Rhododendron Show!

Last fall I was honored to receive an invitation to serve as a Celebrity Judge at a local rhododendron show, sponsored by the local chapter of the Rhododendron Society of America, which I have been looking forward to ever since. And last weekend was the big event, held on the coast of Mendocino County in the small quaint town of Ft. Bragg. Never having served in this capacity before I was not quite sure what to expect. I arrived early to the school where the show was taking place and here was my first (overwhelming) view:

The breadth and depth of what I was witnessing rolled over and through me and spun itself out unexpectedly in little tears streaming down my cheeks. This was no small feat I was seeing. The toil, labor, sweat, tears and heart that went into the hydbridization, growing, selecting and collecting was not lost on me at all. There was an enormous amount of love in that room. A love for rhododendrons. Welcome to the World of the Rhododendron People.

Shortly after the several other judges arrived, who were primarily from a second chapter in the South Bay. What a lovely group of grounded knowledgeable people! I was paired with a charming woman who had grown rhododendrons for many years and knew the primary movers and shakers in the Rhododendron World. She told me about some amazing gardens on the East Coast. I knew I was in good hands with her and determined to take note and learn what I could from my time with her on Saturday. We were tasked with moving up and down those tables, choosing the best examples of various subspecies. While I did not have the criteria in hand she had, she graciously told another judge, “It’s fun working with Kathryn. She’s looking for beauty.” (Yes, indeed!) I felt my years of photographing flowers was my primary skill in helping to assess what made each selection worthy of a first, second or third place ribbon. And we were at liberty to name Honorable Mentions, so the imperfect lovelies also had a chance. My partner was fond of the yellows; I was fond of the pinks. We were a good match. We mostly agreed on all our choices and worked well in allowing for each other’s preferences. It was a challenging and fun experience and I learned a lot.

The many photos that follow will give you a tiny taste of the abundant beauty I was exposed to at this show. I have not written down all the various species. I simply wanted to be able to share a bit of what I was able to experience on this most special of days. You will undoubtedly notice that while the majority of the flowers I photographed were single flowers, entered in the show, that I have also included a few that were in large pots that were presented to the public for sale. I invite you to breath in their beauty and to enjoy!








“A thing of beauty is a joy forever…” ~ John Keats








And, (ta da!) Best in Show!!

Are these not spectacular? What a blessing the rhododendron!

Love and flower blessings,
Kathryn xoxoox

Book News: The Whole Person Calendar in Southern California is going to be running a couple of excerpts from Plant Whatever Brings You Joy in upcoming issues. I will let you know exactly when. I’m also anticipating an author event soon at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma. Stay tuned!

14 Responses to “Rhododendron Show!”

  1. Oh my Kathryn, these photos are breathtaking! Congratulations on your first judging gig, I’m sure many more will follow. Thanks for sharing your adventure!
    Love,
    Kathlene

  2. Hi, Kathlene! Thank you! Aren’t they amazing? It was a lot to take in! Glad you enjoyed! Love, Kathryn xoxo

  3. Wow! So much Beauty! What fun, mom! Congratulations, and thanks for sharing the delight with us. :-)

    Love, Antonia xoxo

  4. Hi, Antonia, Thank you! Love, Mom xoxo

  5. OK, so I have to tell you, they are one of my major passions. The secret is to have ACID soil and plenty of moisture. Living where I do on high-lime glacial till, there is one place in the front of the house where I can grow them, Exburys and little-leafed azaleas only. If you turn the corner, they die. I treated the soil with copper sulfate to begin & then add oak leaves and run rain water on them (pH of rain water in central Ohio is ~4.5 because of acid rain). I got stock out of New England bacuse Low Country stock can’t take Ohio winters. Much research on them up at Wooster (on sandstone low-lime glacial till) Secrest Arboretum at OARDC. They worked on many of the Catawba varities mid-1900s. Also, they are only found wild two places in the world. Eastern US in the mountains and China in the mountains because when the plants first came into being, the two mountain chains were connected. Mark one up for continental drift. The English went off to China for theirs, not realizing that they could come get them out of the Carolinas, Georgia, the Virginias and Tennessee as a place to start. Any state with the “mountain laurel” as the state flower is a native location. Thanks so much. They are incredible. Hugs, Julie

  6. Hi, Julie, Wow! A Rhododendron Peep!! Indeed! Thank you so much for that volume of invaluable information! It will give you pleasure that you do see them here in the woods. Not sure who planted them, but they run rampant in certain areas. And if you DO make it out to California it should be in May and the tour will include Mendocino Botanical Gardens. http://tinyurl.com/oo8ghf
    Love, Kathryn xoxo

  7. Congratulations on becoming a judge Kathryn! Beautiful flowers – and so many of them are similar to my rhododendrons that are just bursting into flower here now! Glorious :)

  8. Hi, Liz! Thank you! It’s lovely knowing we share rhododendrons as part of the beauty of our landscapes! Thanks for the visit, my dear! Kathryn xoxo

  9. Stunning, dear Kathryn, and honored to judge must have been hard to choose. I adore rhododendrons and have many … mostly deep pink, a few purple and white. When they bloom, my heart stands still! Thinking of you on this beautiful weekend … Happy Mother’s Day, dear friend.

  10. Hi, Joey! Happy Mother’s Day to you, as well! :) Yes, it was quite a task. Towards the end it was a bit overwhelming. Thank goodness they paired me with a very knowledgeable person with whom I enjoyed working! I learned to look through new eyes. I bet your rhodies are beautiful! I would pick the same colors. :) Kathryn xoxo

  11. Kathryn,

    It was delightful to have you as a judge for our show! The pictures and comments of your experience on your blog are outstanding. They go hand in hand with our chapter’s mission to educate the public about this phenomenal species.

    Thank you for all of your time and efforts; they are much appreciated!

  12. Welcome, Nannette! Thank YOU! I’m so glad you like the post. Happy to help spread the word. I so appreciated the warm hospitality extended to me by all associated with the show. What a special event. I look forward to revisiting in the future! Kathryn xoxo

  13. I am a keen gardener from Lahore-Pakistan (zone 10).I tried just about everything to grow in zone 10.Although that I was able to grow adeniums,daylilies,clematis,ferraria,mucuna sempervirens,vigna caracalla,akebia longracemoa,kiwi fruit vines etc with success but rhododendrons,azaleas,blueberries failed me.Our summers with temps over 45C are unforgiving for rhododendrons.You are lucky you can see them blooming right in front of your eyes:0)

  14. Hi, Adnan, and welcome! You do have an abundance of plants growing there in Lahore. But, yes, I can imagine that rhodies would not do so well.
    The rhodie show was an overwhelming blessing. To be in the presence of so much beauty in one room and be asked to examine each carefully? Wow!
    Thanks for the visit. Kathryn xoxo

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