I admit that I am not the biggest fan of rhododendrons (good, reliable plants for many situations, but they really don't tickle me...), but I decided to check out the Rhododendron Species Foundation & Botanical Garden, while visiting the adjacent Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection today. As expected, it was far too early for anyone else than the most hard-core rhodo enthusiasts to visit this garden; almost nothing was flowering yet (besides a bright, Christmas-red variety). Instead, I found the staff in full swing creating a stumpery, mainly using stumps from large trees taken down by the winter storms. The area will be planted mainly with ferns, and I expect it to be an interesting visual addition to the garden.K
Stumperies were quite popular in 19th century gardens, and the first known example of them was built in 1856 at Biddulph Grange in England. They seemed long to have been buried with other Victorian horticultural oddities, until Prince Charles a couple of years ago chose to create a secret stumpery at his Highgrove estate. They have been gaining popularity since then, and as stumperies provide a good home for wildlife as stag beetles, toads and small mammals, I can't see any reason for not including them in gardens (you might need a fair-sized one though...).
Definitely worth visiting for anyone interested in species rhododendrons, The Rhododendron Species Foundation & Botanical Garden is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the conservation, public display and distribution of them. The park has one of the largest collections in the world, with over 600 of the more than 1,000 species found in the wilds of North America, Europe, and Asia, as well as the tropical regions of southeast Asia and northern Australia. As Steve Hootman, the curator for the collections, mentioned while I was visiting today, conservation has become very important in recent years with the destruction of Rhododendron habitat in many areas of the world. Most of the plants here are grown from seeds collected by Steve and other plant collectors.
If you are interested in having a really special rhodo in your garden, visit the Plant Sales Pavilion for unique plants; the Foundation also has a mail-order catalog loaded with rare plants available for shipping or pick up. The gardens are located at Federal Way, ca 25 miles South from Seattle in Washington.
Huh, not sure I exactly understand the concept of a stumpery. Maybe it's just a garden made on and around a stump? My folks have got two big ones, so maybe that should be their goal if they can't get rid of them!
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