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16 October 2014
Gardener's Corner

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Rhododendrons
by Brendan Little
13 March '02

Within the genus Rhododendron there is a wide diversity of height, spread, flower colour and leaf shape. It is a well-known fact that rhododendrons must have an acid soil somewhere between ph 5.5 and 6 for best results. But do not despair if you are gardening on a limy soil as rhododendrons make excellent container plants, they are by and large surface rooters and therefore do not require a great depth of soil. Rhododendrons like good drainage but not dry conditions. Many of the hardy hybrids thrive in full sun and in a fair amount of exposure although it must be said that many will perform best in dapple shade with shelter from winds and frost.

Before planting it is worth preparing the planting area thoroughly. Prepare a space considerably larger than the root size of the rhododendron to be planted Rhododondron Fantasticaand incorporate organic matter such as peat, leaf-mould or bark, indeed a combination of these materials is ideal. Rhododendrons are happiest in their own company without competition from other greedy plants. Dwarfs and evergreen azaleas are most pleasing when planted en masse, in prepared beds. When they are planted in this informal manner the full range of colour contrasts can be appreciated. On a small or large scale, and remember you do not need a vast estate to be able to grow rhododendrons, informality is surely the key to success.

My Favourite Rhododendrons

The Yakushimanum hybrids are relatively late flowering and ideal for the cold garden in a frost pocket. The ‘Yak’ hybrids produce full rounded trusses of flowers on fine compact foliage. My favorites are the ‘Seven Dwarf’ series, especially ‘Sneezy’ who produces flowers of rose pink in late May. The growth habit of these hybrids makes them ideal for the smaller modern town garden.

The finest blue flowered rhododendron has got to be Rhododendron augustinii ‘Electra’; the electric blue flowers are carried in April-May.

Nacy EvansFor foliage effect look no further then Rhododendron ‘Mosers Maroon’, the wine red flowers are borne from May-June but it the new foliage, which is of the most beautiful maroon hue, that steals the show.

If you are fortunate to have both shelter and space do try Rhododendron Loderi ‘King George’ which is considered to be one of the finest hybrid rhododendrons. The delicious fragrance of the pink flowers, which quickly turn white, is simply magic.

Do visit a rhododendron collection near you this spring as you will surely experience one of the greatest shows on earth.

 

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