Drainage For Lepidotes
Tom McGuire, Portland, Oregon
Reprinted from the Portland Chapter Newsletter
Several years ago I obtained seed of a number of the small lepidotes - chryseum, russatum, fastigiatum, saluenense, campylogynum var. myrtilloides, etc. They germinated readily, and grew well for a couple of years, but after planting out in locations which I thought should be ideal, the little rascals became unhappy, and many turned up their toes. I tried different locations over a period of three or four years, but they seemed cranky anywhere. Cecil Smith has told me that he never has found a really satisfactory area for his lapponicums. Ruth Wood has said that they have had to replace quite a few over the years.
In nature most of these species grow in high mountain meadows with full exposure and sharp drainage, however they are subject to almost constant fog and mist. In the better rhododendron areas of England and Scotland the climate approaches these latter conditions and the plants thrive. In Scotland a day or two of temperatures to 75 degrees F. is considered a heat wave. A far cry from our summer weather in the Willamette Valley.
A year ago, with very few of these plants left, the situation seemed hopeless. In desperation I decided to try something different. I chose a location in almost full sun. Then for each plant I placed four good sized rocks in a rough square on top of the ground, leaving a center opening of 12 to 15 inches, and filled and covered to rounding with good top soil. I placed a plant in each opening, and mulched the whole mound area with about two inches of bark dust. With just a few sprinklings during our last dry season there were no fatalities, and the plants appear healthier than ever before. As an added bonus these small species show to much greater advantage on top of their little mounds.