Riot of Rhododendrons
The Castle’s gardens are a spectacular place to be when there’s a riot of rhododendrons in full swing. Vibrant colours created by the different trees offer a visual delight.
The Castle’s current owner Iona Frost Pennington’s great-grandfather Sir John Ramsden, the sixth Baronet, was responsible for the creation of what was, at one time, considered to be the largest collection of species rhododendrons in Europe. He had the most wonderful setting in which to work, with the Terrace and the views of Scafell and the Lakeland hills to the east and south, and the land between the house and Ravenglass, which John, Lord Muncaster had planted with hardwood trees in the 1780s, providing the finest shelter from the prevailing winds.
It was after the First World War that Sir John Ramsden started planting with rhododendron seedlings brought from his other great garden at Bulstrode, Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire, a Somerset family estate which he inherited through his mother. He carried out a vigorous crossing programme and produced many new hybrids. However the outbreak of another war in 1939 and the resulting cutback in available labour frustrated his plans for the collection.
The acid soil, proximity of the Gulf Stream and the sheltered steep-sided valleys of the gardens provide a perfect micro-climate for special plants such as Rhododendron broughtonii, Rh. elliottii and Rh. griersonianum, mature and beautiful trees which provide a stunning and colourful display from March onwards.