The Rhododendron

Artist: Ferric Decay

Location: The shed next to the parking lot behind 300 North Main St.

This stunning piece was designed by local artist Ferric Decay and co-sponsored by local non-profit The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Their collection boasts more than 1000 rhododendrons, of 124 different species and 315 taxa. The flowers depicted in this installation are of the species “Pink Delight.” Peak rhododendron season is April to May, but you can see blooms from as early as December through June.

The Inspiration

Jacob, aka Ferric Decay, is a local artist, screen printer, and tattoo designer, often sought out for his moody naturalist style and lush details. He is currently setting up a tattoo shop in Point Arena, CA. While perusing his instagram feed, Lia saw a tattoo of rhododendrons that caught her attention. The Botanical Gardens loved the idea of a rhododendron installation downtown, both because rhododendrons are native to the moist redwood groves of Mendocino county, and because they host one of the largest and most spectacular rhododendron collections in the country, including many endangered species, some of which are now extinct in their native habitats. Everyone agreed the design would pair well with the weathered surface of a local shed commonly referred to as the “No Barking” shed, after a mischievous local changed the sign on the north side. Luckily the property owner agreed, and the Rhododendron was installed in April-May 2018. 

The Process

It took over a month to install the mural.  Jacob started by projecting a sketch onto the side of the building at night and tracing it with charcoal. Then he removed all the previous paint in the areas the mural would cover. He was careful to leave the peeling paint on the rest of the building to preserve the weathered look. Oil based primers went on first, followed by tinted base coats, shadows, highlights, colors, and details, all building to create an image that appears to leap out at you from the side of the shed. 

Rhododendrons on the Mendocino Coast

Tender species rhododendrons are found between 25- and 35-degrees latitude at elevations between 4,000 and 9,000 feet in their native habitats in Burma, China, and Tibet. In North America, only a narrow strip from Santa Cruz, California to Brookings, Oregon is suitable habitat for these plants. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is close to the center of the optimal zone—the southern part of this strip is limited by low rainfall and restricted groundwater, while the northern section is limited by periodic extremes of cold. The lack of summer rain is offset by coastal fog and by the availability of irrigation water from local creeks.

Visit the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is a 47-acre nonprofit botanical garden that stretches from Coast Highway 1 to the Pacific Ocean and contains world-recognized plant collections. The Gardens was founded in 1961 by retired nurseryman Ernest Schoefer and his wife, Betty. Ernest’s keen eye spotted the ample supply of water augmented by the mild coastal climate and quality soil essential to acid-loving plants like Rhododendrons. In addition to rhododendrons, this botanical jewel has collections of fuchsias, magnolias, heaths, heathers, dahlias, heritage roses, mushrooms, succulents, camellias, and conifers. Specialty gardens include a perennial garden, woodland garden, and vegetable garden. Natural areas include riparian zones, shore pine and bishop pine forests, and ocean bluffs. The trails are great for both long and short walks (dogs welcome!). Visit www.gardenbythesea.org for more information.

Mendocino Botanical Gardens

Gates still open
a French blue sky
purples and reds
yellows and whites.
The sunlight
over our shoulders
down our arms
on the black and white
fur of our girls.
This canopy of color
this quiet
late afternoon
broken only
by the sound
of the wind
the beat
of our hearts.
The gates close
the waning
gibbous moon
keeps watch
till a thunder
of rhododendrons
in bloom
ushers in sunrise.
– By windflower, 2022

Poetry and Prose generously donated by members of Writers of the Mendocino CoastLearn more about this fantastic group!