Rhodo Gardens damaged in fires

Dick Harris and society president, Deb Wells, look at a burnt rhododendron.
Dick Harris and society president, Deb Wells, look at a burnt rhododendron.

Blackheath's Rhododendron Gardens were severely damaged in the December bushfires.

That, and the relentless drought, has left the popular tourist attraction in a bit of trouble.

But a group of willing volunteers is already working to restore and revitalise.

Deb Wells, president of the Blue Mountains Rhododendron Society of NSW, which manages the gardens, said up to one-third of the gardens may have burnt.

Some was deliberately back-burnt from Ridgewell Road to reduce the risk of fire overtaking the entire site but much of it was from the Grose Valley fire which threatened large parts of the northern edge of Blackheath.

Monday volunteers: This small group needs help to restore the burnt-out and drought-affected Rhododendron Gardens.

Monday volunteers: This small group needs help to restore the burnt-out and drought-affected Rhododendron Gardens.

Ms Wells said while much of the burnt area contained native species, many rhododendrons also burnt.

Former nurseryman and rhododendron expert Dick Harris was at the gardens on Monday, showing the volunteers how to help both the burnt and the dehydrated plants.

He was marking trunks where they should be cut back, allowing for regrowth below the cuts.

Mr Harris said he would then also dig small holes around each plant's base with a crowbar and sprinkle water crystals in to help increase the water-holding capacity.

Ms Wells said since the fire, just before Christmas, a few volunteers have been visiting every second or third day to water young plants around the new toilet block and in the conifer garden.

"We can use the hose because we have a special licence but we haven't been. We've been carting watering cans."

Ms Wells said with such a huge workload now in front of them, she was keenly seeking new volunteers.

Volunteers gather every Monday to work in the gardens. Anyone interested in joining can call Ms Wells on 0418 622 307 or see rhodogarden.org.au.