Who, in my view, could not fall for Rhododendrons? Spectacular in flower, they have a huge range of colours, impressive scale, and some heavenly scents. Anyone who has been to one of the big Rhododendron gardens, such as Sheffield Park or Stourhead, when they are in full bloom will know what I mean.
For my part, I'll always remember a wonderful Rhododendron avenue at our wedding reception in the 1950s. It was, however, years before we had a garden with the acid soil they need. In the early 1980s we moved to a house in Devon with a 7-acre garden ... and I got my chance!
The garden already had some Rhodos and Azaleas. I bought more, learnt all I could from books and joined the SW branch of the RHS Rhodo Group, which led to garden visits to widen my knowledge. Meanwhile I obtained plants from a local specialist nursery whose owner suggested I make my own plants from root cuttings.
Thus my Rhododendron nursery began and I have been helping gardeners with their selections now for more than 30 years. The nursery income means I can employ a gardener to help keep the garden (my shop window) in which I now have 300-400 mature species and varieties.
I am delighted to say we still have room for many more!
Here are a few of my favourites:
R. luteum - a very fragrant yellow azalea, which is my top-seller.
R. Loderi 'King George' - a tall scented R. which turns from pink to white.
R. Yakushimanum - a very hardy Japanese species which flowers pink to white in late May on a well-shaped bush. There is a good range of different coloured hybrids of this species.
R. 'Christmas Cheer' - pink/white. Very early, sometimes flowers in December but waits for spring in cold winters.
R. Taurus - blood-red flowers in April look well with daffodils.
R. 'Polar Bear' - scented white flowers which are very late - mid-July to mid-August.
R. Horizon Monarch in my opinion the best tall, yellow rhododendron.
We particularly enjoy sharing the pleasure of the plants in bloom each year via our NGS garden openings in May. See my Grower page for details.