North Carolina woman with huge, decades-old rhododendrons celebrates her 100th birthday

Tuesday, September 5, 2023
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BALSAM, N.C. -- Celebrating a century of life is no simple feat, but that's not the only thing one Western North Carolina resident is taking pride in.

Donna Bohanan says her mother Gloria Stenger turned 100 years old on Sept. 4, 2023. Gloria "adores living in the Balsam area," a community in Jackson County, Donna wrote to News 13 in an email. She's lived in the same house that her husband built in the 1970's.

Around 1975, Donna says her father planted three rhododendrons on their property and they've been getting bigger and bigger ever since.

In 2019, Donna shared a photo with News 13 of her mother sitting in front of her rhododendrons, showcasing a stark contrast between the ginormous flowering plants and her mother. Once shared on social media, the photo garnered thousands of reactions, many people astonished with the sheer size of the beautiful purple rhododendrons.

Catawba rhododendrons are native to Appalachia, thriving along woodland slopes and ridges in the Blue Ridge Mountains. They typically grow from six to 10 feet tall, but can grow beyond that as well.

Donna says her father passed away about 10 years ago, and that no one has really fertilized the planted rhododendrons since, but they've continued growing anyway.

She says her mother Gloria was so happy when her photo was shared online a few years ago.

"She was so thrilled with her photo going viral several years ago," Donna wrote to News 13.

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