Preparing Rhododendron Trusses For A Show
Cecil Smith, Aurora, Oregon
Reprinted from Portland Chapter Newsletter
There are two things that contribute to prize winning trusses; the health of the plant in the years before the show, and the grooming before display.
The truss is at its best when it stands straight up and in order for this to happen the stem must be straight or nearly straight. Most of the straight stems are apt to be on the top of the plant. Sometimes a promising bud will appear on a leaning branch. If this branch can be propped or tied in any upright position before the bud opens (ten days before show time) the resulting truss will be straight.
In selecting a truss both the flower and leaves should be examined. Sometimes a bug eaten or deformed leaf can be removed without leaving a break in the collar (leaves surrounding the flower). The leaves should be wiped clean with a wet cloth or sponge. An insecticide which will kill pollen beetles may be used about the time the flowers begin to open. The fallen bud scales should be carefully removed from the inside of the truss.
If a spray of a small flowered variety is to be entered, all old seed pods, dead leaves and other accumulated debris should be taken out. If a spray has one or two spent flowers, but is otherwise very desirable, its attractiveness may be enhanced by removing the spent flower. This could not be done with a truss.
Now looking ahead to next year, immediately after flowering, even before the last few lingering blooms are spent, the deadheading should be done. The longer this is delayed the less vigorous the new growth will be.
In the late fall or winter remove excess flower buds. To me the ultimate in a rhododendron in flower is not to have it so covered with blooms that no leaves can be seen. The new growth will start earlier and have more vigor. Flower buds may be spaced 8 to 12 inches apart on those having large blooms, as the Loderis and closer when the flowers are smaller.
An exception would be the very lax trussed varieties as these look best when loaded with hanging bells. They are pathetic on the show bench cut as a single truss. They could be quite attractive as a spray if they could be fastened in an upright position.