The Arboretum takes special pride in its rhododendrons, including cultivar and species collections
The genus Rhododendron is quite a phenomenon in Bergen, particularly during the height of flowering in May. Although only two are native to Norway, many of the over 1,000 species of this amazingly diverse woody plant group grow beautifully in the acid soils and with the mild winters of Westlandet, conditions similar to those in their centre of diversity in the Himalayas.
From creeping dwarf shrubs to huge trees 30 meters high, most are evergreen, but there are also deciduous rhododendrons (azaleas) which provide autumnal colour. The flowers can range from small thimbles to heavy, lily-like beauties of 15-20 cm long, some of which are fragrant, and whilst they often vary between white, pink and violet, some are bright red, yellow, or orange. In mild winters the first flowers come as early as January, and some can bloom as late as September or October.
You can find many examples throughout the University Gardens, but in particular the Arboretum has taken a special pride in its Rhododendrons ever since its establishment in 1971. They are concentrated in two areas: the species collection is north of Mørkevatnet and includes around 1,700 specimens of almost 300 species, and the cultivar collection is in Nydalen and includes c. 2,300 specimens of 600 different taxa.
The species collections are arranged systematically, following the Edinburgh classification. Many are of wild origin and contribute to our conservation efforts for threatened species. The cultivar collections are arranged in themed groupings that describe the sequence of introductions of species and their hybrids into cultivation. We aim to show the diversity that is available and present the best cultivars from different eras and from different countries: everything from the latest novelties, to the oldest English and German varieties.