Lifetime achievements of Peter Cox

By Kenneth Cox, Glendoick

Peter Cox has a long and distinguished career in the rhododendron world.

In the fields of original authorship; development of new plants; innovative breeding, taxonomic studies; plant exploration and preserving of germ plasma through selection of species.

Peter Cox is widely acknowledged both in the UK and abroad, as perhaps the world’s leading expert on rhododendrons.

Over the last 60 years Peter Cox has made an outstanding contribution to his field, brought distinction to British and International horticulture, and enhanced the reputation of the country within the global botanical and horticultural community, through:

Searching for, studying and introducing plants from the wild into cultivation. Through leading or participating in over 25 major plant-hunting expeditions Peter Cox has introduced significant numbers of plants into cultivation for the first time. He is believed by his peers to have identified and studied more species of Rhododendron than anybody living or dead. He has discovered at least 4 new rhododendron species, one of which Rhododendron coxianum from India was named in honour of his father E.H.M. Cox. Several more Peter Cox collected new taxa are awaiting being described.  The thousands of seed numbers collected from four continents have been expertly curated and together with many plants grown from the seed have been distributed to botanic garden collections, private and public gardens in over 20 countries. Peter Cox’s own gardens, on the west and east coasts of Scotland, contain a unique collection of plant species, many from these expeditions, and have attracted the attention of horticulturists from around the world. Peter’s garden at Glendoick has been voted one of Europe’s top 50 gardens (The Independent on Sunday). He has also worked extensively with Indian and Chinese botanists in the field, helping them to identify their native plants.

Development of hybrids for the small garden.  Peter Cox is considered one of the world’s most successful and skilled hybridisers of Rhododendrons. Peter recognised the need for hybrids suitable for small gardens and his efforts over the last 50 years have produced a range of plants suitable for any size of garden. Peter invented the concept of ‘dwarf rhododendrons’ celebrated in his book of that title. Hitherto, rhododendrons had been considered suitable only for large gardens and estates. His first cross was made in 1959 and Peter continues breeding to this day. His hybrids, mostly named after birds, are now to be found in gardens throughout the UK, northern Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and North America. Many of his hybrids such as “Chikor”, “Curlew”, ‘”Ptarmigan” and “Panda” have become commercial standards in the UK and elsewhere, and are stocked in most garden centres. The hybrids have attracted a large number of prestigious plant awards from the Royal Horticultural Society including Award of Garden Merit, First Class Certificate and Award of Merit. His work continues with a focus on producing hybrids with coloured foliage.

Author: Inspiring and Informing. 

Peter Cox’s leading role in horticulture and his highly distinguished reputation for his unmatched knowledge of Rhododendrons (of which there are over 1000 species) is underpinned by his numerous books on the subject. Alone or in conjunction with his father Euan Cox or son Kenneth Cox he has published 13 books, all of which have been well received by critics and the global horticultural community. You would struggle to find a rhododendron fan anywhere in the world without some Peter Cox books on the shelf.

“The Larger Rhododendron Species shows the results of a lifetime’s work among rhododendrons and monumental scholarship”. Popular Gardening

1997 saw the publication of the definitive publication “The Encyclopedia of Rhododendron Species” (Peter Cox and Kenneth Cox, Glendoick Publishing 1997) Taking five years to write, with 400 pages and 1500 photographs illustrating virtually all temperate rhododendron species in cultivation.  This magnificent volume continues to receive accolades from all over the world:

“The Cox & Cox book…is comprehensive, covering all the species. It incorporates the latest research. It has at least one colour photograph of each species and , above all, it is readable. In my opinion it will set the standard for the next 25 years” Joe Harvey, Victoria Rhododendron Society Newsletter, Canada. 

Other books published include:

Modern Rhododendrons, Nelson 1956. Euan H.M. Cox and Peter A. Cox.

Modern Shrubs, Nelson 1958. Euan H.M. Cox and Peter A. Cox.

Modern Trees, Nelson 1961. Euan H.M. Cox and Peter A. Cox.

The Royal Horticultural Society’s Wisley Handbook Rhododendrons,  Peter Cox. A beginners guide. (5 editions-first published 1971.)

Dwarf Rhododendrons, Batsford, 1973, Peter A. Cox

The Larger Rhododendron Species Batsford 1979, 1990.

The Smaller Rhododendrons, Batsford 1985  Peter Cox- cultivation information and species and hybrid descriptions.

Encyclopaedia of Rhododendron Hybrids- 1988. Peter & Kenneth Cox. 1800 hybrids described. A critical guide to choosing from the multitude of hybrids on offer.

Cox’s Guide to Choosing Rhododendrons 1990. Peter & Kenneth Cox. A ‘which’ guide to making a rhododendron collection. An excellent  aid in choosing the best plants for different conditions.

The Cultivation of Rhododendrons P.A. Cox. Batsford  1993 . This well-illustrated book summarises the author’s lifetime’s experience in cultivating rhododendrons.

Seeds of Adventure Antique Collectors Club 2008 (with Sir Peter Hutchison). Lavishly Illustrated account of 20 plant hunting expeditions.

Winner of Garden Media Guild  Inspirational Book of the Year:

The judges commented: ‘Even someone who couldn’t care two hoots about rhododendrons would be gripped by the sheer bloody mindedness of these two as they suffered awkward locals, ticks the size of pennies, food poisoning, sodden tents and numerous travel headaches in their good-humoured quest. The anecdotes are delightful, the photographs of plants, people and views are breath-taking. What an inspiration to us all.’

Providing Horticultural Advice. 

Peter’s advice on rhododendrons is sought throughout the world; he has selflessly given up significant (unpaid) time to advise, counsel and inform amateur and professional horticulturalists and botanist on his subject in Europe, Asia and the USA. He has served on a variety of committees including:

National Trust for Scotland Gardens Advisory Committee

Advisory Board to Arduaine Gardens.

Gardens Advisor to Achamore Gigha, Scotland.

Board of Trustees Dundee Botanic Society.

President Scottish Rhododendron Society.


Victoria Medal of Honour, Royal Horticultural Society 1992
Gold Medal, American Rhododendron Society 1993
Royal Caledonian Horticultural Society, Gold medal
Lifetime Achievement Award, Nurseryman & Garden Centre Awards 2000
Honorary Degree University of St Andrews in 2005.
Book Seeds of Adventure written with Sir Peter Hutcheson winner of Garden Media Guild Inspirational Book of the Year 2008.
MBE 2013 (Member of the British Empire), presented at Buckingham Palace

Presidents Newsletters

Spring Activity Report March 2024

All over the UK rhododendrons are well budded up for a spectacular show this year, already the Social Media sites are posting pictures of our favourite plants.

Our seed exchange has been well used again this year with over 60 requests and after taking off expenses, we should be adding another £750.00 to our Education and Exploration Fund.

Talking about our E&E fund, the second recipient Colin Jones has been awarded a sum of £1000.00, Colin is Joining a Botanical trip to Yunnan, which is being organised by Seamus O’Brien.

We are holding our Joint Conference with the RSCG in the conference room at the RBGE, which is a venue we have used on many occasions.

“Modern Day Botanical Travels” on Saturday 5th October. We will have talks from Richard Moore on his trip to NE Nepal, John Roy, Jeanie Jones (Primulas) Grant Moir and hopefully Colin Jones about his trip to Yunnan.

We would be arranging garden visits on the Sunday, along with our usual plant auction. (more details later)

However, we still have our AGM and Spring Show at the Gibson Hall at Garelochead on 26/27th April to look forward to, with Plant and Book sales. Teas and Cakes on offer as well. (again, more information from the show committee later)

The updated show schedule can be download from our website.

As we are talking about our website Grant Moir has been busy modernising how we go about attracting members of the public to visit the website at

Please check it out for yourselves, also with links to plant databases.

As members you can visit our members area

Lots of interesting articles, notice board and details on cultivation of rhododendrons.

Other Social media news is that our Facebook page is being visited daily by many and Grant Moir is setting up an Instagram page hoping to reach the younger generation of the public who may eventually become interested in our favourite plants.

As always, your committee is here to help answer questions or queries you may have on plants, gardens to visit, also if you our members may have some suggestions you may like to see the Society becoming involved in, please contact anyone on committee..

With Gardens to visit, our spring tour itinerary is complete, wonderful gardens in the Oban area, with Baravalla and Achamore on Gigha at the end of the week. Hotels at booked in Oban and Stonefield Castle our old favourite down at Tarbert.

We have had someone drop out of the tour, so we have a single room already booked, so if you’re interested in coming along, please contact myself by email. (contact details in members area)

You may like to join the tour just for the day, again contact myself for details.

All for now, snowdrops at my old garden at Gargunnock have been outstanding as have the early rhododendrons, like praecox, Christmas Cheer and sutchuenense blooming away just fine.

Willie Campbell

Newsletter Feb 2024

I do hope you all have had a good festive season and find that the weather in your part of the world has been kind to you and the garden is all budded up for a spectacular flowering season. I look at my own garden in Doune in Central Scotland, with snowdrops, aconites, early daffodils, crocus and primroses already giving Fiona and I some early season pleasure.

Although the Seed Exchange is now closed, still have plenty seed left and if you would like to get a £10.00 or £5.00 surprise package of rhododendron, trees and shrubs along with companion plant seed. Just Email me.

Again, we as a Society must thank all the seed donors, without them no seed exchange. This year so far, we have had over 50 requests and should add around £750.00 to the Education and Exploration Fund.

Other good news is that we have a nomination for the SRS secretary, if anyone else would like to be nominated at our AGM on the 26th April, 2.00 at the Gibson Hall at Garelochead, contact Katrina our current Secretary.

However, we still are looking for new committee members.

1) Someone to help with editorial work on our publications to take over eventually from John Roy. Perhaps taking on editing the Spring and Autumn journals to start with.

2) Someone to come on as Treasurer, again not this very instant but to shadow Colin Whitehead who has been in the job for some 12 plus years.

3) Someone to take on the Tours and Conferences, I have taken over this task, but hope someone will take over completely.

4) General committee, just come on help out with what ever tasks are needing attention, shadow members many of have been on much longer than the three years as per constitution.

As always, we only meet “Face to Face” twice a year, you can now work remote and join meetings on “Zoom” so no excuses, that distance is an object.

Our Spring Tour to Argyll Gardens this year is all booked, Hotel wise but you can still join on a daily basis, please contact myself for details.

Just a reminder, subscriptions were due at the beginning of the year, if you have not rejoined yet, please do so NOW.

I would also like you to join with me and all my committee in wishing one of our Society founder members Peter Cox a very Happy 90 Birthday.

Kenneth has asked if you want to send Birthday Greetings to Peter, just send to cards to

Kenneth who will read your personal messages out to Peter on the 28th of February 2024.

As always, we want you to be involved in the Scottish Rhododendron Society, you can tell John Roy about your Garden, ask Matt Heasman to identify a plant you have, ask advice on plant propagation or John Hammond on the History of our gardens.

Hope to see you all at the Show 17th April at Garelochhead. More details later.


Willie Campbell

email contact in members area

Scottish Rhododendron Society Rainfall chart

Weather Station Locations

  • Wuerzburg, Lower Franconia, North Bavaria, Germany
  • Radlett, Hertfordshire, north west of London
  • Glendoick, Perthshire, east central Scotland
  • Glenarn, Gareloch, west central Scotland
  • Ballachulish, Scottish west Highlands
  • Ellon, Aberdeenshire north east Scotland
  • Morar, Scottish west Highlands
  • Westerhall, Dumfries and Galloway, inland, south Scotland

Conclusion :

Don’t go to Ballachulish without an umbrella.

With a record 3,859mm in 2015, it is by far the wettest place on our records.

This is 12.5 foot high for those who work in imperial .