Heritage Museums and Gardens Open
The Heritage Museums and Gardens open April 22nd this year. The historic garden will soon burst with thousands of perennial blooms, creating walls and walkways of the fragrant, gorgeous flowers, making it the perfect backdrop for a family picnic or a quiet stroll!
This year marks 101 years since Charles Owen Dexter first purchased the land and began his rhododendron hybridization work. Dexter, an internationally known rhododendron enthusiast, created thousands of varieties of rhododendrons between 1921 and 1943.
He brought plants from around the world to the estate in Sandwich, mixing the best characteristics of each to create new varieties. He aimed to create varieties that were fragrant, had big blossoms, bright colors, and were cold-hardy.
Dexter did not keep many notes or name the cultivars himself, as the folks at Gardens note, leading to a bit of mystery in the lineage of some varieties. Some of the hybrids were named after Dexter’s death in 1943 by experts who took cuttings, grew them out, and categorized different varieties. Horticulturists at the Heritage Museums & Gardens and beyond continue the detective work of discerning the Dexter cultivars.
The 160 named rhododendron varieties found at his former estate in Sandwich are likely just a drop in the bucket of the true number of cultivars Dexter created and sent across the country. The Heritage Gardens notes that at the peak of his work Charles Dexter was producing upwards of 10,000 seedlings each year!
The staff of Heritage evaluate some of the thousands of unnamed Dexter hybridizations each year, and some join the ranks of the named rhododendrons. Some of the most notable varieties at the Heritage Gardens include, ‘Scintillation’, ‘Yellow Gate’, ‘Dexter’s Orange’, ‘Dexter’s Spice’ and ‘Eben Jordan’.
The Rhododendron Festival
The rhododendrons offer stunning spectacles with the blooms of the large bushes ranging from white to yellow, pink, red, purple and everything in between. Visitors and avid gardeners will enjoy the Rhododendron Festival at the garden on May 20-29th, enjoy the stunning floral display while learning more about the care rhododendrons need.
Beyond the rhododendrons, May offers blooming lupines, lilacs, Star Magnolias, Cherry and crab apple blossoms and more! The Plant Sale also gives you the chance to bring a piece of the gardens home with you to enjoy each year!
Admission is free when the Heritage Museums and Gardens open on Mothers Day! Those looking for the perfect stop for a Mother’s Day picnic or stroll through the lovely gardens that mom will love. Make sure to reserve your spot in advance!
The property boasts 100 acres of gardens, wooded nature trails, lawns, and museum exhibits. Those visiting later in the summer will enjoy several hydrangea gardens, including the newly expanded North American Hydrangea Test Garden. There is no shortage of unique spaces to explore.
When the Heritage Museums and Gardens open visitors will be able to explore the McGraw Family Garden of the Senses, Hart Family Maze Garden, Labyrinth, pollinator gardens, and Hidden Hollow area for children, all unique and fun spots to see! Heritage’s permanent collection includes the 1908 Looff Carousel, American Automobile Collection, and more.
This year the museum exhibits include Creating Cape Cod, Otherwordly, Classic Automobiles and a Wampanoag Wetu with a traditional 3-sisters vegetable garden created by members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. This year Smoke Sygnals has also been commissioned to build a muhsh8n, with plans to complete and showcase the project with the Wampanoag Heritage Day held July 29th.
So, stop by when the Heritage Museums and Gardens open this Spring, for a peek at the unique rhododendrons and other botanical beauties in this special corner of Sandwich! The gardens are open seven days a week, 10 am- 5 pm, from late April to mid-October with an admission fee of $22/Youth $12.