Rhododendron nobleanum album – at least two specimens on Battleston Hill at RHS Wisley were in flower when I last visited a couple of weeks ago – this old variety will flower anytime between January and March and perhaps even later, after the last frosts. Mid-January, it was the first of the rhododendrons I saw flowering on my meandering walk through the woodland paths of Battleston Hill.
I will make sure to return to these slopes when the main flowering period is upon us – and to get to the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park too where the show of azaleas and rhododendrons is superb. Diary notes for late April and May I think.
I’ve built up a small collection of rhododendrons, growing in containers, on the driveway of a house in Kew. Mostly dwarf forms, including Yakushimanum (Yak) hybrids. When I visit next I will make a note of all their names. To these I’ll add a larger specimen of Grumpy, a fine Yak hybrid with blush white flowers and a downy camel-coloured indumentum to the reverse of the leaves. If I can find a larger pot, I’ll add the deciduous Luteum, for the scent is gorgeous and the yellow flowers quite striking. It wants to be a large shrub, so I’ll keep it in a pot for just a couple of years before finding a more permanent home in the garden at the back of the house. This will be the first spring for all of these pot grown rhododendrons and I hope they put on a good show.
Of necessity all of these containers are irrigated with tap water, which isn’t ideal. A regular feed with an iron fertiliser (seaweed with iron for example or Miracle Grow Camellia, Rhododendron and Azalea liquid feed), will help things along and I will keep an eye out for chlorosis or other signs of stress. Repotting every couple of years in fresh ericaceous compost will probably be necessary and maybe I should set up a water butt to collect rain water at the front of the house. Always things to do!
More information on rhododendrons from the RHS…