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The Heritage Gardens Rhododendron Festival is a legacy of Charles O. Dexter

The Heritage Gardens Rhododendron Festival is a legacy of Charles O. Dexter


In the late 1920s, a retired textile manufacturer Charles Owen Dexter bought an estate on Cape Cod after his doctor advised him to enjoy his years after being diagnosed with a serious heart condition.

He decided to live the life of a gentleman farmer and ended up creating more than 200,000 varieties of rhododendrons. Described as “considered one of the most beautiful rhododendrons for landscaping in a 1946 New York Times article, the hybrids bloom annually from early May to mid-June in gardens in what is now THE Heritage museums and gardens in a sandwich.

Every year, Heritage celebrates the spectacle of colors and scents filling the fresh spring air of Rhododendron Festivalan 11-day event (May 17-27) showcasing the magnificent flowers.

It's a magical experience that's hard to replicate elsewhere, said Heather Mead, chief of programming for Heritage Museums and Gardens. Every year is a little different and it's like the start of spring.

The famous Dexter rhododendrons are at the heart of the Rhododendron Festival.

The Rhododendron Festival returns to Sandwich from May 17 to 27 this year

Throughout the festival, visitors can admire Dexter and JC Cowles' 160 rhododendrons, named after the Dexter estate superintendent who hybridized the plants in the 1960s. There are also thousands of nameless varieties in full bloom as walking tours lead guests through the gardens.

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