from our day among the lovely rhododendrons of the coastal botanical gardens that Mendocino so generously provides. I do hope you have enjoyed the journey and that you will take it yourselves one fine May day.

The configuration of the plant above gets me thinking it was created as the home of a gigantic red paper wasp and his companions, who live inside the large red combs. A girl can dream.

I was particularly charmed by this unexpected and unusual orangey rhododendron. I wonder where it began its journey before it found its way here?

Thank you, my dears, for joining me on this journey.

Love and many gardening blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

22 Responses to “Rhododendron Splendor”

  1. Wow! You did a Gorgeous job of sharing the tremendous Beauty!

    Thanks again for taking me along on the journey! What a gift!

    Love you,
    Antonia
    xoxox

  2. Oh, hi, Sweetie! Thank YOU! Having you with me was the best part! Love, Mom xoxo

  3. Oh, Kathryn, now you’ve made me want to jump into the car and drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the rhodies! (California is just too far!)

    They are the most resplendant blooms, aren’t they?

    Love,
    Loma

  4. Hi, dear Loma! Oh, I’m so glad you have that option! They are, indeed, most amazing! They seem very very old to me. This means they touched many lives over many generations in many countries. (They do not appear in S.A. or Africa, however.) Love, Kathryn xoxo

  5. Rhododendrons and azalea are so lovely trees, when they are allowed to grow to its full splendour. Unfortunately very often they are planted in the gardens where the soil naturally is not acidic. This is very hard to change and maintain the pH of soil.
    Thanks for this wonderful trek.
    xoxo

  6. Wow Kathryn, what amazing photos – I could almost touch the flowers! I’ve seen rhodies wild in Nepal and they are stunning, but this garden is pretty spectacular too! I can’t wait to see what’s beyond the deer gate! :)

  7. Thank you Kathryn. They are glorious trees.

  8. Good day, Ewa! How wonderful that you already know the natural state of rhododendron is to grow large and open and full. Yes, that acidic soil is the key. It’s probably one of the toughest challenges of the gardener to plant what is appropriate for ones locale, particularly if one is transplanted oneself! So much to learn in each culture. Thanks for your input. Appreciated. Kathryn xoxo

  9. Wow, Liz: to have seen rhodies wild in Nepal is a very special perspective on this post! Thank you for that! Glad you enjoyed our wonderful coastal version. :) Kathryn xoxo

  10. Good morning, Cyd. Glad you enjoyed this morning’s visit! Kathryn xoxo

  11. Beautiful post Kathryn! The photos are lovely. I’m learning that rhododendrons really flourish here at the coast. We have several magnificent ones here in the neighborhood too.

  12. Kathryn, wonderful wonderful pictures. Gardens of rhodies are so special. They are old, old plants, dating back to before the spliting up of Pangaea and for formation of the Atlantic Ocean, beginning in the Jurassic. There are only two natural centers on earth for the family of plants, the southern Appalachians and a section of China (which was attached). As noted, the critical issue is pH of the soil (also shade and moisture). If you live on shale, sandstones, or other acid producing bedrock and can provide shade and mositure, they are the most noble of plants to grow. If not, LOTS of cottonseed meal, cooper sulfate and oak leaves. I have a group of Exburys and little leaf azaleas in front of my house facing south, sheltered from the winter wind (zone 5) and shaded by a big sugar maple. On high-lime glacial till, it has been a challenge, but they have been there for more than 20 years. Turn the corner and they die. For those readers from the Great Lakes area, there is a wonderful rhodie garden at the Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center’s Secrest Arboretum in Wooster, Ohio (http://secrest.osu.edu/default.asp). A number of years ago the horticulture department there was doing work with the Catawba rhodies. The Secrest Arboretum also has one of the largest old rose gardens in the US as well as probably thousands of crab apple trees and a major “street tree” research area to breed trees best suited for urban environments along sidewalks.
    Thanks again for sharing. I did not know there were rhodie preserves in California. Large collections are rare as the setting has to be just right or they won’t make it. Can’t wait to see what is beyond the deer gate.
    Julie & family in cental Ohio where we finally have roses starting to bloom but frost last night again.

  13. Good morning, Kathlene! Yes, I bet you do have some lovely rhodies out there in Bodega! Thank you so much for the visit! Lovely to see you here at the start of the workweek! Kathryn xoxo

  14. Wow, cousin Julie, you are such a wealth of information and I so appreciate the depth of your understanding and your sharing with my readers and myself. Thank you! Glad to shed a bit of light on this reserve, as you say, here in California. Having read your comment I have an even deeper appreciation for what we just experienced. As for frost in Ohio in May, that’s just WRONG. :) May your roses soon prevail. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  15. Kathryn, how good to reconnect with you! What perfect rhodies – mine are only just starting to bud. Your photos are just gorgeous and show such amazing diversity – you make me want to visit the park too. Interesting to hear of the plant’s history. Perfect post.

  16. Oh, hi, Sarah! I will add you to my blogroll so I can easily find you next time. Yes, CA is a bit ahead of the weather curve. We are experiencing high 90’s this week! Hard on the roses! The rhodies were spectacular and the information my readers are offering makes me appreciate the journey all the more. Good to have your visit. Thanks for the kind words. Kathryn xoxo

  17. Hi kathryn!
    with your posts I like to enjoy your photos and words, then come back to enjoy again.
    what a treat to read this on a cool, foggy morning (no more heat wave!)
    I cannot say that I have a favorite image here…all are so thrilling.
    I have to say my mind went to a magical place with the “home of a gigantic red paper wasp and his companions, who live inside the large red combsI”
    Your posts have stories within stories!
    :)
    I love the branches supporting the flowers on path1…it reminds me of the structure of the gate…
    Ok, kathryn, you have me hooked! I cannot resist a cliffhanger..what lies behind? An enchanted garden? a secret world?
    What fun!
    Have a great day,
    :)
    Philip

  18. Hi, Philip! A delight to have you visiting this morning. Thank you for your sweet observations and comments! Kathryn xoxo

  19. i stumbled upon your blog quite by accident while googling “pumpkins” of all things! oh how happy i am that i found your cyberhome. what a wonderful read and gorgeous pictures! i lived in northern california, futher north than you are in humboldt county, and miss the redwoods and forests! i love austin, but a piece of my heart is still with the trees and so your posts and pictures feel like home to me.

    thank you so much for sharing and i will continue to check out your musings in the future…:)

    lots of love, light and peace to you!

  20. Welcome, Cat! I visited your blog. Thank you so much for adding my blog to your blogroll! So appreciated. I totally understand what you are feeling. I left N. CA for four years and I thought about Hwy. 12 and Hwy. 128 all the time. It was bizarre. I missed those redwood trees so much! I’m so delighted that you will get a little “home hit” in visiting Plant Whatever Brings You Joy! And good luck with the pumpkins! Kathryn xoxo

  21. Kathyrn: This post is another reason to love Mendocino. That orange variety is a stunner. Think it’s the first one I’ve ever seen. Found your reader comments interesting too!

    So glad to have discovered your blog. Happy gardening! Teresa

  22. Hi, Seasonal Wisdom! I appreciate your visit and your comments. Yes, many reasons to love this county. It’s steeped in beauty, mystery and history! Thank you for stopping by today! Kathryn xoxo

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