The Mehlquist Rhododendron Collection covers over 1-1 1/2 acres and a half of land and contains several hundred species, varieties and cultivars of Rhododendron hardy to southwestern Connecticut. This garden was dedicated in 1990 in honor of Dr. G.A.L. Mehlquist, whose lifelong breeding work at the University of Connecticut yielded many valuable rhododendron introductions.
In 2006, a major renovation to this collection began with the creation of new trails, interpretive signs and the addition of over 100 plants to the collection. While many of the original plants remained, decades of overgrowth and invasive plants took a toll on the collection. From 2006-2008 an estimated 3,000 square yards of Pachysandra was removed as well as an immeasurable amount of Alliaria petiolata, or garlic mustard. New pathways were created, old pathways restored and graveled and over 25 large trees were removed. These trees, left unchecked for decades, had begun to shade out the specimens, which do not perform well in heavily shaded areas.
Rhododendrons and azaleas are all part of the genus Rhododendron. While once considered separate genera, they are now lumped together in the Ericaceae, or blueberry family. This large family is found throughout the world, mainly in cooler climates but occasionally reaching the hot tropics. It includes common plants such as the state flower of Connecticut Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel), Vaccinium corymbosum (highbush blueberry), and Pieris japonica (Japanese andromeda). These close relatives of the rhododendrons can now be found along the periphery of the Mehlquist Collection.
The Mehlquist Garden is part of the American Rhododdendron Society