I like rhododendrons but have never really felt the need to grow them. I love to see them en masse in large gardens but, having got my ‘fix’ I am quite happy to come home and look at my tulips! Having said that, I have planted quite a lot of deciduous ‘azaleas’ which I like and wish would grow better.
I did plant what would be recognisable as a standard-type rhododendron in the early days of the garden. I think it was ‘Wine and Roses’ with red-backed leaves and deep pink flowers. The garden was not ready for such things and it slowly died. And I am not that upset about it. Rhododendrons dont quite fit the look I am trying to achieve. The problem is that my soil, though acid, is poor in organic matter and rather heavy and, although I didn’t plant my rhodo in a sump, it effectively responded as such and the plant was too wet in winter. Leaves hanging limply is a sign that there are root problems – either too dry when grown in a pot, or roots rotted so not pumping water to the leaves when in soggy ground. So rhodos are not really for me – unless they are special. I will still find room for a ‘Loderi’ hybrid if I find one simply because of the divine perfume.
So it was a strange decision to plant a row of rhodos. I had a bed beside the summer house and wanted a simple row of something colourful. This area is an odd one for me because I am planting drifts of the same plant rather than my usually (very poor from a design point of view) spotty planting to get in as many things as possible. So when I saw some small ‘Snipe’ rhodos I was overcome by a fit of sensibleness and bought eight for this bed. It gets shade in the morning and sun from noon. The area slopes from front to back and from one end to the other so, when improved with lots of organic matter, is moist, not too hot, and although a bit wet in winter, the water is moving, draining away, which is the key to making lots of plants happy – it is stagnant water that is the killer.
‘Snipe’ is a low, or dwarf rhodo that should reach about 50cm in ten years. It has grown quite well in two years and last year the flowers were nipped by frost, a common problem with early rhodos. But this year they have flowered well and the blooms have withstood wind and hail (Saturday) very well. The flowers are what I would call ‘lilac’ but most descriptions call them white or pink and I was uncertain if this is really ‘Snipe’ but I am quite confident now. The quite large flowers are carried in clusters of 3-5. There is no perfume. It was bred by Peter Cox (intro 1975) who was famous for his dwarf rhodos.
Of course, I couldn’t leave the area alone and popped in my reineckia plants among them. Their grassy leaves are as tall as ‘Snipe’ at the moment but will be covered up a bit in a few years and will get pushed to the edge of the bed. This is also where the black ophiopogon has settled, for now, and is quite happy, until I get itchy fiingers and decide I need to divide it and put it somewhere else.
I love your garden, Geoff… I could walk around all day, enjoying all the flowers…
thank you – it would take at least a day if you stopped to pull up the weeds! The wet March and windy April has set me back with early work but I am getting there and I hope the weather has turned now. The swallows have arrived from Africa so spring must be here!
Rhododendrons were my colleague’s primary crop for decades. They are not common here, but factory growers do not want to bother growing them.
I just love the colour. I would say Lilac too!u