Age of Rhododendrons
an Update by Charles Williams
The rhododendron species collection at Caerhays, which was largely the result of Forrest and Wilson introductions between 1902 and 1934, came into its absolute prime here in the 1960s and early 1970s just when I was starting to get interested and involved in my father’s hybridisation work with Philip Tregunna, the head gardener at Caerhays for over 40 years.
In the subsequent 50 to 60 years very large numbers of these rhododendron species have died upon reaching the end of their natural lives. The key question for large gardens with rhododendron collections in this centenary year is therefore at what point must the owners or curators consider starting these species off again from cuttings, seed or layering or perhaps from external purchases from the very limited number of specialist rhododendron nurseries which remain in the UK today.
There is a very real danger that many of the species discovered up to 100 years ago in China will be lost to, and because of, our generation of gardeners. With the arrival of the absurd and counterproductive Nagoya Protocol field trips to collect and distribute rhododendron seed from the wild will become ever more difficult, if not impossible……….