There were actually two planted in the corners of the rear yard, back when a diseased apple tree and a neighbor's overgrown crabapple trees blotted out the sun. Over the years, my dogwood and muscular star magnolia grew to provide the shade that disappeared when the apple trees were cut down. Both rhodies grew in the deep recesses of the back, but one died out about a decade ago from some mysterious die-back disease.
Growth slowed over the years, but the sole survivor bloomed each spring, with some years more exuberant than others. Summers revealed occasional winter die-off or diseased sections that needed amputation, yellowing leaf and drop, chomping bugs, vitamin deficiencies, or 'white fuzzy bugs.' But the plant always pulled through.
Then in winter of 2010, our town was hit with two record 24-inch snowfalls close together [2010.02.19]. The spring thaw revealed that the grand old lady had been flattened. My recent master gardener classes taught us to let the plants be and allow them to bounce back on their own. Remarkably, most branches did that, but some required pruning off.
This year the plant is taller than ever at about 6-feet (1.8 m), albeit with a bit of a scraggly appearance from the previous winter damage and pruning. And the 6-inch (15 cm) lavender blossom balls are numerous.
As evidenced by the photo, birds love hanging out in the dogwood tree above and providing fertilizer. This spring, I will need to rescue the rhodie from the invading azalea hordes nipping its base, and maybe prune to restore its shape. The survivor deserves better care after being in the dark forgotten corner of the 'back woods' for so long.
For The Record:
Moist soil with acid and organic amendments over time
Light to heavy shade
All sorts of diseases but they never kill it off
Blooming: dutch iris, iris, salvia, hollyhock, rhododendron, alyssum, geranium, macrorrhizum geranium
Transplanted outdoors: peppers, tomatoes