Sunday, April 11, 2010

Colourful Rhododendrons and Azaleas

Every year in September the famous Cheerio Halt garden in the quaint gold rush hamlet of Haenertsburg (in South Africa’s Limpopo Province) erupts in an explosion of colour.

Botanist Sheila (Box) Thompson created the delightful blossom garden here over a period of 48 years, and crammed it with azaleas and other flowering shrubs such as crab apple and flowering cherry, peach and pear. Seeing the garden on this misty mountain when it is in top form is an unforgettable experience.

What, today, made me think about my last visit to Box Thompson’s garden? I have just posted a new profile on Rhododendrons and Azaleas on my website and never again can I see or think about a Rhododendron without thinking about the spectacle of those colourful flowers reflecting in the water of the Pond at Cheerio Halt.

There is no reason why you shouldn’t also enjoy the pleasure of what are among the most decorative shrubs available for the home garden.

Varying in size from mat‑like dwarf shrubs only a few centimetres high to trees higher than 7m, Rhododendrons and Azaleas can be planted in any size of garden and thrive in a variety of positions.

The flowers of rhododendrons and azaleas have a wide range of colour: white, pink, lavender, violet, purple, yellow, crimson, scarlet and orange. The shapes of the flowers range through tubular, starry, funnel, bowl and bell‑shaped, varying in size from 2‑15 cm wide and 2‑10cm long.

Rhododendrons need to be grown in dappled or light shade. The soil should be moist and acid — the plants will not thrive in soil containing chalk or lime. Given the right conditions, a succession of varieties can be in flower for several months of the year.

Generally, the plants look their best in a natural or wilderness garden, where they are not restricted to the formal confines of beds and lawns, but I have also grown them successfully in containers in a secluded courtyard.

Because rhododendrons and azaleas range in size from tree‑like giants to prostrate dwarfs, you should decide on the space you have to fill before buying your shrubs.

For the full story on Rhododendrons and Azaleas visit my website now .