Curator: The Friends are seeking curators for the collections. If you have a passion for rhododendrons, we want to talk to you! Email us at info@friendsofthehortfarm.org

The rhododendron and azalea collection was first started in the 1960's by Harrison Flint. He propagated seed purchased from a woody plant seed company and planted numerous seedlings. The original objective for this planting was to evaluate these plants for hardiness and suitability for landscape use in Vermont. Dr. Norman Pellett later added many additional species.

These plants today represent a test of time. Most are more than 35 years old. They are some of the largest rhododendrons growing in northern Vermont.

These rhododendrons and azaleas represent a part of our historical past. The rhododendron collection at the Hort. Farm is much like a garden that one would have found on one of the great estates of the early part of the 20th century. This collection consists of mature hybrids, sometimes referred to as "Ironclads." Accompanying these hybrids is a group of species and unnamed hybrids grown from seed from the Schumacher Seed Company of Cape Cod.

Rhododendrons can be found throughout the world. Just under 20 species are native to North America, with the vast majority of these species being deciduous azaleas. We have 15 species of rhododendrons growing at the Hort Farm.

It can be said that we live at the end of the rhododendron world. Three of the four species native to Vermont are small disjunct colonies at their northernmost range.

For rhododendrons to thrive in the wild or in the garden, two main conditions must be met: suitable location and soil condition. Rhododendrons do not like temperature extremes of cold or heat. In the wild they are found in mountains growing in the shadows of overstory trees. The location for rhododendrons needs to be cool and wet, with specific soil pH levels. The soil also needs to be well drained and very high in organic matter. In growing these plants, attempts should be made to have organic matter as high as 50 per cent. To give this some perspective, an average cornfield will have organic matter of 3 to 5 per cent, and a good garden soil will be 8 to 10 per cent.

This collection of rhododendrons at the Hort Farm offers to students and the public a view of plants that are mature and successfully grown in one of these plants� harshest environments. This is certainly a collection of merit that displays a color in bloom that is not outdone anywhere in northern Vermont.