Botanically challenged

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My appreciation of plants I can’t eat is sadly limited.

Case in point is our many rhododendrons. Kevin once counted ninety, but we keep finding more tucked away in obscure corners of our two acres. And they’re not just any rhododendrons, they’re Dexter hybrids.

A representative sample

A representative sample

Dexter hybrids are named for one Charles Owen Dexter who, after retirement from the textile business in 1921, took to breeding rhododendrons here on Cape Cod. His plants are well-known in planty circles, and collected by New England rhododendron aficionados. The man who owned our house for thirty years was one such, and we have inherited the somewhat overgrown fruits of his labor.

Our rhodies come in every color from snow-white to blood-red, and have odd names like Ice Cube and Grace Seabrook (we know this only because they still have their tags). Our collection is extensive enough that some of our friends ask if they can come see them when they’re in bloom.

I suppose I can enjoy them in a look-at-the-nice-flower kind of way, but the enthusiasm that drives someone to spend time, money, and effort on a plant that has nothing going for it but a flash-in-the-pan blossom is lost on me. Not only can you not eat any part of it, the plant is toxic and can kill you if you try.  Rhododendrons exist only to be admired.

Sure, they’re pretty for fifteen minutes in the spring, but the rest of the year they’re just bushes. 

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Comments

  1. beachnitpicker says:

    I believe that at one time eccentric Americans bred rhododendrons the way eccentric Brits bred terriers. Bill Bryson, in “A Walk in the Woods” mentions their abundance along the Applachian Trail in (I think) Georgia.

  2. I appreciate them because they’re native and very “New England”. They even once inspired a great poet – see http://www.emersoncentral.com/poems/rhodora.htm

  3. I feel exactly the same way about flowers. I’ve often thought they remind me of a human with a pretty face/body who lacks substance within.

  4. Flower Lover says:

    I guess I am lucky enough to really enjoy that “flash in the pan” that flowers give us. I find it strange that Cara would compare flowers to a person lacking substance within. Just because we can’t eat Rhodies, they still provide food and shelter for all sorts of Mother Natures creatures lower on the food chain.
    I also really enjoy sunsets, but you can eat them either… go figure!

  5. I certainly see my lack of appreciation as a defiict. I see the pleasure others take in flowers (and sunsets), and would be very glad to be able to take that same pleasure myself. Ditto with music and non-representational art.

    Please put my using phrases like “flash-in-the-pan” down to curmudgeonly dissatisfaction with the state of things, not any real animosity toward flowers.