Rhodophobia20th June 2018 • Places to Visit • Stephanie Donaldson
Ok, not in the conventional sense, I actually love the colour pink, but it’s a description of my response when confronted with multihued rhododendrons and azaleas planted en masse – as I was on a recent visit to Norfolk.
Rhododendrons are such thugs, elbowing everything else out of the way, souring the soil and depriving anything else attempting to grow of any light. Other visitors were oohing and aahing, while I just saw monoculture and stagnant ponds. I’m sure there are situations where they are useful, especially on very acid soils, but there are plenty of other acid loving plants that could be planted with them to much more interesting effect. Once they have flowered, they are very dull indeed. Rant over! There are two fragrant varieties that I love (although not enough to grow them) – the wild Azalea ponticum and the pure white Rhododendron fragrantissimum.
Of course there are places where they are grown more sensitively, for example Bowood House’s rhododendrons are planted beneath wonderful specimen trees and with space between them as they follow the contours of the land in something more akin to their normal hillside habitat. And despite my reservations about them in gardens, I would still love to see them growing in the wild.