Worlds of Rhododendrons

Janet Blair rhodie
Janet Blair rhododendron

Our hugel was built to help us manage water, but also to provide a stage for rhododendrons. This past weekend my friendly rhododendron specialists took me shopping at the Windy Hill Nursery in Great Barrington. We bought three cultivars: Janet Blair a beautiful pale pink  with a golden flare in the center, Wojnar’s Purple and Francesca, a red.

Wojner's Purple rhododendron
Wojner’s Purple rhododendron

The photos of Janet Blair and Wojner’s purple were taken in Jerry Sternstein’s rhododendron woodland which includes nearly 400 other rhodies. These shrubs will mature at about 12-15 feet tall and equally wide.

Rhododendron Francesca
Francesca rhododendron

Francesca is a real red rhodie and this photo was taken in John Valigorski’s garden. My garden will never hold hundreds of rhodies, and I am already feeling a little rhodie jealousy. Here are more rhodie photos.

A section of John Valigorsky's rhodies
A section of John Valigorsky’s rhodies

John Valigorsky’s rhodies edge his front yard, and then travel through the back yard, at one point creating a rhododendron woodland.

Scintillation  rhododendron
Scintillation – a popular pink rhodie
Gigi rhododendron
Gigi – a Dexter hybrid
Calsap rhodie
Calsap – once of the hardiest rhodies


A section of Jerry Sternstein's rhodie hill
A section of Jerry Sternstein’s rhodie hill

Jerry and John have very different sites. Jerry’s garden blooms in full sun,  enjoying the naturally acidic soil. John’s garden enjoys some shade but blooms in defiance of the alkaline soil. There are fertilizers like Holly-Tone that help acidify soil. Both men say the important thing in planting a rhododendron is to remember the motto “Keep it simple, just a dimple.”  No $5 holes for these rhodies. All they need is a slight depression in the soil, with soil then being brought up around but not touching the trunk.

For wonderful information about rhodies, including the best performers in your region check out the American Rhododendron Society’s website.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. chsandt

    Gorgeous gardens! The only rhododendron shown that I have grown is ‘Scintillation’, which has been the most dependable cultivar I have grown on my windy, drought-prone hilltop. All that I planted are still alive and thriving. Most other cultivars I have tried have died or struggle pathetically. I wonder if ‘Gigi’ and ‘Calsap’ would be happy here.

  2. Helen Opie

    Thank you for Keep it simple Just a dimple! Now that I am going to stay here for as long as I can, I think I will plant Rhodies out by my “pond”, better called a wayer table guage. I’d like to plant them out front, but the deer would eat them down. They come by all winter and late enough into the spring that I cannot have tulips in my front yard. Nor rhodies.

  3. Lisa Greenbow

    I haven’t had luck with Rhodies of any sort. Maybe I need to adhere to the dimple dig. Best of luck with yours.

  4. judithharper

    Mine years ago started with one bloom and this year was spectacular! Perhaps all the rain was good for it though tiresome for us.

  5. Pat

    Judith – I heard that this year was a year like no others for rhodie bloom!

  6. Pat

    Lisa – My experts say they think planting too deeply is the cause of many deaths.

  7. Pat

    chsandt – I would have gotten Scintillation too, but the nursery didn’t have it and Janet Blair was a painless replacement. Give Calsap a try!
    Helen – There are so many challenges for a gardener. Deer! Flood! Drought! But we all persevere.

  8. Helen Opie

    I am definitely going to plan for a couple of 3 rhodies next year! I shall SIMPLE-DIMPLE by my pond, and don’t know if the one I had died of too-deep planting or was another victim of some straw I got that killed everything I mulched with it. It must have geen hydroponically grown in broadlef herbicide. You encourage me to try again.

    There are several magnificent rhodie garden around here and a breeding station at the Agricultural station in Kentville NS where the old pnes tower overhead like ancient apple trees.

  9. Ronald L Moloff

    Great pictures, thx. In Maine; where do I find rh. Francesca and how about Trocerdero!
    914 980 7347 text

  10. Pat

    Ronald – Thanks for writing. I cannot tell you where to find Franchesca – or other rhodie, because there are so many, it is hard to know which will be at that particular nursery. I do suggest you might enjoy being apart of the American Rododendron Society for more information.

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