Annual Rhododendron Festival at Heritage Museums and Gardens this Weekend

The Dexter rhododendrons at Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich.

SANDWICH – Heritage Museums & Gardens will be bursting with color this weekend as the annual Rhododendron Festival kicks off on Saturday.

Thousands of rhododendrons will cover 100 acres with spectacular and varied blooms during the much-anticipated event, which runs through next week.

The festival is one of the most beautiful times to visit Heritage, and special festival programs will engage everyone from novice to avid gardeners.

“We do this every year because every year at about this time our rhododendron collection comes into full flower and the next 10 days to two weeks should be the peak period of flower. You’ll probably see more in flower now than at any time of year,” says Heritage Director of Horticulture Les Lutz.

“They do quite well on Cape Cod, they love our climate and this year they look particularly great because we had a relatively mild winter. So, there a lot more flowers that survived the winter the flowers are looking pretty spectacular. Cape Cod is known for rhododendron.”

Visitors can enjoy a peaceful walk surrounded by walls of flowers, learn more about the stunning plants from horticultural experts, explore Heritage’s connection to noted rhododendron hybridizers and participate in other activities related to the signature plant.

In addition to presenting an enchanting forest of spectacular colors and fragrances, Lutz says many of the rhododendrons have historic horticultural significance.

“In 1921 this was a private home of Charles Dexter and his hobby was breeding rhododendrons. Many of our plants date from when Mr. Dexter lived here in the 1920’s through 1940’s,” Lutz explained.

“So, a lot of these plants are 80 and 90 years old. They’re mature, they’re huge, they’re spectacular and they’re in flower, so we like to celebrate that.”

Rhododendron Festival Programs include:

Daily Rhododendron Collection Walking Tour

Saturday, May 25 – Sunday, June 2

11:00 a.m. through 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. through 2:30 p.m.

Meets at the Dexter Terrace

Take a deep dive into the world of rhododendrons. Discover how the work done by two hybridizers—Charles Dexter and Jack Cowles—contributed to the genus Rhododendron and created the plants that are so loved today. Guides will select the most spectacular spots for viewing these stunning plants daily.

Rhododendron Care and Pruning Demonstration

Saturday, May 25 through Sunday, June 2 (no program on Monday, May 27)12:00 p.m. through 12:30 p.m.

Meets at the Dexter Terrace

Heritage’s Horticulture staff share the basics on how to maintain and care for rhododendrons. Included are demonstrations of ideal growing situations, watering, fertilizing, mulching, pest control, and dead-heading to encourage optimal health and beauty. Learn how to selectively prune your plants to improve vigor, increase bloom density, control height, and enhance ornamental value. Discuss the tools, techniques, and timing needed for effective pruning and watch a demonstration of techniques on various plants during a walk through the garden.

“We are so excited to welcome visitors to the Rhododendron Festival during our 50th Anniversary Season, and encourage them to explore acres of stunningly beautiful blooms along lakefront and other woodland trails whether on a walk or as part of the inaugural Run for the Rhodies,” said Heritage CEO & President Anne Scott-Putney.

Heritage Rhododendron Festival programs are free with Museum admission. No advance registration is required.

By TIM DUNN, News Center 

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