JARS v60n1 - Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden

Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden
Neil Jordan
Burnie, Tasmania

Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden is a relatively new garden by world standards, situated at the other end of the earth from North America. The garden is in north-west Tasmania (Australias island state), just four miles south of the city of Burnie.
The 33-acre site is in the form of an amphitheatre perched high on the western bank of, and overlooking, the Emu River. (For the record there are no wild emus in Tasmania). As the amphitheatre drops towards the Emu River there are two distinct flat areas, each containing two spring-fed lakes. Views from the upper levels of the garden are spectacular.
The property is owned freehold by the Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden Inc., an incorporated association formed by the members to develop and operate the garden, and all work in the garden is by voluntary effort. The land was never farmed and remnants of the original forest have been retained, including eucalypts, blackwood ( Acacia melanoxylon ) and manferns ( Dicksonia antarctica ). To date, somewhere around 20,000 rhododendrons, azaleas and companion plants have been planted in the 20-plus acres that have been developed.
The garden enjoys a mild temperate climate, effectively frost-free, enabling the entire range of rhododendrons, from vireyas to Himalayan types to be grown outdoors. The soil is a rich red volcanic loam, mostly covered with a deep layer of leaf litter. The natural springs ensure an ample water supply for irrigation to supplement our generous rainfall during the drier months from January to March.
The garden design is unique in that the central hybrid area is surrounded by a series of areas designed to represent the geographical sequence of countries from which the wild species rhododendrons originate. Appropriate rhododendron species have been planted along with a selection of the best companion plants (mostly deciduous trees and conifers at this stage) from each region.

View across lake at 
Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden. Emu Valley
Rhododendron Garden
View across lake at Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden.
Photo by Neil Jordan
Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden.
Photo by Neil Jordan

Some particularly outstanding infrastructure has been developed in some of these areas over recent years. Two gazebos, a Japanese covered bridge, a Japanese tea-house, various bridges, extensive dry stone walls, a fountain and a reflecting pool are but some of these features. Tucked away in a corner out of sight is a large nursery complex that has proved invaluable in generating a supply of choice plants to satisfy the ongoing demand for our garden development.
September and October are the main flowering months at Emu Valley. The big-leaf rhodos with their huge trusses give way at this time to lepidotes, elepidotes and then the vibrant colours of the deciduous azaleas. A late display has now been developed going on through November, featuring Maddenia rhodos and a forest of Rhododendron nuttallii on either side of the main pathway.

Deciduous azaleas at 
Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden.
Deciduous azaleas at Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden.
Photo by Neil Jordan

A large collection of hybrid and species vireyas thrives in our climate. Their tropical habits mean that they respond only to wet and dry stimuli, and many flower several times each year, providing excellent colour and perfume in fall and winter.
Possibly the most spectacular display at Emu Valley is to be found in the Japanese section, which is about 5 acres in area. Here flowering cherries abound as well as banks of R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum and evergreen azaleas of all kinds set amongst larches, enkianthus, and a forest of maples.
All the lakes at Emu Valley are home to the native platypus, as well as a variety of water birds. Echidna (spiny ant-eaters) roam the garden in late spring and summer.
This is a multiple award-winning garden already rated by some experts as one of the very best rhododendron gardens. Why not come to the 2006 Pacific Region International Rhododendron Conference Oct. 20-23, 2006, and judge for yourself. It is also our 25th anniversary and we would love to have you here to help us celebrate.