by Brendan Little
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 and
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.
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.
finest blue flowered rhododendron has got to
be Rhododendron augustinii Electra;
the electric blue flowers are carried in April-May.
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.
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.
visit a rhododendron collection near you this
spring as you will surely experience one of
the greatest shows on earth.