Discover the special rhododendrons at Trengwainton

The Lower Drive at Trengwainton Garden lined with rhododendrons

Spring is the season when Trengwainton comes alive with the colours of an historic collection of rhododendrons – some of which flowered for the first time in Britain, here in this garden.

A palette of colours

The colours range from the pale lemon of Rhododendron macabeanum, through to the deep blood red of Rhododendron arboreum ‘Cornish Red.’ For a rich, heady fragrance, it has to be Rhododendron loderi 'King George,' which starts with deep pink buds that open to become pure white flowers.

How did they get here?

It was from seed gathered by the great plant hunter Frank Kingdon Ward that the rhododendron collection at Trengwainton was largely established. In 1927-8 he went on an expedition to north-east Assam and the Mishmi Hills in upper Burma and Lt Col Bolitho of Trengwainton had a share in the expedition.

Skilful cultivation

Thanks to the skill of the head gardener Alfred Creek, these very tender seedlings were successfully raised and his successor G W Thomas made a number of new rhododendron crosses. In 1938 Trengwainton was by far the most successful exhibitor at the RHS rhododendron show in London and those rhododendron are still winning prizes today.

A fragile beauty

In recent years, these beautiful flowers at Trengwainton have become endangered by the plant disease Phytophthora ramorum, which causes them to weaken and die. Samples of some of Trengwainton’s most important specimens have been sent to the micropropagation unit at Duchy College to save their DNA, in the hope that future generations can continue to enjoy their extraordinary beauty for many years to come.

Did you know?

The rhododendron is the national flower of Nepal and is consumed there in the form of pickled flowers and juice, but honey produced from Rhododendron ponticum (often seen growing wild on Cornish hillsides) has hallucinogenic effects.  
On the other hand, medical studies have shown that some extracts from rhododendrons have anti-inflammatory properties and can also act beneficially on the function of the liver.