From the National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, Kilmacurragh
Very early in the 1860s, some rhododendron seedlings arrived at Kilmacurragh, sent to Thomas Acton by Dr David Moore, Curator of the National (then Royal) Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin. The seedlings were a result of a cross between two of Joseph Hooker’s Sikkim rhododendrons: Rhododendron arboreum ssp. cinnamomeum (white) with Rhododendron campanulatum, a beautiful plant that shows great variability in the wild, with its flowers ranging from rose to lavender-blue to almost white.
Following David Moore’s death in June 1879, his son Sir Frederick Moore succeeded him as Curator at Glasnevin and also took up the role of garden advisor at Kilmacurragh. Together, Thomas Acton and Frederick Moore created the finest private plant collection on the island of Ireland and the gardens became a place of pilgrimage for visiting plantsmen.
In 1880, Sir Frederick Moore named the new rhododendron in honour of Thomas. And just a few weeks ago, 160 years after the cross was made, Rhododendron ‘Thomas Acton’ was formally registered with the Royal Horticultural Society by Séamus O’Brien, Foreman-Head Gardener at Kilmacurragh.
The original plant–now a stocky tree–is still in Kilmacurragh and has been in bloom throughout March, covered in beautiful flowers that are white with a flush of pink.
Text by Fionnuala Broughan, Guide and Information Officer, and Seamus O’Brien, Head Gardener-Foreman at National Botanic Gardens of Ireland, Kilmacurragh