Flowering rhododendrons will be on view in the gardens of two of Ayrshire & Arran’s most famous castles - Culzean and Brodick as part of the Scottish Rhododendron Festival, April 1-May 31.
Returning for its fifth year, the annual festival is organised by Discover Scottish Gardens and supported by VisitScotland. It aims to encourage local residents and tourists to enjoy the wonders of Scottish gardens during the rhododendron flowering period.
Culzean Castle & Country Park in South Ayrshire is a Four Star VisitScotland attraction with colourful displays of rhododendrons, many of which are scented and have beautiful barks and leaves. Brodick Castle’s garden holds a collection of rhododendrons that includes Fortune, which has won best hybrid at the Scottish Rhododendron Society’s annual show.
Gordon Smith, VisitScotland regional director, said: “Culzean and Brodick Castle both boast spectacular gardens where visitors can enjoy a huge variety of plants and wildlife. I’m delighted to see that they are making the most of the Scottish Rhododendron Festival which is sure to bring in visitors.
“These visitors represent a major benefit to the region. Tourism is more than a holiday experience it is the heartbeat of the Scottish economy and touches every community, generating income, jobs and social change.”
Rhododendrons are a large family of around 1,000 species, from small mountain shrubs to magnificent tree-like specimens. This year, many species have been flowering earlier than usual due to higher-than-average temperatures in most parts of the country.
In February, the Met Office reported an average temperature of 6°C in the UK, which is 2.4°C above the 1981-2010 long-term average. A southerly incursion from north Africa brought record-breaking temperatures and dry sunny weather throughout most parts of the country in the latter half of the month.
David Knott, curator at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, a world centre for rhododendron studies, said: “The warmer temperatures we have been experiencing provide optimum conditions for these exotic shrubs, originally from the east, to thrive. The unusual weather and early flowering also highlight the impact of climate change on plants and flowering behaviour - a situation we will continue to monitor at the Botanics.”