Sixty-four rhododendrons, donated by Ron and Carla Knight, recently found their way from Garden Bay to the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden in Sechelt.
On Sunday, Oct. 21, cheery volunteers wielding shovels coaxed the shrubs, some very mature, out of challenging hillside rocky pockets. Boughs bounced as the wheelbarrows negotiated pathways. In only a few hours, all 64 were ready to go in the driveway, a big job made quick, to everyone’s surprise.
The next morning, Russ Jones, owner of Rona Sunshine Coast, loaded them onto his truck and delivered them to the Botanical Garden, where they now await planting near the Sparling Pavilion.
Included are 24 rhododendrons hybridized by John Lofthouse of Vancouver.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, he developed new varieties with spectacular flower colour with such fanciful names as Party Peach and Castanets. Knight met Lofthouse through the Vancouver Rhododendron Society, and began growing these and many other varieties at the Garden Bay home he and Carla built. Knight is an expert grower, and has taught dozens of workshops about the pleasures and techniques of growing rhodos to collectors and beginners alike.
This major plant donation builds on the collection the Garden received last November from Alleyne and Barbara Cook of North Vancouver. With more than 100 unique species and hybrids, the Botanical Garden’s collection is shaping up to be significant indeed.
The Pacific Northwest region of North America has an ideal climate for growing rhododendrons except that our summers are driest just when next year’s flowers are setting buds.
Several rhododendrons are native to British Columbia, and many more hail from Asia, where summers are wetter. Knight will add a drip system to the irrigation established at the Garden earlier this year.
As the shrubs settle in over winter and volunteers continue to add complementary plants, these collections will become a place worthy of renown and celebration, worth visiting year after year.
The Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden is open for winter hours Friday to Monday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For upcoming special events and evening openings for Winter Lights, visit www.coastbotanicalgarden.org