Five Rhododendron AGM Winners

Aug 14, 2014 - POSTED BY Anna Halloran - Gardeners Choice , Whats Hot

In Joyce's 'Ulysses', Rhododendrons play a significant role in the early courtship of Leopold and Molly, and amongst the Zomi tribes of India, they are used poetically to signify a lady. They are the state flower of Washington and West Virginia, as well as of several states in India and Kashmir, and in Nepal, where the flower is used in fish curries to 'soften' the bones, it is the national flower. With such a spectacular flowering display, usually in the Spring to early Summer, it is not surprising this genus of plants has attracted so much attention. The literal translation of the name Rhododendron comes from Ancient Greek, 'rhodo' meaning 'rose' and 'dendron' 'tree'.

Some Rhododendrons grow spectacularly tall, like 'Cynthia' above, which will reach the height of 2 metres or more, and which grows into a huge, gorgeous, rounded dome. Whilst other Rhododendrons like  dauricum 'Midwinter' below, take ten years to top a metre. This super clone of Rhododendron dauricum has to be one of the earliest flowering shrubs around, giving you a vivid display of bright rose purple flowers in December and January. And then in the Autumn you are in for another treat, as its leaves turn a truly autumnal coppery colour. R. dauricum 'Midwinter' is a little tricky to grow when its young, needing both well drained soil and shelter and a good sunny spot. But once it's established, it's quite tough and hardy.

Rhododendron 'Dopey' is one of the 'Seven Dwarfs' series, and as its name implies, it is small and compact, growing to less than a metre. This makes it an ideal choice for container gardening, or for small urban gardens with acidic soil. If you want to use it for your container, be sure to plant it in good quality, ericaceous soil. The deep cherry red flowers of 'Dopey' are very free flowering and long lasting, opening in May and carrying on through June, and the leaves are evergreen, so it will continue to look neat and tidy throughout the winter. A versatile, easy to grow plant.

Rhododendron luteum ('luteus' means 'yellow' in Latin), has very fragrant, bright yellow, funnel shaped flowers, which give a dazzling display in Spring and early Summer. This is a deciduous Azalea (Azalea is a species of Rhododendron), whose green oblong leaves turn orange, purple and red in the Autumn. Lots of people ask 'What is the difference between Azaleas and Rhododendrons?', and the simple answer is all Azaleas are Rhododendrons, but not all Rhododendrons are Azaleas. Or put another way, Rhododendron is a genus of plants, and Azalea is a subdivision of that genus.

The last photo is of a truly beautiful, medium sized Rhododendron called Rhododendron yakushimanhum 'Koichiro Wada'. I would call this a medium sized variety, with its final height being around 1.5 metres. It will give you a breath taking display of white flowers in mid Spring, that open out from bright pink buds, so there can be flashes of bright pink in and amongst the pure white display. Evergreen, easy to grow and neat and tidy in habit, it is another AGM winner. It was even shortlisted for the RHS Plant of the Century! One important factor to know about all Rhododendrons - they require acidic soil to grow in, with soil ph values from 4.5 - 6, or ericaceous compost if you are growing them in containers.