Rhododendrons are shrubs for all seasons. In winter some stand out with large evergreen leaves. In spring the flowers are showy; throughout the summer and fall the leaves add a pleasing, deep green color to the garden. There are over 900 species of rhododendron and over 28,000 cultivars of rhododendron in the International Rhododendron Registry.
Dexter was a businessman by trade, and took to growing and hybridizing rhododendrons on what is now Heritage Museums & Gardens at around 60 years of age. Between 1921 and 1943 Dexter produced between 5,000 and 10,000 seedlings annually and gave thousands of plantings away. While his plants traveled the world, they were not documented by standard horticultural procedures. Dexter himself kept few notes and named no seedlings. Identifying and naming Dexter’s cultivars is work that continues today by the horticulturists at Heritage.
Heritage currently has approximately 150 named rhododendron varieties by Charles Owen Dexter and the Dexter Estate Superintendent J.C. Cowles, who hybridized in the 1960s.