Spirit Companions: the Rhododendrons of Winterthur, Delaware

Winterthur is the legacy of Henry Francis du Pont, 1880-1969, American

 

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Of the large bushes at Winterthur, it is the rhododendrons – some of them trees – whose flowering is with us the longest.

 

The earliest, Korean varieties, flower in late March and early April. There are flowers still in bloom in mid-Autumn.

 

 

 

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A Korean rhododendron bush blooming in March with yellow spike winterhazel

 

Rhododendrons are planted at more than one site in the gardens. The largest concentration are the trees of the Azalea Woods. 

 

 

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A purple rhododendron framed by Kurume azalea

 

 

 

Here, dense though are the plantings of Kurume azalea, the rhododendrons hold their own,

 

 

 

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aided by their height above the azalea, which often beam upwards a brilliant, dense underlight.

 

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Aided also by the size of their flower heads

 

 

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Rhododendrons, Winterthur, DE-05

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and the extraordinary gyrations of trunk and bough.

 

 

 

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Winterthur 5 May 2012

 

 

as the trees advance across these woods

 

 

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in search of sunlight under the high canopy of spruce and beech.

 

 

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In May and June  these trees are hung with colour,

 

 

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The rhododendrons emerge after rain, wraith-like 

 

 

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to light up with warming sun,

 

 

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Rhododendrons, Winterthur, DE-07

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calling out their beauty …

 

 

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Until, it seems, they are crowded with admirers

 

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This is Kurume azalea hanging on every word of the flower of pale pink tree rhododendron

 

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Rhododendron wreathed by white  Kurume azalea

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Then you can imagine a theatre where the actors, 

 

held momentarily erect by the balance of their bouffant hairdos and their trailing flounces,

 

 

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begin delicate maneuvers across the woods,  

 

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sheltering their flowers against the next rain…

 

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This generous earth has sustained me in my American journey many years now.

 

The spirit of the woods a metaphor for an interpretation which holds that our souls are ours alone

 

but our spirit,  an attribute of our entire species, is like that of almost all organisms:  maneuvering towards the light. 

 

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And the rhododendron a magnificent example and companion.

 

 

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Rhododendrons, Winterthur, DE-34

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Rhododendrons Winterthur May 2015-09

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