2024 Argyll Spring Garden Tour summary

View of Ardmaddy Castle, by John Roy

Picture by John Roy
Picture by John Roy

Picture by John Roy

Picture by Grant Moir

Picture by Grant Moir
Picture by Grant Moir

Picture by John Roy

Author : Based on original text by Willie Campbell

Post compiled by Grant Moir

Scottish Rhododendron Show Results 2024

The Scottish National Rhododendron Show and Exhibition is the number one place for exhibitors from across Scotland to showcase the best of their rhododendron blooms.

Open to all, no matter the size of garden, there is a class for everyone to enter. New exhibitors are always welcome and there is plenty of expert advice and help on hand. A high calibre panel of judges ensure standards are kept up making this show a must for any rhododendron enthusiast.

Meet the judges

The panel of judges consists of David Chamberlain, a world leading authority on rhododendrons; Richard Baines, Curator of Logan Botanic Garden and leader of several botanical expeditions; and Maurice Wilkins, garden advisor and former head gardener of one of Scotland’s most popular rhododendron gardens, NTS Arduaine.

A few of the show highlights…

David Chamberlain receiving the ARS ‘Pioneer Achievement Award’
Sue Thornley
Paul Haynes
Philip Rankin
Fiona Campbell
Laura Cameron

Video created by John Roy.

Visitors to the show are able to take advantage of the SRS plant sale and find many bargains whilst supporting our E&E fund. The ‘Education & Exploration Fund’ helps young horticulturists expand their knowledge by providing grants for botanical travels or other educational pursuits.

rhodEshow 2024 post created by Grant Moir

Rhododendron Allelopathy

By John Roy, SRS Autumn Review 2014

I recently came across an interesting document online about whether or not rhododendrons “poison” the soil in which they grow. I have always thought that it would not be in a plant’s best interests to poison the environment into which it is fastened, unless it was highly evolved to deal with the toxins of its own creation.

Some portrayers of this theory make bold statements such as: “Rhododendron poisons the soil around it so that other plants cannot grow.” Plantlife.

“It produces toxins, and suppresses other plants by poisoning the soil as well as year round shading.” Greenham & Crookham [West Berks.] Conservation Volunteers.

“Although considered attractive, this belies its true nature which is to shade out native species, leaving an impoverished landscape in its wake. To do this, it has a nasty trick up its sleeve – the roots are actually toxic to other plants! So not only does Rhododendron block out life-giving light, but it poisons the soil as well.” Ulster Wildlife Trust.

“As well as shading large areas to cut out light for other plants to grow, the bush poisons nearby soil with chemicals that kill other species.” Jenny Fyall, news.scotsman.com.

“This [R. ponticum] litter remains even after the plant is eradicated and can form a toxic humus layer, which is reported to retard new growth of other plant species for up to seven years.” Non-Native Species Secretariat.

Dealing with invasive Rhododendron ponticum, the author puts forward his own thoughts, citing lack of light and changes to the natural soil micro-organisms, summarising:

As rhododendron encroaches and the native community becomes impoverished, the biodiversity of the flora and soil biota decline in tandem. When rhododendron has become a monoculture covering many hectares, we can justifiably suppose that very little remains to represent what was once a dynamic, mycorrhiza-supported, species rich community, other than R. ponticum, one or two associated ericoid mycorrhizal fungi and a handful of shade/rhododendron tolerant plants and plucky survivors.

That is a very poor landscape and a disastrous starting point for its recovery.

Recolonisation by native flora of an area cleared of rhododendron is more likely to be inhibited by: (a) soil rendered inhospitable by R. ponticum leaf litter; (b) poor nutrient supply and (c) low availability of nutrients due to local extinction of the soil community that normally facilitates their mobilisation, than by soil ‘poisoning’.

Whether during occupation or after clearance, it would have been better if the rhododendrons had never arrived in the first place.

If one did not consider the alternative implications of catastrophic reductions in biodiversity as discussed above, one might, influenced by rumour, incorrectly conclude that the soil had been poisoned.

The full article was found at: (no longer available)

Report on replies to the Questionnaire on use of peat sent to members in February 2023

1. Have you cut down on peat use in your own garden? – 7 out of 7 reported that they had cut down on use of peat and particularly its use as a soil improver.

2. Which commercial compost do you use? – Not everyone responded to this question.

· Melcourt Silvagrow, both ericaceous and multipurpose was mentioned by 3 respondents…..? Possibly its support by the RHS was influential.

· Dalefoot was mentioned by 1. This is a compost containing sheep’s wool.

· Arthur Bowers, peat free or reduced peat, Westland, New Horizon and Dobies (ericaceous) all got one mention as did Garden Solutions of Longniddry.

· Homemade compost was mentioned by four, often to be mixed in with commercial brands. Especially with groups of plants other than rhododendrons. One of the 7 relies entirely on homemade compost.

3. How much growing success do you have with peat free composts?

· Multipurpose Melcourt silvagrow was found to be good for general potting of non-rhododendron subjects.

· Dalefoot alpine peat free was reported as being good.

· There was general agreement that the use of peat free composts required a new approach especially as regards watering requirements.

4. Are any plants particularly difficult to grow in peat free compost in your experience?

· One person mentioned Mecanopsis as being particularly tricky.

· Another said that the early stages of rhododendron growth required special care – see general comments. Sterile nature of peat was mentioned as an important factor for seed sowing.

· One respondent said that in his experience, once a good root ball was established on a cutting of a rhododendron, then a general purpose peat free compost was fine.

5. Are there any particularly difficult stages of growth of rhododendrons where compost is very critical?

· 4 out of 7 mentioned seed sowing and pricking out

· 3 out of 7 mentioned cuttings

Additional comments which may be of use or of interest

Dalefoot composts can be ordered from www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk A comment was made that this compost made using bracken and sheep’s wool is not a sustainable product.

One respondent thought that research into a compost with bracken and redwood bark might be useful. That would not be commercially sustainable either.

One respondent thought that pure peat should still be available for a small number of growers with very specialist requirements and where peat may be the least bad alternative.

One respondent thought the composts containing Coir were dreadful and also that Coir should be kept in the countries that produce it where it could be used locally.

One respondent thought that composted wood was very unsuitable because of fungal growth that comes with it.

Three respondents used a mix of peat free ericaceous compost and perlite for sowing rhododendron seeds. In one case the ratio was 40:60

Two respondents used shredded sphagnum moss mixed with perlite for seed sowing.

For potting on, two respondents used peat free ericaceous compost mixed with fine bark and fine grit or perlite or sand. In one case the ratio was 50:40:10

The one respondent who mentioned cuttings used fine, sieved bark mixed with either or both perlite and fine grit.

In summary

1. We did not receive enough responses to be significantly representative of the view of the SRS.

2. Willie Campbell, our President, was aware of these responses when he sent a response to the Scottish Government questionnaire.

There has been no published analysis of the Government consultation as yet but 484 responses are available to read on the website. There may be other responses which will be used in the final analysis although permission was not given to publish them. The majority of the responses published were anonymous.

To find the published responses go to Ending the sale of peat in Scotland – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Survey conducted by Marion Kinns,

A Response to Comments in the Press on Rhododendron ponticum.

An SRS Statement by John Hammond and Ian Douglas

Rhododendron ponticum is found chiefly in the wild in the Caucasus and N. Turkey, and in isolated pockets in Portugal and S. Spain. It was one of the first rhododendrons to be introduced into Britain, in the mid-18th century, with its ubiquitous purple to pink flower. Subsequently in the 19th century Rhododendron ponticum was planted not only for ornamental purposes but also to provide shelter, game cover and has been used as a hardy under-stock for grafting many hybrid rhododendrons.

Rhododendron ponticum’s capacity to naturalise itself has created much bad press and sometimes
uninformed publicity. It is an invasive plant, spreading relatively slowly by seed and by layering.
In favourable conditions it can over a significant number of years cover wide areas, seriously
disrupting the biodiversity of natural habitats and ecosystems. It is also one of a number of hosts to
Phytophthera ramorum and Phytophthera kernoviae, which are major threats to both the forestry
industry and to gardens. Its capacity to quickly put on fresh growth, having been cut back to the
ground, means it requires grubbing out or chemical treatment for effective eradication.

Legislation in Scotland classifies Rhododendron ponticum as an invasive species that cannot be
offered for sale commercially and which, if possible, should be eradicated. Forestry Commission
Scotland, for instance, in 2011 launched an action plan “to free the national forest estate of
rhododendron”. This is estimated to cost £15m and take to 15 years to achieve, with £1.6m being
allocated for the year 2011-12 (News Release No. 14783). Forestry Commission Scotland
acknowledges that this is an ambitious programme.

Research commissioned by Forestry Commission Scotland in 2008 estimated that in Argyll and
Bute Rhododendron ponticum covered 4,654 ha, of which 85% was in woodland. However, the
report (Edwards C. and Taylor S. “A survey and strategic appraisal of Rhododendron invasion and
control in woodland areas in Argyll and Bute” Roslin 2008) indicated that the area identified as
being covered by Rhododendron ponticum was significantly underestimated. To eradicate
Rhododendron ponticum from the identified areas only was estimated (2008 prices) to cost £9.3m.
The report also highlighted the problem of re-invasion and spread from untreated areas, so that
without comprehensive eradication the areas of Rhododendron ponticum could increase rather than
decline, with cost rising substantially for its eventual clearance, if achieved.

Given that there are substantial areas of Scotland, in addition to those in Argyll and Bute, which
are affected by Rhododendron ponticum it is clear that a high level of public investment will be
required to eradicate this invasive species. In addition, while the Forestry Commission Scotland
aims to free the national forest estate of Rhododendron ponticum this cannot be achieved without
measures being taken to also to eradicate Rhododendron ponticum in areas outwith the parts of the
country covered by its action plan. These other areas are owned by a multiplicity of interested
parties with varying commitment and financial ability to eradicate this invasive species. Kintyre
alone has vast areas covered by Rhododendron ponticum. Unless a comprehensive approach can
be adopted it is likely that the limited amount of funding earmarked for eradication in defined
areas will be wasted.

This failure to identify in the public’s mind the specific cause of the problem, as well as the giving
of very optimistic forecasts for its eradication, will undermine the campaign to eradicate this
invasive species from the Scottish landscape. In addition, misleading information on costs and the
playing down of the risks of re-invasion will ultimately threaten future funding.

The problems of eradicating Rhododendron ponticum are enormous, as its capacity to survive
clearance, re-grow and generate new seed in a relatively short time cannot be under-estimated.
Ambitious targets and a lack of adequate funding will be counter-productive to achieving full
eradication. The Scottish Rhododendron Society has called on the Scottish Government for the
implementation of a national action plan for the permanent removal of the invasive species
Rhododendron ponticum from the whole country. The action plan should be based on a realistic
and open assessment of the scale and nature of the problems involved, engage the support of all
the interested parties and land owners, be properly funded, be effectively managed; and
implemented on the ground without eradicating or adversely affecting, all other Rhododendron
species and cultivars that are not invasive or a threat to natural habitats or ecosystems.

Prior to commencing work on any eradication exercise, it is vitally important to carefully consider
what use is to be made of the land being cleared of Rhododendron ponticum, as the ground will be
devoid of all the nutrients. Rhododendron ponticum is one of very few plants that is able to survive
on barren soil and, for this reason, it is likely that other invasive species will take over the area that
has been cleared unless there is a plan in-situ for rejuvenating the soil and replanting.

General Plant Health Advice

For an interesting article by John Hammond on ‘Powdery mildew’ on subsection Cinnabarina, see the SRS yearbook no. 23, 2022.

Sirococcus tsugae

This was originally seen in the United States but first reported in the UK, including Scotland, in 2014 and 2015. It affects the genera Cedrus and Tsuga; cedars and hemlocks. Symptoms are severe shoot blight and defoliation. Dead needles have a characteristically pink colour and later go brown. There can be cankers and bleeding of resin from the bark. Spread is via rain splash and high winds. There is no effective control other than biosecurity and plant hygiene.

Marion Kinns, 2022

Stink Bug

Of less concern to us is a new Stink Bug originating from China and Japan. This has been highlighted by the RHS. The brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys spread to the USA in the 1990s and is now found in various European countries. So far only adults have been discovered in the UK and no breeding populations.

They differ from native stink bugs with pale bands on the antennae, a row of pale dots on the body and a rectangular head. They appear to overwinter in houses.

The main threat is to orchards where a small number can cause great damage. Gardeners are asked to watch for them. If you find them, capture them and report suspects to bmsb@niab.com or via the RHS gardening advice service rhs.org.uk/myadvice

Marion Kinns, 04/02/22

Phytophthera pluvialis

Presently known to affect a variety of trees including western hemlock, tanoak, Douglas fir and various pines. It was first reported from Oregon, USA in2013 on tanoak ( Lithocarpus densiflorus) and Douglas fir and has been shown to be the causative pathogen in ‘red needle cast’ in radiata pine in NZ. It also causes shoot die back and lesions on stems, branches and roots.

It wasn’t seen in the U.K. until September 2021 in a Cornish woodland where it was found to be affecting mature western hemlock and Douglas fir. Further outbreaks have been found in Cornwall, Devon, Cumbria and near Loch Carron in Scotland. Wales reported their first outbreak in Dec2021.

Many members in our society will grow conifers so this fairly recent pathogen must be of concern. We have also seen how other Phytophtheras ( ramorum and kernoviae) affect a wide range of hosts including the genus Rhododendron.

Growers are asked to be alert to this disease and report any concerns via The TreeAlert online portal. Phytophthera pluvialis currently meets the criteria to be classified as a GB Quarantine pest for regulatory purposes.

Marion Kinns, 2022

UPDATE : 2024

Early investigations at various gardens have been encouraging in that there has been no sign of this particular fungal pathogen causing a problem in rhododendrons.

Marion Kinns,

Phytophthera austrocedri

This soil and water born fungus affects our native juniper which is already rare so there is some real cause for concern. It affects and damages roots leading to death. Discolouration of the foliage is seen which is either a uniform bronze following root damage or patchy from lesions on stems or branches. Tongue or flame shaped lesions up to 50cm can be seen under the bark and sometimes resin pockets. There is no natural resistance but plants on drier sites may survive.

Marion Kinns 04/02/22

Plant Health Questions & Answers

Marion Kinns,

Horse Chestnut Bleeding Canker

This is caused by a bacterium, Pseudomonas syringae, pathovar aesculi. From a tree survey conducted across the UK in 2007, it was discovered that half of all trees surveyed showed some symptoms. This disease was first seen in the UK in 1970 and is thought to have arrived from India. Trees of all ages can be affected. Some infections can last for years with little impact on the crown but in other cases the spread can be rapid causing crown thinning, die back and sometimes death of part or of the whole tree. Symptoms noted are cracks in the bark and oozing of a reddish brown sticky liquid. These dry in the winter to leave a rusty brown or black deposit. Under the bark the wood is found to be discoloured with brown or purple discolouration as opposed to the usual white/pinkish colour. In older plants dead bark may fall away to expose the wood beneath.

All plants now sold in the UK must be produced in the UK. If this bleeding canker is observed it should be reported to plant health authorities via Tree Alert at forestresearch.go.uk

(this information was found on the Woodland Trust website www.woodlandtust.org.uk)

Marion Kinns,

Horse Chestnut leaf blotch fungus

This is caused by the fungus Phyllostica paviae. Irregular brown blotches of dead tissue are seen on the leaves. Sometimes these have a yellow edge and sometimes the leaf shrivels totally. This is more prevalent in the south and west of the U.K. and was introduced to this country from N. America in the twentieth century.

Horse chestnut leaves are also sometimes seen to gradually turn brown and shrivel all round the edges, looking like severe water stress. This is not leaf blotch and the cause of this condition is not yet known. (this information was found on the RHS website www.rhs.org.uk)

Marion Kinns,

Horse Chestnut leaf mining moth.

This was first found in the UK in 2002 and the moth concerned is Cameraria ohridella. White or brown batches are seen on the foliage from June to September. Caterpillars or circular pupal cocoons can be seen in the mined area of the leaf if it is held to the light. By September the tree may look as if it is dying but it will survive. Leaves may be dropped early and conkers may be smaller. (this information was found on the RHS website www.rhs.org.uk)

Marion Kinns,

“There are three potential problems which could affect Leyland Cypress trees – a blight, a canker and root rot. There is also a pest, an aphid.”

Marion Kinns,

Cypress needle blight

This is caused by another fungus, Passalora sequoia. Symptoms are needles browning and dropping, usually beginning on the lower branches. Spores are spread by rain, winds and tools. To avoid this disease, trees for hedging should be placed far enough apart to allow sun and air to pass through the branches. Infected branches should be pruned out and the loppers used should be sterilised. Do not chip or compost infected branches.

Marion Kinns,

Canker in Cyprus trees

This is another fungal disease and is caused by either Seiridium unicorne or by Botryosphaeria . In the former, the cankers rarely girdle the stem and in the latter they can girdle the stem. The cankers are dry lesions and are often sunken. Surrounding bark can show dark brown or purple discolouration and water flow can be restricted by these cankers. Branches can be seen to die back and there can be oozing of sap. It is found that canker tends to occur only on stressed plants. Fungicides are not effective. Recommendations are to plant trees a minimum of 12-15ft apart and avoid over fertilising. Infected branches should be pruned out, sterilising the pruners. A programme of regular irrigations should be followed and the trees should be mulched to the drip line.

Marion Kinns,

Root rot

Species of Phytophthera fungus are responsible for this condition. Roots die off and foliage goes yellowish, purple or tan. The whole of the tree is affected. There is no chemical treatment. It is often caused by planting where the drainage is poor and young plants are most often affected.

(information for the above three diseases was found at www.gardeningknowhow.com and the RHS website www.rhs.org.uk

Marion Kinns,

Cypress aphid (Cinara cupressiora)

Damage develops in late spring and summer and is most often found initially at the base of a hedge. The pest is a large greyish greenfly. Brown patches often develop after the aphids have gone. It is, however, possible to see cast aphid skins and sooty mould which grows on the honeydew excreted by the aphids. Damaged hedges can recover but this can be a slow process. The RHS suggests the use of biological controls to avoid killing beneficial insects. Information from RHS website www.rhs.org.uk

Marion Kinns,

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

May Newsletter 2024

It’s mid-May, Fiona and I have had a little evening walk round our garden, enjoy what we have planted over the last thirteen years here in Doune, Central Scotland. When we first started this garden, we planted a lot of plants from our Gargunnock where I was working at the time.

We both realise it’s that time when some plants have outgrown their allotted space, others need cut back and some are coming out as they are not performing. Perhaps your garden is like ours and maybe there is a bit of a story to tell, and you want to share it, send a few pages to John Roy our Publications editor. That would make John very happy.

After our AGM at Garelochhead, the hall was readied and set up for the first of our exhibitors to set out their trusses and sprays in the vases, add a little moss to set out the perfect display ready to set out on the show benches.

Preparing for the show. F. Campbell

As always, we had a good turnout of exhibitors, and soon the show benches were full, little disappointing that in the novice section there were few exhibits. The show was a week earlier this year, so species exhibits were up, except for the triflora sprays, hybrid entries were about the same with deciduous azaleas just a few.

Fast forward to Saturday morning, show benches all neat and tidy for the judging, David Chamberlain, Richard Baines and Maurice Wilkins would decide the first, second and third places. On queue the hall doors were opened at 12.00 to let in mostly members at that time.

When the prize winners were read out, clearly it was not the usual winners, Paul Haynes from Morar won best Truss in the Show, plus two other cups, Philip Rankin won three cups and Glenarn won 3 cups.

As always at the start of the show David Chamberlain who has judged our shows for some 40 years gives an introductory opening speech, this year he was surprised and delighted to receive the ARS “Pioneer Achievement Award” for his outstanding contribution to rhododendron taxonomy. Richard Baines from Logan BG presented the Scroll to David.

We also had an outstanding day with plant sales, book sales and some 75 visitors paid the £2.00 to view the show.

Big thanks to all the show team, the exhibitors, those who contributed plants and books.

A week later 12 off us started our Spring tour in the Oban area, all the gardens we visited were full of flowering plants and with so much interest.

On the Wednesday we visited Kilchoan gardens a few miles west of Kilmelford, to where Luke Senior is head gardener. The garden was full of interesting plants, statues, church and lots of garden features, its defiantly one to come back to in a few years’ time.

Then on to the Kintyre part of our Trip, first to a garden we visited around 15 years ago, Stronchullin. Mary Broadfoot the garden owner had kindly put her car down on her drive with large SRS sign on it so we could not miss the drive up to the house. Buy this time the party had increased to 20 as Mary set off around a garden of giant flowering rhododendrons.

The Thursday morning was sunny and calm for the crossing to Gigha, Fiona and I visited Achamore gardens a few years back and were keen to see how it was fairing under Bryony White the head Gardener, we were astonished at the difference the garden team had made in these few years, making the whole Gigha experience as one destination your “bucket list”.

Friday morning, leaving Stonefield Castle in bright sunshine we headed off to Baravalla, the garden managed by the RSCG. Matt Heasman had been up bright and early, setting up the generator and urn. Matt led the party round the gardens, pointing out plants of special interest that the “Two Peters” had planted. After a break for refreshments, its was down to the lower woods, almost at the sea where the big leaved falconera and grandia sub section plants are found. Baravalla is one of the key gardens in Scotland, if you ever feel you can help out, please contact Matt Heasman.

Matt Heasman leads a guided tour round Baravalla. F. Campbell.

So that is a short summary of this year’s tour, more in the Autumn Journal. These tours are great for forming friendships, like minded gardeners who just enjoy looking at plants, you don’t need to be an expert.

Now just a bit about the AGM, I was in the chair and it was attended by about 25 members with some on “Zoom”. In my President’s remarks as always I pleaded with our membership to come forward and help us on committee, many have been on committee for 20 years and longer.

Last year attracted three new committee members, Annette Treble who now has agreed to become minutes Secretary, with Katina Clow still keeping her role as Secretary on the Show Committee.

Grant Moir, Head Gardener at Westerhall-on-Esk, was tasked with bringing our website fit for this modern world with social media included, Grant has already revamped the site with lots of new features and ideas. Our Facebook page is visited daily by hundreds of like-minded rhododendron enthusiasts. Not everyone’s “cup of tea” but this is a sure-fire way of promoting rhododendrons on this exceptional year of flowering.


As Always, we your committee want feed back on what we are doing, have you any suggestions, thoughts, articles for John Roy, want to help, please contact myself at William.campbellwj@btinternet.com

Willie Campbell SRS President, May 2024

Spring Report Mar 2024

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. william.campbellwj@btinternet.com

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 .