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The Rhododendrons at Lily Hill Park, Bracknell


By AndrewR


At the bottom of my road is parkland owned by the local council. Originally a Victorian gentleman’s house and garden, it had become very neglected and overgrown. In 1999, due in part to a campaign from local residents, the council secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore and replant the park for public use.

During research into the grounds in their heyday, a collection of rhododendrons was discovered, planted in woodland in the 1920s. A rhododendron expert was called in and he soon pronounced them of national, if not international, importance by being a snapshot of garden history. Over seventy plants still remain and, apart from some maintenance work during the restoration, these have never been cut back or pruned so have grown to their mature size. Some varieties date back to the mid nineteenth century when they were bred from the new species then being introduced from China and the Far East; others are from the period just before the First World War when breeders were aiming to produce the perfect flower on the perfect plant.

Every year in May, the woodland explodes into colour as these plants, some over twenty feet tall, burst into flower.

View of the house across the wild flower meadow. Wild orchids flower here in June

View up the main drive near the house. In the background is the car park, now the main entrance for visitors

Three views of Starch Copse, the woodland planted with the rhododendrons

Close-up shots of some of the rhododendrons.
This is Cynthia, always carrying lots of flowers and stopping people in their tracks, “… a very old reliable and tough plant”

Kate Waterer, named after the daughter of the owner of one of the Waterer firms, breeders and nurserymen during the Victorian era, “…upright but fairly compact”

Lady Annette de Trafford which flowers a couple of weeks later than most of the plants in the collection, “long-lived with an upright, rigid habit”

Lady Eleanor Cathcart, a similar plant to Lady Annette de Trafford, bred from the same parents some time in the 1850s

Michael Waterer has a deep red flower on "a good plant, fairly compact, tolerant of sun and exposure and easy to root…much used as a parent” in breeding

Mrs P D Williams, flowers are “freely produced” but it does not seem to be widely available

Mrs R S Holford, “…an upright rounded plant”

Pink Pearl, “the classic pink hardy-hybrid, once planted in thousands and still widely grown”

Rhododendron fastuosum ‘Flore Pleno’, “the best double-flowered large hybrid and an outstanding versatile plant, tough, sun and wind tolerant with long-lasting flowers”

As well as the rhododendrons, there are a few acers, magnolias, cornus (flowering dogwoods) and a specie hydrangea. During the restoration, we also found a very large patch of cornus canadensis growing under bracken and brambles

Finally, this is magnolia tripetala, the rarest plant in the collection. No-one could recall having seen this flower until the canopies of surrounding trees were thinned; it has bloomed every year since then

Quotes on the rhododendrons are from “Rhododendrons and Azaleas – A Colour Guide” by Kenneth Cox, with the exception of Mrs P D Williams (The Hillier Colour Dictionary of Trees and Shrubs, 1981 edition)

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absolutly stunning andrew, i must go there when visiting my brother,, so nice its all been restored and looked after

25 May, 2009


these are breathtaking,

thank you for sharing

xx x x

25 May, 2009


Fantastic Andrew. thanks for posting these pics. I do miss all the rhodos.....not a very common plant in Kamloops.

27 May, 2009


What a wonderful place for a spring walk - or any other walk, come to that. Love the markings on Mrs P D Williams.

27 May, 2009


Lovely place to amble around love the Rhododendrons one of my favourites I have 7 in total.

30 Jun, 2009

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