Dwarf Yunnan evergreen rhody
"I stood upon the hills, when heaven's wide arch
Was glorious with the sun's returning march,
And woods were brightened, & soft gales
Went forth to kiss the sun-clad vales."
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Tiny oblong bluish to grey-green leaves on a dwarf shrub, Rhododendron intricatum averages anywhere from a scant two feet of height to as much as five feet in ten years.
The evergreen leaves as as tiny as a quarter-inch each. For some specimens under the right temperature conditions & sun exposure, the dark green leaves turn a rich mahogany color in winter.
Little lavender-blue flowers appear early in March & slowly fade to a pallid powder-blue before month's end.
It has more actual blue to the blossoms than is possessed by most species-rhodies from this end of the color spectrum; in consequence, it has been used in many breeding programs in quest for the true-blue dwarf.
The flowers are distinctively shaped, having especially long tubes behind the flaring trumpets, two to eight infloresences per branch tip.
Native to mountains of Northwest Yunnan & Sichuan provinces, it grows on sub-alpine hillsides in moist open meadows. Found in a wide variety of environments in its native range, including amidst limestone rocks, it seems likely to be adaptable to soils that are not naturally acidic as are our own, so R. intricatum just might be a choice for areas with slightly alkaline soil where so few rhodies can thrive.
In the garden it prefers a goodly amount of sun, in moist well draining soil. It's hardy to minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Early in 2005, a small twiggy specimen was planted at the sunny front edge of a well-watered garden at a property I was landscaping. As each year ticks by, it makes a greater show of flowers. But even when still a young thing it bloomed so prettily it immediately proved itself a pleasing little guy.
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