Monster shrub ‘takes over’ the grounds of a Sussex hotel

The monster rhododendron just keeps on getting bigger. Photo: Steve Robards  SR1707293 SUS-171104-172709001
The monster rhododendron just keeps on getting bigger. Photo: Steve Robards SR1707293 SUS-171104-172709001

A sprawling monster shrub planted at a Sussex hotel by a Victorian explorer is now so big that other plants are having to be moved out of its way.

The massive 120-year-old plant - a rhododendron thought to be Britain’s widest - is a major attraction at the five-star South Lodge Hotel in Lower Beeding, near Horsham.

Visitors from around the world travel to see it each spring to marvel at its size and blooms.

Hotel head gardener Paul Collins says the huge rhododendron arboreum Smithii is more than 40ft high and 115ft wide and is now encroaching on other plants in the hotel’s 93-acre grounds.

“We have had to taken a number of plants out to give it more room,” says Paul.

The shrub has become increasingly bigger by re-rooting itself. As its branches weigh down, they come into contact with the ground and eventually form new roots, spreading it further out from its base.

The monster rhododendron is one of a number - but by far the biggest - that Victorian plant-lover and RSPB founder Frederick DuCane Godman planted at South Lodge 120 years ago.

“It’s lovely when it’s in flower,” says Paul. And if you want to see it in all its glory, it will still be looking its best for around another week before its blooms fade.