New rhododendrons in Blackheath park

Jenny Kelly (Friends of Blackheath Memorial Park and Pool), Graeme and Sandra Bolitho (RSL), Linda McLaughlin, Rob Emanuel (with Jimmy the dog) and Paul Vale (Friends) with Macquarie MP, Susan Templeman with some of the new rhododendrons in the Blackheath park.
Jenny Kelly (Friends of Blackheath Memorial Park and Pool), Graeme and Sandra Bolitho (RSL), Linda McLaughlin, Rob Emanuel (with Jimmy the dog) and Paul Vale (Friends) with Macquarie MP, Susan Templeman with some of the new rhododendrons in the Blackheath park.

The plan was to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.

More than two years later and after numerous setbacks, 20 new rhododendrons have finally been planted in Blackheath's Soldiers Memorial Park.

The park's rhodos are of particular significance: Seventy-seven were originally planted, one each in honour of the men who volunteered in the first world war.

Over the years, several have succumbed to disease, others have struggled in weather extremes, be they wind, snow or drought.

Seeing the sad state of some of the towering plants led the friends of the park to apply to the Department of Veterans Affairs for a grant to replace them.

With the help of Macquarie MP Susan Templeman's office, they were successful. The friends also worked with Blue Mountains council on the project.

The grant money was received and the plants bought but then problems with phytophthora, or root rot, emerged in the park.

"We waited for that to be sorted out," said Jenny Kelly from the friends, "then the fires came."

While the December bushfires didn't hit the park, they did damage the Blackheath property of Bill and Eva Johnstone, who were minding the rhodos. Several died in the fire.

The friends went to local nursery, Weber's, to replace them. Owner Til Weber insisted on donating them.

Council finally planted them a fortnight ago, mostly to extend the so-called "fairy walk" along the Gardiner Crescent edge of the park, where the existing plants meet over the middle, creating a magical tunnel of plants.

"We so thrilled to be able to do this because it's such an iconic part of the park," said Mrs Kelly.