Thousands of world-famous rhododendrons in over 100 varieties offer an explosion of spectacular blooms throughout Heritage. Photograph yourself surrounded by walls of flowers, immerse yourself in the story of Heritage’s fascinating rhododendron legacy on a self-guided walking tour, learn proper plant care and pruning techniques at our hands-on Garden Discovery Cart, and take home one of these signature plants from the special plant sale. There’s even a fun activity guide highlighting these amazing plants designed just for kids and families!

Member Information: Admission is free for all members. No reservations needed, just show your membership card at entrance.

Self Guided Tours, Facts, and Activities

Rhododendron tour map

Self-Guided Tour Map

Rhododendron tour

Rhododendron Self-Guided Tour

Rhododendron Family Challenge

Rhododendron Family Challenge

Rhodie Facts

Heritage Rhododendron Facts

Rhododendron Video Series

Rhododendron Pruning

Rhododendron Propagation

Rhododendron Pests & Diseases

The Legacy of Rhododendrons at Heritage Museums & Gardens

Rhododendron Care & Planting Tips

Rhododendron Dexter’s Scintillation

Flume in spring

100 Years of Rhododendrons

2021 Marks the 100th anniversary of Charles Owen Dexter purchasing the land now know as Heritage Museum & Gardens.

Mr. Dexter was a successful textile manufacturer in New Bedford. With his uncle and cousin, he established the Beacon Manufacturing Company which became one of the largest manufacturers of cotton blankets in the United States. At the age of 59, Mr. Dexter was told that he wouldn’t have long to live which led him to purchase Shawme Farm. However, despite the warning, he lived for another 22 years. For the next 15 years he worked in his garden hybridizing plants.

That purchase, and the work Dexter did over the subsequent years, changed the world of rhododendrons in the U.S. forever. Before Dexter became enamored with the genus rhododendron, the plants in New England were generally not very hardy and not particularly showy. All that changed, thanks to Charles Dexter.

Heritage has approximately 160 named varieties of Dexter and Cowles rhododendrons and many more unnamed varieties.

During his lifetime, Dexter bred, grew and either planted-out or gave away tens of thousands of plants. Many ended up at friends or relatives’ homes scattered from New England to South Carolina. Heritage is currently in the process of identifying and repatriating many Dexter cultivars to establish a comprehensive collection of Dexter’s work.

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