Rhodo Frenzy

Last week we have been winding down after the Ideal Home Show, it was a great show but it was exhausting and we went straight into the following week and show breakdown. We are at full pelt with planting and production and so we took a walk around the nursery to see where we are with stock for the coming year, Ian, myself and Marie, our Production Manager. We are almost finished our field planting and that’s gone well and we have planted, probably fifty percent more than in previous years and we have most of the nursery now in full time production so we are moving on to containerised production for the rest of the Spring and into Summer.

One of the things we have ready as they are going to be flowering very soon is Rhododendrons so this week I thought I’d give you some of the virtues of the Rhodos.

Rhododendrons originate mainly from the Himalaya regions where over 600 different Rhododendron species can be found. These range from those in the Tender section at lower elevations around 2500 metres. Big Leaved Species with their massive leaves up to 75cm long, grow in conifer forests around 3000metres. Further up the mountains as the tree line thins towards 3500m, a wide range of interesting Species and Small Leaved Rhododendrons can be found sheltering amongst Juniper and alpine meadows. Above 3500m, Dwarf Rhododendrons grow in alpine conditions with snow cover for much of the year. From these humble beginnings, plant breeders have developed more and more exotic hybrids over the past 100 years, with about 20,000 registered varieties. We have selected the best, and these Tall and Compact hybrids are perfect for any garden situation.

Rhododendrons were a favourite of Capability Brown who changed the landscape garden forever in the eighteenth century, designing country estates and mansions, he changed the way gardens looked by moving away from the French styled geometric designs and concentrated more on echoing the natural landscape, making the most of meadows, lakes and often rerouting rivers so as to have them as natural backdrops for these stately homes. Brown was famous for designing the landscapes at Blenheim Palace, Chatsworth House, Longleat along with many more.

In 1762 James Fitzgerald, first duke of Leinster, wrote to Lancelot Brown, then living on the outskirts of London, offering him £1,000 to cross the Irish Sea and create a picturesque garden at Carton, in Co Kildare. The invitation was declined, If anyone has visited Headfort House in Kells, more recently it is a primary school but this has been landscaped in the “Capability Brown way” with the river Blackwater as its backdrop and there you will see all the way up the avenue the most beautiful Rhododendrons. Similarly Carton House has a similar Rhododendron walk and in April – June you can see the most beautiful display of colour.

Few landscape shrubs are as widely celebrated and anticipated in the spring garden as rhododendrons. Their showy displays of colour are a joy to the senses and have a way of taking centre stage in just about any landscape. If you are a golf fan you will probably have seen the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta, masses of colourful, mature rhododendrons in the background clearly compete with the golfers for the viewer’s attention.

So which Rhododendrons are the best to use, well that is just a matter of personal taste and preference but if I was to tell you my favourites then I can’t resist the Cunninghams White; Pinky, mauve buds open to white flowers with a pale yellow eye in early May. With delicate small flowers, it is a very tough dense plant which is good for screening and difficult positions. Another is Percy Wiseman; a stunning showy peach pink and cream flowers, fading to creamy white in May. Good foliage and lots of showy blooms.  This is one of the most popular rhododendrons available and is certainly one of our favourites.

If you like large Rhododendrons then Madame Masson will be a delightful one, this beautiful, larger growing Rhododendron with white star-like flowers and a golden yellow blotch, flowering in late May early June. This is a very old hybrid that is extremely tough, reliable and striking. It’s dense well shaped plant with shiny dark foliage which is ideal for hedging and screening. Will reach a height of 150-180cm in 10 years. It is easy to grow with a good dense habit and isn’t fussy about it’s position. So as you can see the Rhodo is not only striking but classic and easy to care for, what’s not to like!




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