13 May 2011

Ain't No Rhodie Kill

After purchasing my house, the hybrid rhododendron Roseum elegans was one of the first plants bought for the yard when my gardening journey began, back in 1988. An older hybrid from the 1830's, it was also one of the few 'first plants' that survived my horticultural learning curve.

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

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: dutch iris, iris, salvia, hollyhock, rhododendron, alyssum, geranium, macrorrhizum geranium
  • Transplanted outdoors: peppers, tomatoes


Janet said...
I love rhododendrons, and have one exactly like yours. It came with the house... in fact, there are a variety of rhododendrons all around the property and down the driveway. All are big bushy survivors of many freezing winter days and blazing hot summers, yet still bloom beautifully each spring. They seem to love the soil here, we just use pine needle mulch from our trees around them.
Comeca Jones said...
Beautiful! Im glad you shared this little bit of info.I always feel so compelled to go out and help the plants after bad weather.I will now resist the urge to do so.
Cherry Lane said...
I had no idea rhododendron would grow well here - I always considered it a "northern" shrub. Now I might need one.
Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...
I love a happy ending! Glad it came back after that snow. (hooray for MG training as well)