Rhododendrons and Scottish islands

We’re coming up to the end of May and we have some cold nights ahead of us this week, according to the weather forecasts. I still haven’t managed to get outside much in the last few days, as wearing shoes is still difficult and it’s much too cold to go barefoot, but this hasn’t stopped me reading and planning. 

One of the things I’ve been doing is researching rhododendrons: we have one in our west-facing front garden whose buds look like they’re starting to open, with hints of white petals starting to show. Part of me is curious to see what colour and type of flowers there are, as there are a huge number of rhododendron species out there.

The buds on this rhododendron look like they’re slowly starting to open.

However, the rest of me is concerned that it’s potentially starting to flower now, as rhododendrons flower in spring and summer, and what this could mean for this plant in the future. Is it seasonally-confused or stressed in some other way?

I hope it’s ok and will do my best to make sure it remains so; I really like rhododendrons. My mum has a couple growing in her garden, and when I was once researching whether you could make a tropical-looking garden in a cool climate (this might seem counter-intuitive, but it was the middle of winter and I was dreaming of warmer climates), rhododendrons were one of the plants I found that looked tropical but could manage the cold temperatures.

The front cover of my copy of The Stormy Petrel – one of the newer additions for once!

I also love them because of their association – for me – with a Scottish island (which is pretty far from tropical!) called Moila, the setting of Mary Stewart’s The Stormy Petrel. The description of the rhododendrons in the neglected gardens of Taigh Na Tuir is actually one of the strongest images from the book for me, as I loved the idea of rhododendrons growing so close to the coast.

Every time I pick up this book, I also rediscover the machair and its wildflowers – it’s not a garden, of course, but I love the description of the profusion of flowers and how the machair gives the impression that they are all flowering at once (Chapter 20).

The back cover of my copy of The Stormy Petrel.

Mary Stewart also describes the different layers of that the plants grow in, starting with the turf and the flowers sprinkled across it and then moving up to the taller plants like eyebright, yellow rattle, wild chervil and harebells (Chapter 20).

And finally, there’s a short conversation between Rose and Mrs MacDougall in Chapter 12 about hydroponically grown tomatoes and how Mrs MacDougall’s sister’s husband has a greenhouse, so his tomatoes are always earlier than everyone else’s. As someone who’s currently looking into tomatoes varieties and growing them more successfully, that makes me smile.

This rhododendron is a bit overgrown as well, like the ones around Taigh Na Tuir.

Can anyone else think of any other garden references from Mary Stewart’s The Stormy Petrel? Or have any advice about my possibly seasonally-confused rhododendron?

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4 thoughts on “Rhododendrons and Scottish islands

  1. Another fab post! I love the machair description too but I can’t remember the writing about rhododendrons – I am itching to get to my copy of the book now!

    I like ‘rhodies’ because they look so distinctive that even I can identify them. Can they ‘take over’ a garden if not pruned ruthlessly?

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    1. Laura

      Thanks! I don’t know if they can, to be honest – I’ve seen the tree ones get to fairly good heights. One of the ones in our garden has long grass growing up around it; I always imagined the ones in The Stormy Petrel to be surrounded by weeds rather than growing rampantly themselves (not sure if this was the case, I’ll have to check again).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah okay, that is good to know. I’m still aching to get to my copy of Stormy Petrel! Have you learned any more about your seasonally-confused plant?

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  2. Pingback: Making plans in (almost) winter – Plant Geek Girl

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