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Journal American Rhododendron Society

Current Editor:
Dr. Glen Jamieson ars.editor@gmail.com


Volume 39, Number 4
Fall 1985

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Move It!
Rosalie Nachman
Richmond, Virginia

        Take a long "real" look at your garden. See it with "other eyes". Has your garden (and just maybe you) not only matured, but possibly gotten a bit of age on it? Have some of your plants outgrown their usefulness or become leggy, tired and past their best time in life? Are you tired of babying the collector's item that just won't do well for you? Even worse, have humdrum plants taken the space needed to try out the new varieties? Face up to the fact that just because you once tried out a plant does not mean that you should have to live with it forever. Maybe it will be happier in someone else's garden. Occasionally, we all might be happier if it were simply composted.
        A garden is a living thing. As it grows, it changes. Creative gardening involves redesigning the garden either in whole or in part each time we work in it. Plant, prune and transplant as though you were creating a picture. Think of texture, contrast, foliage color and all the elements of good design. We achieve unity in the garden by the emphasis on the azaleas and rhododendrons that we primarily collect. Companion plantings add contrast, texture and interest.

Springtime textures
Springtime textures
Photo by Rosalie Nachman
 
Foliage textures
Foliage textures
Photo by Rosalie Nachman

        Hardy ferns and hostas add softening touches as well as textural changes. They give your azaleas an appearance of belonging to the ground around them and add a lush, almost tropical look. There are many new varieties of hosta available today, ranging from the very dwarf to the enormous, with leaf color from blue to gold to variegated. Keep your eyes open to find the ones that will fit into your design.
        Hellebores, daylilies, woods lilies, bleeding heart, bloodroot, wild ginger, primroses, daffodils, Solomon's Seal (especially the variegated Japanese one) and all the other lovely plants to be found bring our gardens to life and help us to create our picture.
        Tall shrubs and small trees add an important ingredient to the azalea garden. One of my favorite evergreens is a plant called Sciadopitys verticillata or Japanese Umbrella Pine which grows in a pyramidal shape. It is extremely hardy, very green and has a wonderful texture. In our last few extremely hard winters these plants never lost a needle and were the greenest plants in my garden. I've truly lost the ability to make flower arrangements without it - surely it deserves to be used far more than it is at present.
        Other favorite shrubs and trees include Pieris japonica in all its many forms. It is beautiful all year, in bloom and out. Thread leaf Japanese maples add contrast in texture, form and color.

Azaleas and friends along the garden path
Azaleas and friends along the garden path
Photo by Rosalie Nachman

        Look at your azaleas, the old Southern Indicas - Formosas and Tabers, tired Macranthas, leggy Kurumes and spread-out Gumpos. How would those spots look without those particular plants? Are their blooms sparse? Do they wilt in the sun? Do they stretch out on meager limbs to encroach upon other plants? Have they grown out of proportion to the area or do they hide the plants behind them? Are these really great plants that are taking up more than their share of space, or are they true ne'er-do-wells hogging the area where you could grow ten new and hopefully better varieties?
        How much of the year are your plants really attractive? Many plants are beautiful the year around - in leaf and bud as well as bloom. Choose your plants with the entire year in mind not just the blooming season.
        Be sure to try some of the azaleas and rhododendrons that rate high for foliage texture. 'Seigai' is an old favorite with very strappy, hairy leaves. Polly Hill's introductions are all extremely hardy with a tiny, ground hugging habit. 'Late Love', 'Alexander', 'Red Fountain', 'Marilee' and 'Chinsoy' are some particularly tiny foliaged ones. The Satsukis; 'Rukizon', 'Chinzan' and 'Yachiyo Red' are also tight dwarfs. The Satsuki, 'Gyokurei' has curled and twisted foliage. 'Uke funei' has variegated leaves. 'Silver Sword' and 'Silver Streak' have white edged leaves, but do winter burn. 'Girard's Hot Shot' has a good rich look in winter. 'Beni Kirishima' rates at the top with its cloud-like drifts of unburnable foliage. The Glenn Dales, 'Sagittarius' and 'Pearl Bradford' can't be beat for bloom and foliage. 'Linwood Orchid Beauty' glows a shiny red all winter long. In general, those whose foliage turns red seems to show less winter burn.

R. 'Johga'    R. 'Grace Freeman'
'Johga'
Photo by Rosalie Nachman
   'Grace Freeman'
Photo by Rosalie Nachman

        For great texture and hardiness try R. yakushimanum. It grows in many forms, all have the silvery new foliage and fawn-colored, wooly undersides to the leaves on compact plants. Rhododendron kiusianum 'Komo Kulshan' is a tiny beauty as are the other R. kiusianums.
        After thirty-five years of serious gardening, my most valuable thought is - move it! Admit your mistakes and try something new. Try for a garden that works for you all year through with plants that star for health, foliage, form and texture. Prune, move or replace anything that has overgrown its space, outlived its usefulness, needs continual care or just doesn't contribute. Be creative with your garden design, the plants you choose and how you prune. Keep your garden young and growing, your mind active and changeable and your interest high.


Volume 39, Number 4
Fall 1985

DLA Ejournal Home | JARS Home | Table of Contents for this issue | Search JARS and other ejournals