• Saturday at the Rhododendron Garden
  • BotanyGardensJournalPhotography

Saturday at the Rhododendron Garden

A couple of weeks ago, I was welcomed every morning by the refreshing and intoxicating lily-like scents of the yellow rhododendrons in my back garden and every evening reminded me that it’s time to go visit the rhododendron garden in Stanley Park. If you happen to be visiting in Vancouver at this time of the year, don’t miss a stroll along the paths of this extraordinarily beautiful and romantic garden. And if you live in Vancouver you can enjoy it year around – it is a lovely stroll even when the rhododendrons are not in full bloom as they are now…

Although there are a number of rhododendrons native to Europe and North America, for the most part – we owe the beauty and variety of rhododendrons to Asia – where there is are numerous species growing wild on the Himalaya, in Tibet, China, Japan and in the Sikkim region in India (to name just a few instances). If you like, you can read more on the history of rhododendrons.

In Greek rhododendron means “Rose Tree”. And like roses, there is an incredible amount of hybrids. The diversity of fragrance found amongst rhododendron flowers is very much like that of lilies. Therefore, I will not hide my puzzlement at why does rhododendron not have a more respected place in perfumery. Besides a few perfumes in my own line (Fetish and Rebellius which both use wild rhododendron from Nepal), I have only seen it listed as a note in Estee Lauder’s Intuition. For some reason, despite the abundance of flowers and the fact that the leaves and stems themselves possess a sweet, green-balsamic and slightly floral aroma – it is hard to procure rhododendron oil or absolute. Perhaps the toxicity of some of the varieties (the leaves, nectar and pollen of some of the species are toxic, and it is said that the honey from rhododendron or azalea flowers can make people ill). Maybe I need to join one of those secret rhododendron cults to find the answer…

The following photos were all taken last Saturday, May 13th 2006. I decided to include both varieties that had a significant odour and those that were a mare visual delight… Rhododendrons present quite a variety of colours, sizes, scents and also the shapes of the flowers vary tremendously. I noticed that the ones that had a lily shape were the most fragrant, and for the most part smelled like lilies.
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