A riot of colour: enjoying azaleas and rhododendrons in Norfolk

Although we’ve been to Norfolk many times we normally go in early spring, before azaleas and rhododendrons come into bloom. This year, however, we delayed our visit by a few weeks and were rewarded with a riot of colour at Stody Lodge and Sheringham Park, two sites famed for their azalea and rhododendron collections.

Over 1,000 species of rhododendrons and azaleas occur naturally across the globe. Most come from eastern Asia and the Himalayan region, but smaller numbers occur elsewhere in North America, Australia and Europe. None are native to the UK.

Sheringham Park boasts an eye-watering array of azaleas and rhododendrons

The first rhododendron to be introduced to Britain was from the Swiss Alps, and is believed to have been brought to England by Huguenot refugees in the 16th century. Other species were introduced from America and Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, while many Himalayan varieties found their way here courtesy of the botanist Sir Joseph Hooker’s expedition to the region between 1847 and 1851.

Today, most of the species seen here in collections at Sheringham, Stody and similar gardens across the country are hybrids, the creations of man rather than nature. And perhaps because they are the work of humans rather than natural evolution, subtlety is not the name of the game. To be blunt, I think we’re talking gaudy. Sheringham Park, for example, showcases an eye-watering array of bushes clustered amongst the trees and lining the paths, all sporting vividly coloured blossoms that seem to shout “look at me, look at me!”

Stody Lodge Gardens at the height of the season – like an explosion in a paint factory

Sheringham Park is a landscape park and garden surrounding a Hall that bears the same name. While the Hall is privately owned, the Park, which dates from the early 19th century, is run on behalf of us all by the National Trust. A variety of attractive plants can be seen in the grounds , but the undoubted star of the show is the large collection of rhododendrons and azaleas.

The approach to Stody Hall is lined with rhododendrons

As well as horticultural types, Sheringham Park attracts dog walkers, fun runners and lovers of the countryside. It’s open every day from dawn until dusk, and was busy with visitors when we were there. Stody Lodge Garden was even busier, unsurprising given that it’s open just a few days every year, at the height of the rhododendron and azalea season. The people running Stody have identified their main asset, and are exploiting it vigorously.

Stody Lodge Garden has been home to a stunning collection of rhododendrons and azaleas since at least the late 19th century. It belonged to Daily Mail magnate and controversial press baron Harold Sidney Harmsworth (1st Viscount Rothermere, 1868-1940), for most of the 1930s, but unlike Sheringham, it remains in private ownership to this day. We discovered Stody to be a great place to visit during the flowering season, but do remember to take your sunglasses: an explosion in a paint factory would be less colourful!

Stody’s famous water garden

However, all things must pass, so by the time you read this the rhododendron and azalea flowering season will be over, the riot of colours simply a distant memory. No worries, though, they’ll be back next year, as bright, bold and riotous as ever.

19 comments

  1. tanjabrittonwriter · July 6

    Sometimes it’s nice to have our senses overwhelmed by too muchness, and I think these loud and varied array of colours qualifies.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · July 6

      Totally agree, Tanja. “Loud and proud” would be a good way to describe these two outstanding gardens (rhododendrons and azaleas clearly don’t do “shy and retiring”, and certainly not “modest” either πŸ™‚)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As you said: “like an explosion in a paint factory.” The more colors, the better!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. magarisa · July 6

    They may look gaudy to some, but they look stunning to me. 😊

    Like

  4. magarisa · July 6

    They may look gaudy to some, but they look stunning to me. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Adele Brand · July 10

    The botanical version of playing music at 120 decibels! But an impressive show nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Carol Ann Siciliano · July 11

    I love learning the history of azaleas in England and seeing the wonderful examples. Your words “paint” a vivid picture to complement your wonderful photos. I grew up with azaleas, rhododendrons and dogwoods (the Middle Atlantic States’ triumvirate of spring beauty), so I’m delighted to know about England’s majesty too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · July 12

      It’s good to know you have lots of azaleas and rhododendrons in the US too – they definitely add some welcome colour to our lives!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. DEVANG UPADHYAYA · July 20

    What a beautiful place!!
    Seems like a heaven.
    Very beautiful flowers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · July 21

      Hi, and thank you for dropping by. Yes, strolling for a while amongst so many beautiful blossoms was an uplifting experience. It really raised my spirits after what has been a difficult couple of years due to Covid.

      Like

  8. Priti · August 16

    Looking excellent nice shot! Thanks for sharing ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Everything Plant · 20 Days Ago

    Beautiful. I just did an article on the rhododendron. Love them so much🌱😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · 20 Days Ago

      Yes, they are a great addition to most garden settings. We have a couple in our own modest garden, but they didn’t do too well this year – our spring weather was a big disappointment, and summer was blighted by a drought and record temperatures, so I’m relieved that the plants have survived at all. Hopefully conditions will return to normal next year, and we’ll be treated to some more spectacular blooms

      Liked by 1 person

      • Everything Plant · 20 Days Ago

        Mine didn’t do well this year either. Blooms never opened, I think it was because of the draught! It still look healthy though which is great!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Platypus Man · 19 Days Ago

        Weather’s gone crazy all over the world this year!

        Like

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