Royal Purple

Diamond Jubilee street party

Like hundreds and thousands of places across the UK and beyond, our little village celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with a street party in the sunshine yesterday.

In the morning we baked raspberry muffins, parmesan scones and chocolate flapjacks, packed tupperware with salad (to balance out the baked goods) and filled a jug with Pimms and lemonade, with fresh mint and borage flowers from the garden, then carried our feast down into the village to join the celebrations, which later moved to the village inn with a barbecue and outdoor screening of the Jubilee concert.  A rousing speech from one of the organisers and toast to the Queen mid-afternoon completed the day. We didn’t get much gardening done though…

Rhododendron bud

Back in the garden, in suitably regal purple for the occasion, our rhododendron, rescued from the original garden before commencing building work, has finally bloomed this year. It stood in an old plastic container for the past couple of years until I could return it to the ground last autumn, where it has obviously begun to settle happily.

Emerging rhododendron bud

Over the course of a week the buds gradually expanded and deepened in colour.

Rhododendron bud beginning to open

Day by day, the individual flowers drew apart.

Rhododendron flower head unfurling

As the week, and the month of May, drew to a close, the flowers began to open, smothering the modest shrub in a blaze of purple.

Open rhododendron flowers

I am not entirely convinced by rhododendrons, and would not have sought to add one to our garden, but it seemed right to try and preserve what we could from the remains of the original planting, and I cannot help but admire this plant for its perseverance. It is quite a sight, almost entirely covered in huge heads of purple blooms, the top petal of each speckled with rusty orange.

Close up of opening rhododendron flower


18 thoughts on “Royal Purple

    • Ah, we have been pretty lucky. Saturday was sunny and I was out in the garden until dusk, Sunday was greyer but stayed dry until late afternoon, and the sun shone on Monday’s festivities. Today we were kept indoors by rain which only stopped a couple of hours ago, though I’m sure the garden has loved it.

    • Thanks Helen, it’s a lovely colour.
      Our picnic was really enjoyable, and we gave away all the excess cakes and scones so we brought home nothing to tempt us today! I do like an excuse to bake though. 😉

  1. Looks like a good do. I like the idea of a mobile jug of Pimms. Our local Jubilee Big Lunch was rescheduled to Monday at short notice because of Sunday’s rain but I could not make it then 😦

    • It was tremendous fun; a real family event, from babes-in-arms to grandparents. The jug of Pimms was great, though we had to sip from it on the way down as it was a little too full to carry without spilling, but it still ran out all too soon ;). Sorry that you missed your celebrations…

  2. I know just what you mean about rhododendrons. We have three here, two quite unobtrusive and one huge one which flowers in a rather glorious fountain of pink. I would never have bought it and am not really a rhododendron lover but I love it now and would never get rid of it. It doesn’t really fit with the rest of the planting but it belongs somehow!

    • Indeed, it’s hard to take out something that seems to somehow work. Although we have such limited space, so I’m keeping a careful eye on ours to make sure it earns its keep!

  3. Absolutely with you re rhodos – or at least I was. Now I really look forward to them blooming and have even added more! Who’d have thought? I moved two four years ago (they were quite big) and they still haven’t forgiven me. They flower but only a little half-heartedly – still least they survived. D

    • They are strange beasts aren’t they. I like them best in woodlands really, where great looming bushes can flower their hearts out untamed, rather than in mixed planting in small gardens, but I can’t quite bring myself to touch this one… yet 😉

  4. Sounds like you had a great day and some sunshine. I do like rhodos but I generally prefer them when they are grouped together. I love seeing them in the gardens in Cornwall but find them a little incongruous when grown as a specimen in a normal garden. I feel they jar with the other plants. Yours has such beautifully coloured flowers tough I can see why you were reluctant to get rid of it.

    • I agree, they are at their best in great masses, in light woodland, roaming free, rather than crammed into small gardens, but while ours flowers like this I can’t throw it out…

  5. The Jubilee celebrations sound (and look) great! Sadly, we were in Germany so missed it all, I have to admit to being rather sad about that. I agree on the rhododendron comment, I wouldn’t choose once specifically, but the flower looks so lovely in your photo, maybe I should change my mind! Bethx

  6. In the Pacific Northwest (USA), we don’t so much choose rhododendrons as they choose us. The native, R. macrophyllum, is the official state flower of Washington. Rhodies find the climate here so salubrious they infest most every yard, sometimes topping the houses. The blooms are gaudy, immoderate, and messy when they fall. I rather like them, anyway. But let me get to the point of my post to your fine blog, which comes about because of an observation I made this evening as I walked from one shrub to the next: Most of the rhododendron varieties in my yard display one speckled petal, and when they do, it is always at the top. This, to me, is a minor mystery, and I would appreciate any botanical knowledge (or speculation) that anyone reading this can share. As you know, the blossoms of a rhododendron generally emerge in a ball, each one thrusting out from the center, some down, some up, some sideways. Does each of those blooms “know” which end is up as it emerges? Or is there some environmental influence that speckles the top petal after its unfolding? I was tempted to turn a few blossom clusters upside down at various stages of their development to answer this question. But then I imagined that somebody, somewhere, must already know. And so I come, a horticultural supplicant, to your community of gardeners. Any thoughts?

  7. I suspect our plant is the species R. ponticum, or closely related to it, which is similarly invasive in much of North Wales and parts of Scotland, such that committees exist to try and eradicate it as it smothers native flora. Must watch ours carefully for suckers!

    I have no botanical training, but the top petal in each flower will always be the closest to the centre/bud, that is the inner petal before the flowers start to spread out. Rather than responding to their positioning per se, I’m sure the speckling is just a genetic trait that is carried in the DNA for these cells, in much the same way that our own cells usually know to develop arms, legs, organs etc in the correct places…

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