Dwarf Species Rhododendrons
We have several reasons for making the dwarf species rhododendrons our special hobby. First, there is fascinating variety in their habit of growth, foliage and flowers. And we like these small plants because they can be massed for pleasing effects without taking over the whole garden. Then there is always the adventure in discovering some hard-to-find variety, planting it in the ground and waiting for the first buds to open.
There are several sweet-tempered dwarfs in the Lapponicum series. R. impeditum smothers its small leaves in lovely violet-blue flowers. R. fastigiatum is more erect in habit with similar flowers and the same good disposition. R. scintillans is aptly named with flowers of shimmering deep violet. R. chryseum is a yellow flowered number of this large family which seldom fails to delight us with a second crop of blooms in fall.
Wearing a coat of sage-green foliage, R. calostrotum is most attractive when planted against a gray rock. In April, when the butterfly blooms open, it is a lovely sight. These, of rose purple color, are large for the size of the plant.
R. racemosum is different again with oval leaves on wood that is bright red when young. The more common form grows to five feet in height with long straggling branches. But there is a dwarf form, which we prefer, with flowers of bright pink. R. oleifolium is another pink-flowered form similar to racemosum.
R. deleiense belongs to the Boothii series. In our garden, a mature plant displayed the tender characteristics of this series by dying to the ground during a severe winter. However, new growth came from the roots, and now, after three years, it will bloom this spring. We have missed the dainty hanging bells of wild rose pink which were freely produced in early April. Three newly purchased plants of R. deleiense will also bloom this spring.
A Chinese species forming a clump less than a foot high, is R. pemakoense. The charming flowers of this small species are a pleasing lavender pink. Our five plants bloom freely in early April though they are by no means mature plants.
Another favorite, with soft yellow flowers is R. sargentianum. We purchased three small plants after seeing a fine specimen growing in the lovely rock garden of Mr. J. G. Worth in Victoria, B.C. Mr. Worth's plant was thriving in an open situation with the bloom peak reached in early May.
Perhaps R. hanceanum nanum should not be mentioned since it is one of the hard-to-find species. But a color picture and the enthusiasm of a nurseryman who saw it in England were enough to send us on a determined hunt for this little treasure. Much to our surprise, our small four inch plant has now produced a bloom bud. The flowers should be soft yellow.
Plants of R. cremastum, R. williamsianum, R. repens and its variety chamaedoxa have just been added to our collection.
R. repens was planted on top of a well rotted log in the filtered shade of trees. All other dwarf species are growing along the edge of our woodland where the afternoon sun reaches them. A mulch of rotted wood and dried bracken is applied in spring and again in fall. Watering is done in late afternoon or early evening to conserve moisture.