The last of the rhododendrons

Last May I visited Wimbledon, and stumbled upon Cannizaro Park, a lovely green space made out of the former gardens of a grand house (now a hotel).  I didn’t explore further than the initial 100 meters of park from the entrance as I was waiting for my tour of nearby Southside House to start.

In my short visit, however, I did find time to be blown away by flowers on the rhododendrons, shown above.

Wow, yes?

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Yesterday D told me that the trees on the drive were coming down, to be replaced by rhododendrons.  It was at that point I remembered an article I’d read recently in The Telegraph newspaper (here).

I have recently started following The Telegraph’s gardening twitter feed, and I remembered seeing it reported that new law makes it illegal to sell non-native plants found on a “banned list”; and this list could include the rhododendron.

Madness?  Over-hysterical journalism?

Probably both.

This all comes down to EU regulations (topical given the current Brexit discussion and June referendum to ask whether England should leave the EU): the EU has brought in regulations with effect from January 2016, prohibiting the sale and cultivation of certain non-native invasive plants.

D’s immediate reaction was “if they are banning rhododendrons, we need to leave Europe!“.

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There is logic in banning some plants, such as japanese knotweed (the home-buyers enemy because of the delays it takes to remove it from a garden before the conveyancer will be happy to allow you to continue the purchase).  And some of the other “banned” plants are already covered by existing UK laws that make it illegal to sell them.

But the rhododendron?

Yes, indeed there are invasive weed-like rhododendrons – typically with light purple flowers.  But do we want to see their demise?

So many gardens created during the 19th century are built on their magnolias and rhododendrons, admired due to their bright colours and exoticism.  Plus, rhododendron is a native plant in some EU countries.

What would Bodnant Gardens be without its late spring displays?

And Muncaster Castle?

D was baffled.  We discussed who would enforce these laws in practice.  We concluded probably no one.  The government has (I think) already gone so far as to say there isn’t a “plant police”.

I suspect the rhododendrons will still be going in, regardless of what any laws say.

Claremont Landscape Garden

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Further reading

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/prevent-the-spread-of-harmful-invasive-and-non-native-plants

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