The Arboretum of Jeli on the outskirts of Kám is a great destination out of rhododendron bloom season too, but no doubt that is when the garden shows its most majestic face. The special microclimate of the arboretum is a perfect habitat for rare plants and plant communities which otherwise occur far from each other. A canopy walkway offers an alternative viewpoint over the garden.
The Jeli Arboretum fascinates its visitors with a unique collection of rhododendrons with thousands of specimens of 300 species. The cavalcade of scents and colours in May makes this botanical garden one of the most extraordinary of its kind in Europe.
History of the garden
Jeli Arboretum was founded by Earl István Ambrózy-Migazzi in 1922. Previously, he pioneered in introducing evergreens to habitats with continental climate. His achievements are truly demonstrated in the Arboretum of Malonya (Mliňany, Slovakia), which was also established by him.
As a consequence of the Treaty of Trianon Hungary lost Upper Hungary including the Earl’s castle and garden in Malonya so he searched for another site in Hungary to continue his work. Finally, he found the proper circumstances in Jelihálás, on the outskirts of Kám. The landscape is quite varied with several springs and various slope exposures, acidic soil and diverse native flora.
He planted evergreens among birches, junipers and common brooms. Shrubs were planted in large groups and pines were planted next to birches so that these plant communities could protect each other from summer heat and cold winter winds. Pathways were by ferns, daffodils and lilies. As a result, a suitable microclimate was created for planting rhododendrons.
Following the Earl’s death in 1933 it was his forester, Lajos Vörös who continued to manage the garden.
During WW2 and in years that followed, the garden was neglected and it had lost the majority of its plants by the 1950s. Some traces of the war, such as a tank, a trench and the grave of an unknown soldier are still there in the arboretum. In the 60s and 70s, foresters and botanists began restoration works. Species from 10 different regions of the world were planted in an area of 40 hectares in the valley of Kaponyás Creek, creating forest patches by geographical regions.
Botanical values and specialities
The arboretum has three distinct parts: the Park (with a collection of pines, birches, heathers and rhododendrons), the conifer woods and the regional forest patches.
The Park surrounding the statue of Earl Abrózy is the oldest part of the garden with the original (and later extended) stock of rhododendrons. It features more than 300 species with thousands of specimens. One of the evergreen species is Catawba rhododendron named after a river in the USA (preserving the name of a native American tribe), blooming in May to June in violet-purple. Smirnow rhododendrons native in the Caucasus bloom from mid-May in rose purple. Korean azalea produces large, white and scentful flowers. Rhododendron Kurume is a semi-evergreen shrub with blooms in May before it leafs out in orange, pink or red colours.
It is an exceptional value of the collection that as opposed to most European ones, it is made up by old specimens grown from seeds and not grafted resulting in a greater diversity. Rhododendrons, in general, enjoy a great popularity among flowering shrubs and the arboretum has several hybrids.
The conifer woods fill the area between the park and the forest patches and serve as a transition zone as well as provide shade for visitors exploring the garden on an extensive network of pathways. One of the most attractive species here is the mountain laurel, a broadleaved evergreen shrub that is fully covered in flowers when blooming in early summers.
The forest patches present plant communities of the Balkans, Iberia, Asia Minor, the Caucasus, the Himalayas, Japan, China, the Mississippi River, the Appalachian Mountains, and the Rocky Mountains. One of the most spectacular parts is the Forest of Giants with sizeable specimens of giant redwood.
Exiting the garden, you will get to the Earl’s grave, which he chose himself to rest close to his beloved garden. Various patches here represent typical plants in the Arboretum of Malonya, the old and today’s Arboretum of Jeli. The Ambrózy House along the pathway displays presents milestones in Ambrózy’s life and some personal items.
In 2006, the Ambrózy House was built, in 2012, Ambrózy’s grave and surroundings were renovated, and in 2014, an 800-meter-long nature trail (Trail for the Disabled) was made for visitors with mobility and visual impairment with tactile paving and information boards with Braille signs. In 2105, a lookout tower with a height of 20 metres opened. It was named after Earl István Ambrózy-Migazzi and resembles folk architecture of Őrség. It offers a view primarily over the Japanese and Rocky Mountain patches.
In 2019, a canopy walkway of 130 metres was constructed in the Garden of Giants taking visitors up to a height of 10 metres. The bravest may leave the walkway on a slide.