This variety of Rhododendron is rather wonderful when you think about it. It is is big, blowsy and brash when seen from a distance, and a delight of natural engineering when looked at more closely.
The florets open one at a time, continuing until from a distance the flower head resembles a small blancmange. The way they open makes sure there's always a fresh food supply for pollinating insects.
The flower head is carried proudly at the end of a stem above leaves that droop downwards. The buds point upwards, but once open the individual florets point downwards. Perhaps this stops rain collecting inside the flower, perhaps it provides a better landing platform for bumble bees.
Picture taken at Exbury Gardens, 29th March 2009. The gardens at Exbury cover 200 acres.
This particular plant may be the result of the one of the 1,200 rhododendron crosses carried out by Mr Lionel de Rothschild from 1920 onwards. (Read more - here on the Exbury website -
or - here, an article by Paul Martin, who was Head Gardener of Exbury - .