Introduction to the Atlas of Bergen
Bergen Rhododendron city
The love of Bergen for Rhododendrons goes back a long way. The first Rhododendron that was imported to Norway arrived in Oslo in 1796, but Bergen officially welcomed its first one only around 1840. This was followed by a true Rhododendron-madness that started in the 1870’s amongst Bergen’s richer citizens. The Rhododendron became a true fashion item and everyone wanted one in its garden. Finally, the development of this love for Rhododendrons resulted in Bergen calling itself ‘Rhododendron city’ in 1987, and they have continued to do so since.
The name ‘Rhododendron’ derives from old Greek, meaning ‘rose tree’ (rhodos, ‘rose’; dendron, ‘tree’). In almost every garden, city park, many public places and even along main roads in Bergen, you can see at least one Rhododendron. The colours of its flowers range from red to white, yellow, and orange, sometimes even hinting towards blue. They only bloom for a short while, but the other prominent aspect of this plant is its peculiar leaves and since the Rhodondendron is evergreen, these can be enjoyed all year round. The leaves can be seen to have various tones of green and brown, some have different colours on the front- and backside, some have tiny hairs; every species has its own leaf characteristics. The size of a Rhododendron varies from a large tree to a bush that grows close to the ground. In Bergen, the middle sized bush is the most common.
Most of the Rhododendron species find their origin in the Himalaya and are still present there. The crimson colour in the flag of Nepal for example, symbolizes the Rhododendron flower, which is the country’s national flower. Especially the Rhododendrons that grow up to a height of around 3000 meters, tend to thrive in Bergen because of the similarities between the climates in these two places. Both have relatively cool summers, winters that are not too cold, and a high level of humidity. Also, the soil is slightly acidic, forming the perfect soil for a Rhododendron to grow on.
With the emergence and eventually the settling in of the plant from the Himalaya in this Norwegian city, a striking phenomenon occurred: a part of the Himalaya is present in Bergen; the connection between the city and Rhododendrons make the two places overlap.
This atlas takes that phenomenon as a starting point, while taking its slight absurdity into consideration. Starting out with a view on the origin and characteristics of Rhododendrons the structure develops and focuses on the overlap of these two geographically widely separated places.