Solve shady garden spaces with a Rhododendron

Brighten up the shadier parts of the garden this spring with a rhododendron, the Horticultural Trades Association’s (HTA) Plant of the Month for April2015.
Ancient Greek meaning ‘Rose Tree’ the rhododendron is both evergreen and deciduous.  The family includes azaleas which are ideal for smaller gardens, and fit nicely with the industry Love the Plot You’ve Got campaign which encourages people to make the most of their outdoor space, as well as many larger-leafed rhododendrons which lend themselves well to more open spaces.
Rhododendrons prefer acidic soil and sheltered conditions and grow best in areas with high rainfall with moist, but well drained soil. Compact hybrid rhododendrons can be planted in containers as can those in more alkaline soil. While dwarf alpines are very effective in rock gardens, and larger rhododendrons are best left for woodland gardens.
Top tip – Don’t plant too deep. The top of the root ball should be at the surface of the ground in ideal planting sites, or an inch or two above the surface of the ground in less than ideal sites or in raised beds.
Recommended RHS AGM varieties include: Rhododendron Bashful, Rhododendron Dreamland, Rhododendron Lavender Girl, Rhododendron Pink Pebble, Rhododendron Scintillation and Rhododendron Tortoiseshell Orange.
Those looking for spring time companion plants to complement the rhododendron in the garden are recommended to choose from: Pheasant eye daffodils (narcissus poeticus) with pure white petals and small, red-rimmed yellow cups. Corydalis ‘China Blue’ with 2-lipped light blue flowers in clusters of leafy stems.  Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan’ a striking foliage plant with variegated silvery leaves and green and white flowering bracts. Pieris ‘Forest Flame’ a large evergreen shrub with small cream bell-shaped flowers and bright red foliage that later becomes pink and cream, and finally green.
Frances Tophill, presenter on ITV’s Love Your Garden and the celebrity champion for the rhododendron says, “These stunning and perpetually cheerful shrubs flower in all sorts of vibrant colours during spring when we tend to think of most of the colour coming from bulbs”.
“Rhododendron will survive in most acidic soils and need hardly any pruning. And don’t be fooled into thinking that they provide spring flower and nothing more. In fact most species we buy for the garden are evergreen so even in the depths of winter their deep, glossy leaves will provide colour. I would thoroughly recommend that anyone make a space in their garden for this easy to maintain and beautiful plant,” adds Frances.
 Nominated and agreed upon by British growers and retailers, the HTA’s Plant of the Month campaign highlights the plants that are widely available and looking especially good each month.
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April - Rhododendron - Frances Tophill

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