Blooming Potential

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Frosted Rhododendron Flower Head
It wasn’t quite the first snows of winter last night, but the big hail storm did turn the world, around Bramhall at least, white.

It was also a minor surprise when I opened the bedroom curtains to see that hail hadn’t melted overnight and was still there this morning. I wouldn’t have been surprised if today had been a Saturday or Sunday to see children taking their sledges to the nearby to slide doe the slope in the valley nearby, despite the meagre covering. So far this winter it has been relatively mild, especially compared with last year when we had double digit sub-zero numbers displaying on the car temp sensors. It is probably a good job too that it has been mild as if the amount of rain we’ve had was snow I think the whole country would have brought to a halt. I always like a bit of cold and snowy weather for taking amazing landscape photographs but so far there has been little “good” weather to inspire.

But there are signs that spring is on its way. Last night it stayed light until 5 o’clock. The Snow Drops and Daffodils shoots are starting to grow. Blue Tits have been checking out our nest box since we first noticed them whilst having Christmas Dinner.

And the Rhododendron in our garden is full of bulbs this year ; I can’t wait for it to bloom as it will be spetacular. Its not just ours that is full of bulbs either, I noticed that all the Rhododendrons at that surrounded the tennis lawn at Biddulph Grange National Trust Garden were also full of bulbs. They will all be stunning if they have a variety of colours and all come into flower at the same time. Rhododendron flowers usually bloom in spring, but based on how long the bulbs have been around for already, I think it will be early this year.

One of the best locations I recall for rhododendrons is on the walk from Clapham, Yorkshire Dales to Gaping Gill, along Clapdale Drive some years ago. I was my way to pot hole a friend and I walked through the valley one May for a trip into down the hole via the electric winch so my mind was on other matters but it was still beautiful enough to notice as the valley was a riot of colour.

My other main experience of Rhododendrons is from my time exploring Middlewood Scout Camp near Worsley when in the Cubs and Scouts. At the time I never really knew what they were, only that they were large bushes with big rubbery leaves that were good for hiding under when playing “wide” games – games that were basically like a huge game of hide and seek with one team against another with some tactical objective that had to be achieved in order to win over your opponents.

Most of these sights with large growth of Rhododendrons are from Victorian gardens that have since ceased to formally exist. Middlewood was part of the grounds of Worsley New Hall, the former home of Duke of Bridgewater. The hall fell into disuse after being used in World War II and destroyed by fire in 1943 but the gardens had been abandoned long before that. There is a similar story with Biddulph Grange Gardens where the garden was left to itself when the house was used as a hospital for many years. The tennis courts have long since vanished but the grass lawn is now surrounded by a circle of Rhododendrons that almost fully enclose it.

With a bit of luck and some perseverance I will visit these sites and more when the flowers bloom and I will take some photographs of their stunning colours. And when I do, keep eye on my website to see the results ….
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