Tasmania’s Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden is a horticultural showpiece run almost entirely by volunteers.

Story Kirsty McKenzie  Photos Ken Brass

When members of the Australian Rhododendron Society were invited to plant the first specimen in the newly created Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden in 1981, their choice of the Golden Dream variety was propitious. The garden’s founders could only have dreamt that their modest planting would blossom into an internationally renowned display garden. 

Today the 11ha site at Romaine, about 9km from Burnie in Tasmania’s north-west, attracts more than 12,000 visitors a year to its collection of rhododendrons and their companion plants.

The seeds of the garden were sown in the late ’70s, when a small group of local rhododendron enthusiasts started searching for a place to create a woodland showcase. Farmer Hilary O’Rourke offered a scrub- and blackberry-infested block on a slope that was too steep for livestock or crops. With his like-minded mates, rhodo breeders Ron Radford and Noel Sullivan and nurseryman Bob Malone, Hilary created what is now a spring and autumn spectacle.

This story excerpt is from Issue #148

Outback Magazine: April/May 2023