Azalea Youth

In Praise of the Variety & Beauty of Rhododendron Foliage


A crabby gardener in a discussion group once kvetched, "Rhododendrons & azaleas are so boring! You get two weeks of blooms then nothing for a year."

Well, apart from the fact that we have one or another rhododendron blooming in our gardens from March through July, even the greater point, that Rhodies tend to bloom for a month each maximum, hardly means they're not beautiful the rest of the year.

To great extent, the fact of their fabulous blooms causes people to momentarily forget that for foliage alone they are as beautiful & more varied than are the sorts of bushes that are grown primarily for their foliage.

R. yungningense Such woody shrubs as boxes, hebes, aucuba, privit honeysuckle, laurels, photina & so on, are not grown as much for blooms as for evergreen foliage. And fact is, if rhodies had teency hidden flowers, a great many would still be gardened just for the foliage.

I've often wondered why anyone would choose a shrub, such as the boxes, which are praiseworthy only for leaves, when the same gardening effects could be achieved with certain evergreen Vacciniums & have the addition of edible & decorative berries, or with Rhododendrons & have the addition of remarkable flowers.

Azalea YouthNevertheless it is true when one looks at garden photos, it's rare to see portraits of rhododendrons other than in bloom, so even champions of these shrubs have a little trouble remembering to whip out the camera if it's just for a bunch of leaves.

The gorgeous foliage understandably but unjustly gets second-shrift due solely to those awesome blooms.

So this page together with the "Rhododendron Leaf Gallery" shows a few of our rhododendrons not in bloom. At the top of the present page is Azalea 'Youth' snapped in August. This low-growing wide-spreading shrub always looks tidy & bright.

The smaller shrub in front of it is Rhododendron 'Oceanlake' which in autumn will have bright mahogany leaves. The Oceanlake is a bit scruffier this year (2003) because when it was newly transplanted it soonafter experienced a record-hot summer, but it is bouncing back.

The second photo, on the right, shows Rhododendron yungningense which is in front of a Boxleaf Hebe which is in front of Diablo Ninebark, forming a lovely layered foliage.

The third photo shows a limb of one of the Ironclad evergreens, R. 'Lee's Best Purple' reaching out into the yard, with snow clinging prettily to some of its leaves.

These & other evergreen rhodies shown on the next few pages lend a great deal positive to a garden all year round, even in winter, with or without blooms.

Continue to:
In Praise of the Variety & Beauty
of Rhododendron Foliage, Part II


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