I developed my passion for rhododendrons and azaleas shortly after leaving horticultural college when I was fortunate enough to work for a company who had a large nursery specialising in these plants. I soon learned how easy they are to grow, even in pots on the patio if you follow a few simple rules.
Rhododendrons and azaleas are ericaceous or lime hating plants and require a soil ph of 4.5 to 6, put simply, an acidic soil which is the opposite of lime or chalky. If you are unsure of the ph of your soil you can buy a soil testing kit from the Garden Centre
, they are relatively inexpensive. If your soil is not quite acidic enough you can help change this by adding ericaceous compost, sulphur, chopped bracken or pine needles. If your soil is completely unsuitable you should consider growing the dwarf or semi dwarf varieties in pots using ericaceous compost.
One question customers often ask us is how do you ensure a good show of flowers on rhododendrons and azaleas? The buds on these spring flowering shrubs form and swell through the late summer and autumn, so it is really important to keep them well watered during this period as this will help them produce more flowers the following spring.
Controlled release fertilisers make for easy gardening, and a rhododendron and azalea controlled release fertiliser will keep your plants supplied with nutrients for up to six months saving you time and effort.
So much work has gone into breeding smaller varieties suitable for modern garden. Most of us don't have gardens large enough to accommodate the beautiful monsters (Old fashioned larger varieties) growing in Ray Wood! You can buy dwarf rhododendrons which will grow in the region of 2 to 3ft, semi dwarf rhododendrons which usually grow between 3 and 5ft or the hardy hybrids which will get to about 6ft. Evergreen azaleas are reasonably compact and most can successfully be grown in containers, while the deciduous azaleas will be much happier planted in the ground.
One of my favourite varieties is rhododendron 'Percy Wiseman', it is a semi dwarf variety growing 3 to 4 ft and is ideal either for borders or growing in pots. It opens with pink edges to the flowers which fade to peach and then cream. Usually £16.99 it is currently £9.99 at the garden centre although stocks are limited. For a deciduous azalea I would pick ‘Luteum’ for its heavily scented yellow flowers and incredible autumn foliage tints, or ‘Gibraltar’ for a stunning deep orange flower.
If you are coming to visit Ray Wood this spring, please be sure to call in to the Garden Centre.
My team and I are always happy to help you with any gardening enquiries or advice.