A minor miracle

How long do you wait for a plant to flower? There’s a Chinese bamboo, isn’t there, which only flowers every century or so? But in the case of the ordinary garden plant…?

Rhododendrons don’t really flourish here, as they don’t appreciate clay. But they do grow, after a fashion, and they are useful for providing a splash of colour in woodland. Anyway, I decided that a touch of red on the wooded bank behind the Pictish stone would serve as a good background to the blue poppies. Proper red, mind you – not the kind of sickly raspberry ice-cream colour our great-grandfathers so loved for their mass plantings of hybrid rhododendrons.

Being lucky enough to have one of Britain’s last great plant-collecting families virtually on my doorstep, in the shape of the Coxes of Glendoick, I scoured their rhododendron catalogue, and eventually decided on rh. thomsonii. Looking at my records, I see I planted it in Spring 2003. For eight years it has done nothing – except grow in a green sort of way, and I readily admit I became fed up with it, and allowed it to become half buried in sycamore saplings.

And then, as I was cleaning up after the festival, in this worst of all posible years for frosted rhododendrom blossom, a spot of red caught my eye:

And there it was, in all its waxy perfection. Only two blossoms….but still….

Worth eight year’s wait? I think so.

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11 thoughts on “A minor miracle

  1. Perhaps even more special for the long wait, really.

    My rhododendrons are also in clay soil, and in my last entry you can see one of the mature rhododendrons putting on a show like I haven’t seen before. Perhaps this has been a good year for rhododendrons growing in clay?

  2. They say gardening teaches us patience! Some of our Rhododendrons have been extra good this year, others, no flowers at all, don’t understand the weather this year!

  3. That color is fantastic… Here in southeastern Michigan rhododendrons will not do at all due to cold, dry winters and soils that are hardly acidic enough and yet many people still keep planting them again and again and fertilize and spray relentlessly in hopes of coaxing the languishing things into proper growth.

  4. It must have felt like Christmas morning, finding those vivid blooms. The image reminds me of the form of a hibiscus flower. Try not to feel too guilty about the years of doubt and neglect–I’m sure the rhododendron has forgiven you or is at least enjoying any gardener remorse.

    • Yes, it was a real ‘wow’ moment – and since it was raining and I was thinking that the high point of the garden’s year was over, it gave me a real lift.

  5. Some things are indeed worth waiting for. I think the red Rhododendron you would like best of all would be Taurus, I am always banging on about it. Strange how they don’t mind the raw cold of Aberdeen, although our soil is quite acidic.

    • Well Alistair, it’s another of my faults that I am very picky, and I have to confess I don’t really like rhododendrons with massive flower trusses – so on the whole I avoid hybrids (though admit Taurus looks good). I suppose that sticking to the species does mean I have to wait eight years for flowers occasionally…but I’ll just go on being thrawn about it.

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