Dunge Valley rhododendron gardens and nursery

15 May

Four years ago, just as I was beginning to take an avid interest in plants, I visited Dunge Valley, situated 1000′ up in the Peak District, roughly a few rugged miles west of my own garden. The choice of plants available appealed to me greatly at the time and provided me with a good deal of inspiration for the shadier side of the garden.

Today I paid the place a return visit, by pushbike. It’s a slog to get there when you’re not a car passenger. I took some pictures along the way. They give an idea of the countryside.

The proprietor ingratiated himself to me by saying i’d “done well” to get up there from Wilmslow, although I think he would have preferred it if i’d taken some money for plants and brought something to take them away in. “The worst season in twenty-five years” he said, not meaning the weather. Told me to come back this season if I liked the stock because he might be closed next year.

More optimistically, he remarked on how good the gardens were looking this year. I was able to take some beautiful images of them.

That’s Lysichiton americanus, an aroid known as skunk cabbage, anchoring the scene. I do love aroids. They are strong characters.

This image below, a view from beneath ranks of rhododendrons, shows the various shades of indumentum (fuzzy hairs) on the undersides of their leaves. Rhododendron flowers are fine, but to me they are the icing on the cake. I prefer these plants for their foliage, of which more below when we get to the nursery.

Some closer views –

Rodgersia pinnata ‘Chocolate wing”

Euphorbia griffthii ‘Fireglow’

Rhododendron ‘Cinnkeys minterne’. This was new to me. I wouldn’t have guessed it was a rhododendron. Obviously the unexpected-ness means I like it. The flowers remind me of Eccremocarpus scaber, the Chilean glory vine .

Meconopsis x Sheldonii –

The nursery was full of all sorts of goodies not available in garden centres. Lots of arisaema, like a. griffithii, another aroid –

Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii (alright I picked this up locally a couple of weeks ago) –

The pleated leaves of . . . a Veratrum species? There was no label.

The unfurling shuttlecock-like foliage of Eremurus x isabellinus ‘Cleopatra’

. . .and many rhododendrons. Most are unlabelled, as were similar looking ones i’d seen previously at Holker Hall in Cumbria. Hardiness can’t be too much of a problem. I’d have asked about it but seeing as I wasn’t buying anything I wanted to keep a fairly low profile. As mentioned above, the foliage is varied and attractive, being variously tomentose or glossy, smooth or leathery and puckered. The colours vary and are sometimes contrasting, either in the detail of the leaf sheaves, the venation or the top and undersides of the leaves. The plants’ overall form differs too, the branches being fewer and more elongated.

This one below, with my hand for size comparison, is R. sinogrande, the largest leaved one. I have one of these, though it is still a bit smaller than this. Hardiness hasn’t been a problem for it so far, given the protection of a cloche the winter before last.


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