Tourists and locals who attended the first day of rhododendron festival at Lamperi Botanical Park were disappointed that the rhododendron species were not in full bloom.

Two tourists from France, who had planned their visit to Bhutan to make it for the rhododendron festival, said they were disappointed that the flowers were not in full bloom. “The cultural events are interesting but we are unhappy to see that the flowers had not yet bloomed,” one of them said. However, a couple from England said they were happy to see the flowers in its natural habitat.

The communities of Toeb gewog, Punakha who hosted the festival had expected various rhododendron species in full bloom by this time of the year. However, it did not happen. According to them, the delay could be because of two third months in the Bhutanese calendar.

“It is also because rhododendrons bloom at different times from early spring to mid summer,” a representative Kinley Gyeltshen said.

According to forest ranger Tashi Kalung, the garden, stretching about 50 sqkm houses 41 species including 29 native. The native species are common in the wild and he said that visitors who walk into the woods would not miss the flowers in bloom.

Species exhibited at the festival are mostly uprooted from different elevations across the country and introduced in the garden, he said. “Different species would bloom at different seasons according to their natural elevations,” he said. “Scientifically the peak blooming season is June.”

Since the natural habitat of the introduced species was carefully studied before the plantations and fed with organic manure, Tashi Kalung said that no external factors like light intensity and amount of fertilizer would have affected the blooming.

Bhutan has recorded about 46 species of rhododendron in its ecoregions ranging from subtropical forests to temperate coniferous forests.

Tourism Council of Bhutan’s (TCB) director general, Dorji Dhradhul said an appropriate time for the festival would be proposed during their next meeting with the community considering the current situation.

The three-day festival at Lampelri was initiated in 2013 and hosted as an annual event, which celebrates the rhododendron flower, and to encourage eco-tourism. Besides celebrating rhododendron species– an indigenous flower to the country, the festival is held to bring together people in Toeb gewog to host a local festival.

The festival also focuses on ecology, culture, food and entertainment of the local communities that live in harmony with the eco-parks. Garden walk, art and craft exhibition, food and souvenir stalls, guided walks and boating are organsied at the festival.

The communities of Toeb gewog, Dechentsemo Central School in Thinleygang, Punakha hosted the event with financial support from TCB and technical support from Department of Forest and Park Services.

The three-day festival will end on April 21. About 550 tourists and 676 local visitors visited the garden yesterday.

Chimi Dema