Gardener's Corner




During the 35 years of my tenure here at Government House, 2013 has to be the most productive year for Rhododendron bloom I have ever observed. The masses of bloom on the hundreds of Rhododendron in the south side of the garden has prompted visitors and tourists alike to comment on the spectacular display of colour and beauty of such a regal shrub. They walk away shaking their heads in amazement and envy that we are able to culture and possess such magnificent specimens. I can only attribute this boom year to the lack of frost in the ground this past winter. They not only have a dislike for extreme heat, they also dislike the alternate thawing and freezing in mild winters which when continued for long periods is not conducive to good growth.

Morning sun and afternoon shade seems to be quite agreeable in regard to light exposure. With the existing tree canopy at Government House, providing the required light situation, there are a number of locations from which to choose. Deep shade will restrict flowering.

All Rhododendrons should be given acid soil conditions. Their roots should be kept cool and moist and surrounded with plenty of rich humus. The site should be well drained, and if not, then a raised bed can be constructed. Mulch such as oak leaves, peat moss, pine needles or even small wood chips can be applied to conserve moisture and reduce the need for cultivation around the shallow roots of the plant. A mulch of maple leaves is not advisable for two reasons; it is not acid, and the flat maple leaves tend to pack down more then oak leaves, preventing much needed air from reaching the roots.

Rhododendrons can be pruned occasionally when they become too dense or have broken, diseased, or dying branches. It is best to prune older branches by cutting them off at the base of the plant to encourage new growth.

It is best to purchase and apply an acid formulated fertilizer and administer this fertilizer in early spring.

Once established, Rhododendrons pretty much take care of themselves. They grow naturally close together so that weeds are not a problem. It is best to remove spent flower clusters to prevent seed forming which would steal nourishment from next years flower formation.

Winter protection with evergreen boughs or burlap screens are essential to protect them from winter winds and early spring sun which causes leaves to give off too much water, thus the dreaded leaf burn. This is especially true when the ground remains frozen.

Plants are seldom attacked by serious pests.

Indeed, a shrub fit for a King, or in this case, the Queen’s representative.

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