Rhododendrons are the perfect spring-flowering shrub for bringing colour into your garden. They come in all colours of the rainbow and most produce many clusters of flowers. They are easy to grow and low maintenance. No need to prune them unless they grow out over a sidewalk. They look especially wonderful in large gardens or parks where there is space for them to grow. A large rhododendron in bloom is a spectacular sight.
When I look outside my window into the garden, I see two large spots of colour, one yellow, one orange. The azaleas in the front garden are in bloom. As I wrote in What’s blooming in the garden: May azaleas are a type of rhododendron. We have several varieties of rhododendron in the garden. They have flowers in different sizes, and in all colours except red. Yellow and orange are not colours I would choose for the garden. The azaleas were already here when we bought the house.
I like plants with pink and purple blooms. White, blue and violet flowers are welcome as well. Should I remove my yellow and orange azalea? Maybe I will one day. At the moment, I have more important things to do.
The language of flowers
The name rhododendron comes from the ancient Greek rhodo, meaning rose and dendron, meaning tree. In the Victorian language of flowers, rhododendron means danger, beware. Maybe because both leaves and flowers are poisonous. Most animals avoid it. People have been known to become ill from eating honey made by bees feeding on rhododendron and azalea flowers.
May is rhododendron month where I live. They like acidic soil and apparently that’s what we have. They grow well and abundantly here. Many of our neighbours grow rhododendrons as hedges. They grow in public parks and even in the middle of roundabouts. In the wild, they are woodland plants and they do grow in the nearby forest, even though I don’t think these are wild.
What is the difference between rhododendrons and azaleas?
Azaleas make up two subgroups of Rhododendron. Azaleas are generally small-sized, small-leaved and small-flowered shrubs. Rhododendrons can become very large, growing to roof height. They have large, leathery, glossy dark green leaves. Unlike rhododendrons, many azalea plants lose their leaves in winter. Once rhododendrons are done flowering, they provide a dark evergreen backdrop for the rest of the year.
I think it is important to consider the foliage along with the flowers when you are choosing plants. For 11 months of the year, you have only the leaves to enjoy. I think you can tell I prefer rhododendrons over azaleas.
Last week I visited the arboretum in Doorn. An arboretum is a collection of trees and shrubs. The arboretum tries to preserve these plants for future generations to enjoy. I visited the arboretum last autumn to see the leaves change colour. The arboretum has a great collection of acers, Japanese maple trees. It also has one of the largest rhododendron collections of the Netherlands. Most pictures in this post were taken at the arboretum. If you have the opportunity to visit a rhododendron garden, please do so. I am sure you will enjoy the flower spectacle.