JARS v40n4 - A Rhododendron Garden In Czechoslovakia

A Rhododendron Garden In Czechoslovakia
Vera Stepankova
Nova Paka, Czechoslovakia

Vera Stepankova has been a member of the ARS since 1973, when a group of American rock gardeners visited her garden, saw her rhododendron collection and arranged for her membership. She writes that she shares her Journals with many friends.

Our garden was begun thirty four years ago. We liked ericaceous plants very much and because our climate and soil were suitable for them we planted many varieties. Some of the smaller species of rhododendrons were planted in our rock garden, others in our heather garden. We grow R. campylogynum , camtschaticum , chrysanthum , ferrugineum , hirsutum , forrestii var. repens , hanceanum var. nanum , impeditum , keiskei , pemakoense , prostratum , pumilum , racemosum , radicans , russatum , yakushimanum as well as hybrids of R. repens and a few larger hybrids.

Rhododendron Garden In Czechoslovakia
Photo by Vera Stepankova

From the beginning, we planted conifers for shade. As they grew, we planted some of the larger hardy rhododendrons, the wonderful Exbury azaleas and also the Rustica Flora Pleno azaleas, which are so fragrant in the evening. Although we live near a mountain, the summer temperatures can reach near 30°C (86°F). Our garden is well shaded by the conifers and slopes to the north. In winter, we often have about -20°C (-4°F). Snow cover can last for five months.
We get "heavy dew" and rainfall during the growing season. We still sometimes have to water daily in summer as the new growth begins to set buds.
Our soil is sandy. We add only pine needle humus to it.
The larger rhododendrons we grow are mainly the hardy Seidel hybrids from Dresden, East Germany. These are never destroyed even in the heaviest frosts and bloom profusely for us. Our last winter, though severe, did not harm them and they set many buds.
We also grow some of Dietrich Hobbie's R. forrestii var. repens hybrids. These small cultivars as well as the smaller species rhododendrons are well covered with snow for protection during the winter.

Rhododendron Garden In Czechoslovakia Rhododendron Garden In Czechoslovakia
Photo by Vera Stepankova Photo by Vera Stepankova

Most of the gardens in this country are small ones and are planted with rock garden plants. Some of our friends have very fine collections of the small growing rhododendron species and cultivars. Where there is not enough snow to bury the plants during the winter, they must be well protected.
There is a large rhododendron garden on the grounds of a wonderful old castle near Prague at Pruhonice. The garden was founded over 100 years ago. The Czechoslovakian Research Institute of Ornamental Gardening is located in a new building on the castle grounds. Rhododendrons as well as other plants are currently being tested and evaluated at the Institute and work is proceeding towards the development of new hardy hybrid rhododendrons for garden and landscape use.