... a dreamer, freelance writer, massage therapist, naturopath, mother & drop-out social work student living, working and writing in the Blue Mountains. When not occupied with the real world, she writes fantasy.
Published October 24th 2012
For chockers of azaleas and rhodos, you can't beat this
Blackheath Rhodo Garden - magic fairyland in Oct-Nov.
For a chance to see realms of rhododendrons and azaleas blooming en masse, you can't beat the Blackheath Rhodo Garden in the Blue Mountains. As a tourist recently claimed to me, she'd never seen more azaleas in her life than here in the Blue Mountains. But, be aware these beauties only sparkle for a brief season. As the saying goes, it's a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
The place to be is the Blue Mountains; the time from mid-to-late October through November.
With it's cool climate and acid soils, the Blue Mountains is perfectly equipped for growing rhododendrons, which perform best in very cold temperatures and in acid soil, between 4 and 6 pH. While in recent times warm climate rhododendron species have come into the market, the majority of rhododendrons grown in Australia come from cold climate forms taken from the Himalayas to Europe.
Lane of azaleas - blinding colours amongst native bush.
Swarms of blazing rhodos and azaleas are not the only feature of the Blackheath Rhodo garden. You can also set your eyes upon flowering cherry, dogwood, camellias, maples, deciduous trees and more. The 45 acre garden contains small and large ponds and many grassy spots and benches where you can relax. Take a picnic blanket or if you are lucky enjoy Devonshire Tea at the Lodge - (only available during select periods within spring).
Encased within a natural bush setting, the sparkling azalea's and rhododendrons are surrounded by (in my opinion) uglier Australian gums, ferns and other natives, giving it an odd, almost surreal feeling.
Fairy child finds a home beneath the cherry blossom
The Rhodo garden's proper official name is the more stark sounding Campbell Rhododendron Garden, Blackheath. Amongst the locals and garden lovers it's more familiarly and affectionately known as the Blackheath Rhodo Garden.
The Blackheath Rhodo Garden was named an Australian National Treasure by Traveller Magazine (2011). It is considered unique for it's large-scale plantings of rhododendrons within a natural bush setting.
Other seasons of the garden: Rhodo season is the not the only fab time to see the Blackheath Rhodo Garden. Come in the months below, and you can enjoy the offerings of Autumn and Spring.
March-May: the garden turns red with Autumn colour. September-October: Bulbs and flowering fruit trees.
Location: The Rhodo Garden can be found at Bacchante Street, Blackheath. There's one for your GPS, mobile navigating system or street directory. For everyone else, see below.
Blackheath is two towns west of Katoomba, the main tourist town of the mountains, or 10-15 minutes drive from thence. From Sydney it's a drive of approximately 2 hours. A familiar landmark along the way will include the Hydro Majestic Hotel (currently closed, pending renovations). Once you pass the turn-off to Blackheath Shopping Centre (on the Great Western Highway), turn right into Hat Hill Road, left into Wentworth then follow the signs to the garden.
It's also possible to walk to the garden from Blackheath Station or catch a tour bus there.
For full directions of how to get to the gardens by foot, public transport or car, please see the Rhodo Gardens website here.
Water, flowers and a tranquil bush setting make the Rhodo Garden a special place to chill.
There is no formal admission fee to this garden, however a gold coin donation is requested and throwing them a buck or two won't kill you. The garden receives no government funding and is maintained wholly by its amazing volunteers (the Blue Mountains Rhododendron Society of NSW Incorporated).
The opening hours of the garden are between 9am and 4pm. Be aware that the gates are closed after 4pm, so be careful to move your car prior to that or you'll find yourself (or at least your car) locked in. It's okay to stay on after 4pm - or indeed walk there at any time - just make sure your car is parked outside the gate. You won't be alone. My last visit was after hours and the garden was filled with others enjoying the additional daylight savings hours.
Though open all year, the beauty of the garden peaks in October and early November - when the rhododendrons and azaleas are at their finest.
Kids and Dogs:
Okay, I didn't mean to imply that these are the same by putting then in one category, but you know what I mean. Dogs are welcome in the garden provided they are leashed. Children don't have to be leashed. There is ample ground for them to run around, explore and sniff flowers, throw stones in the water and generally run wild - which, as we know, is what they do best.
Mmm - yum. Abundant space for kids to explore nature.