Growers welcome rhododendron's star billing at Chelsea

Rhododendron could be set for a revival in popularity following the RHS's decision to put a picture of the plant on the front cover of the Chelsea Flower Show catalogue.

The species has been subject to bad press following its link to the virulent Phytophthora ramorum disease, but it is hoped it will gain a boost in popularity as a result of the picture going out to the 157,000 visitors to the show.

Specialist grower David Millais of Millais Nurseries in Surrey is the only rhododendron grower exhibiting at Chelsea this year.

On the picture choice for the catalogue, he said: "I was really happy when I saw the historic print and I think it's going to help raise awareness of the plant - it gives some kudos to the plant."

Osberton Nurseries sales manager James McCardle added: "Rhododendron are splendid flowers and some are flowering at the time of Chelsea so they are a plant that works well for the show, and a good choice for that time of the year."

Hampshire-based rhododendron grower John Middleton of Shelley Common Nursery said: "I think that any positive publicity for rhododendron is good for the industry and I welcome it because the plant has had unwarranted negative publicity due to P. ramorum."

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