I do wish I could grow Rhododendrons in my garden. I suppose if I really wanted to I could, but it would mean adding a load of ericaceous compost to the soil and I don’t really agree with battling against what is naturally there.
I would rather grow what is happy to grow in the soil I have.
I could, however, always have a rhododendron in a large container if I decided I really couldn’t live without one or I could just use my lack of these wonderful plants as an excuse to visit a garden to see them in all their glory… as if I need an excuse!
These fabulous pictures were taken at the National Trust's Ightham Mote, between Sevenoaks and Borough Green.
Do you know if you can grow them in your garden? Do you have alkaline or acid soil? If you’re not sure it’s worth doing a soil test, especially if you are planning a new garden design so you can select the right plants to your soil and save wasting money and effort.
You can buy a DIY pH kit from any garden centre to do this. A pH of 7 is neutral. An acid soil has a pH below 7. Above pH 7 the soil is alkaline.
You can add lime to increase pH (making it more alkaline) or add sulphur to decrease soil pH (making it more acid).
If you have acid soil and a lightly dappled shady area then give one of the following rhododendron cultivars a try.
Rhododendron dauricum ‘Midwinter’ AGM, a very hardy, deciduous or semi-evergreen. Rose-purple flowers in early spring. Height and spread 1.5m (5ft).
For strongly scented yellow flowers liking a full sun position choose rhododendron luteum AGM. This deciduous variety reaches a height and spread of 4m (12ft).
For the smaller garden, try rhododendron 'Dopey' AGM. It's an evergreen variety with a height and spread of 2m (6ft) and long lasting red flowers in late spring.
For the larger garden, go for rhododendron macabeanum AGM - an evergreen tree rhododendron with huge trusses of cream/deep yellow flowers in mid-spring and large leaves. Eventually reaching a height of 15m (50ft) and spread of 6m (20ft).
Lets just hope the European Parliament doesn’t ban rhododendrons when it debate invasive foreign plant species next month!