Rhododendrons at Bodnant Garden

Azaleas and rhododendrons at Bodnant Garden, Conwy

It's said there's a rhododendron in flower every month of the year at Bodnant Garden, and with a collection spanning more than one hundred years of horticultural history it's easy to see why.

Rhododendrons are wild shrubs found in South-East Asia. They were first introduced to Bodnant Garden around the turn of the 1900s, many grown from original seed collected by plant hunters including Ernest Wilson and George Forrest during expeditions in central China.

Bodnant's owner Henry Duncan McLaren (2nd Lord Aberconway) sponsored many of these botanical expeditions which brought an influx of new and exciting plants to the garden where they flourished in the temperate climate, acidic soil and unique topography. Here they have grown freely, producing some of the largest plants in the western hemisphere.

Henry Mclaren and his head gardener Frederick Puddle went on to hybridise some of these rhododendrons from the 1920s. They aimed to create varieties that were more compact for gardens, more richly coloured and with a longer flowering season. They include Rhododendron 'Elizabeth' a compact plant with vibrant pink flowers - the most famous of all the Bodnant hybrids and one that is found in many domestic gardens. Over half of all the hybrids at Bodnant were red and gained the nickname 'Bodnant Bloody Reds’.

This special group was awarded National Collection status in 2015: Rhododendrons Bred at Bodnant Garden 1927-1983. Of the original 300 hybrids only around 185 are still known to exist in the garden, but our garden team are actively looking to identify 'lost' varieties and propagating those under threat of extinction by layering, grafting and micro-propagation.

All Bodnant hybrids have unique green labels. Look out for them around the garden. Pick up our leaflet or download it here to help you spot some of our rhododerons when you visit.