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Wednesday, March 7, 2012


. . . You can look to the rhododendron for special interest in the tree form, bark colour and texture, leaf colour, form and texture, autumn foliage colouring, a flowering season spread over eight months of the year at least, flower colouring that excludes only the purest blue, flower size and shape and, last but not least, scent.  Several of these points of attractive interest are likely to be combined in the variety of your  choice . . . 

Now to consider the conditions for woodland gardening with rhododendrons.  The wood in its own ceases to matter.  You can and will probably want to do without any of its natural contents except for the trees, which are allowed to stand in just the right numbers to provide enough but not too much shade.  The choicest rhododendrons need shade and shelter.  Shelter from wind, whatever the quarter of its origin, is essential . . .

The soil must be acid and preferably light.  If peaty, so much the better, but full use must otherwise be made of fallen deciduous leaves and of bracken.  Leaves can be swept from paths and other vacant spaces and massed around the rhododendrons as a deep mulch . . . This mulch has the effect of keeping the rhododendrons roots cool and moist right through the summer.  As they are near the surface, they can be ruinously affected by drought.

Ideally the woodland rhododendron garden should present the beholder with a series of pictures, the material flatteringly arranged so that he {or she} never feels hemmed in or that he {or she} is slithering through high tunnels of vegetation.

Another point to realize about the more interesting rhododendrons is that many will flower well for you only in alternate years, even if you conscientiously dead-head them immediately after flowering--and this is certainly a good thing to do is you can find the time.  For this reason, and also because the shrub, even if it flowers regularly, will do so only for one month in twelve, surely one of the most important points in choosing rhododendrons is to go for a good leaf that will give you pleasure during the whole year.

Christopher Lloyd, The Well-Tempered Garden

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