Before I started gardening, I thought I was fulfilled.
However, my Experiments with Plants directly and indirectly filled voids that I hadn't even recognised, lifting my happiness to a higher level.
This is a blog about a garden near London, England, and how it is changing my approach to life.
Thursday, 4 July 2013
Rhododendrons (04 JUL 2013)
Another failed cutting …do you detect a theme developing ?
There were a variety of rhododendrons from which I had a choice to take cuttings. For example, the orange-flowered variety with variegated leaves, which if I remember correctly was the one which I transported back from the Chelsea flower show sale after being dragged there by my mother to serve as a courier. I wasn’t so interested in gardening then.
However, I chose the pink variety because it reminds me of a magical place that I visited and fell in love with, returning every year since ...
Forty Hall was built in the mid-17th century and stands on Forty Hill in the Greater London Borough of Enfield. Its land is now a public park which literally is in “EndField” as the M25, a major motorway directing traffic around the capital, is just a mile or two away.
There are many cultivated rhododendrons in the gardens immediately around Forty Hall, but these are not the ones that I’m thinking of. Behind is a huge field lined by trees on each side. Archaeological findings suggest that this was actually an avenue leading to a royal palace directly opposite, which was mentioned in 1381.
I’ll always remember the first time that my friend T proposed a visit to the site where the historical palace once stood. We had a cup of tea at the Forty Hall café, walked down the field/avenue to what looked like the bottom edged by a wood. He then headed towards a partially-hidden dirt track to the left of a non-descript tree, which led us down a bank to another dirt track which encircled a secret lake, known only to us and a couple of dog-walkers .... That was what I imagined, until we later returned and I noticed a sign-post to The Lakes pointing vaguely over there.
I didn’t have a camera that day, but it seemed like the whole lake was surrounded by a garland of rhododendrons.
When I checked the internet, I couldn’t find any photos with the exact image I saw. I’ve visited annually since, trying to catch that same moment in time. Last year I was too impatient, we made the trip when the rhododendrons in the garden started flowering, but by the lake they were still in bud. This year (when all the photos in this post were taken) some shrubs were in flower but still not quite as spectacular as I remembered.
The local council had spent lottery money on renovating Forty Hall which included health and safety modifications to the dirt track which, sadly, made it look more official. I’m sure I didn’t hear M25 traffic the first time.
Rhododendron ponticum was native in Britain before the Ice Age. Specimens from the Mediterranean or Asia were re-introduced in Victorian times when they were valued as ornamental plants in country estates with the advantage of providing shelter for game birds. However, as time passed they proved to be invasive in the relatively moist, post-ice-age, British conditions due to their tendency for lateral growth, brightly-coloured flowers which captivate pollinators, toxicity (not only to wildlife but to surrounding germinating plants), and their role in aiding and abetting the phytophthora plant-destroying fungus. These rhododendrons need to be culled regularly by volunteers. I didn’t know all of this when I was introduced.