Letter to the Editor
Colwyn Bay, North Wales, G.B.
The following letter was written to Mr. Borje Malmgren of Malmo, Sweden, who authored the article "Sofiero - a Royal Garden." The letter is reprinted with permission of Mr. Malmgren and Mr. Puddle.
Dear Mr. Malmgren,
I am writing to say how interested I was in your article on Sofiero which appears in the American Rhododendron Society Journal. It brought back many memories to me.
I am long retired but was employed as a boy and later in charge of Bodnant Garden for thirty-seven years. You may have heard of it through rhododendrons for it is one of the most noted in Britain and the source of hundreds of rhododendron hybrids.
When I was young, I think in 1935, I packed a gift of rhododendrons to King Gustav from Lord Aberconway, the owner of Bodnant. There must have been 80-100 plants, packed in two crates and sent to the Swedish Embassy in London who would send them on by sea.
In 1965 I toured Norway and Sweden by car with my wife and two young children. We crossed from Denmark and motored to Gothenburg where we called at the Botanic Gardens and saw the important rhododendron collection. We then headed north to the Arctic Circle and returned via Sweden.
We visited one of the Royal Palaces in Stockholm and I asked if any rhododendrons were grown. They directed me to Sofiero so I decided to call before we returned to Denmark.
I found Sofiero but there were sentries on the gate and they would not allow us in. However, I drove further up the road to where there was a small gate in the high wall. There was a young boy inside who ran off on seeing me but when he came back I asked for his father. He returned with the Head Gardener and I explained my mission but he hardly understood English. After a long wait he came back and ushered us all through the gate into a fruit garden.
We were welcomed by the King and Queen who were picking raspberries. The King immediately said he would show me the rhododendrons whilst the Queen took my wife and children to a "Playhouse" in the garden.
King Gustav had notes and soon pointed out the rhododendrons from Bodnant which had survived the cold conditions. All I can remember now is a very good plant of R. auriculatum.
I hope you find this letter of interest and well illustrates the kindness of the King and Queen and his interest in rhododendrons.