In Praise of the Variety & Beauty
of Rhododendron Foliage, Part III
Continuing our portraited overview of interesting rhododendron foliage, which belies the fib that rhodies are boring when not in bloom, we may start with the picture here at the left of the Korean azalea 'Poukhanense Compacta' shown together with a little bit of nearby Hellebore foliage.
Its leaves are prettiest in summer when they are greenest & thickest. Yet the leaves are also interesting when they turn reddish-bronze in autumn. Being only about two-thirds evergreen through winter, it looks a little thin by winter's end, which is fine for this particular specimen because it has pretty limb structure too.
Essentially in every month of the year our rhododendrons & azaleas are beautiful to behold & are central to the continuous woodland flavor of the path that winds around all four sides of the house.
I've given short shrift to deciduous azaleas in this overview, but the leaves on these are so brilliantly colored in autumn, it really is like a second flowering. A wonderful example you can check out would be The Autumn Leaves of the 'White Throat Azalea,' the vibrancy of which can make the heart skip a beat. The autumn 'White Throat' page links in a chain of pages showing autumn colors on various deciduous & evergreen azaleas & rhodies.
The majority of large lepidote rhododendrons have very interesting new-leaf appearances. Sometimes the new leaves are coming in before the spring blooms are finished, but because the species-rhody R. pachytrichum blooms so early, it is generally finished with its flowers in April when the new leaves begin.
The second portrait shows R. pachytrichum when the long, entertainingly devilish "horns" first appear. Each of these horns will very slowly unfold into multiple leaves. This happens with many large rhodies, but for this one it strikes me as a bit exaggerated, & wonderful for being so.
Truly our entire rhododendron collection could be gone through one at a time with praise for each one's foliage. The diversity knows no bounds, & I've barely touched the surface, since others are micro-leafed (as on R. hippophaeoides), while others have gigantic leaves.
We don't have an example (yet!) but there's even a rhododendron with leaves that are furry & orange underneath, so quite colorful all year round. A few have hints of variegation in the leaves, as in the case of one strain of 'Alison Johnstone,' but reliably & intensely on 'Goldflimmer' (shown in a March photo third on this page), 'Claydian Variegated,' 'Sunsplash,' 'President Roosevelt,' R. ponticum variegatum, & such azaleas as 'Brianne,' 'Girard's Variegated Gem,' 'Hot Shot Variegated,' 'Silver Sword' & a handful of others.
Not only visually, but other senses can be excited, as by R. tolmachevii with magnificent leaf odor which begs that it be grown nearest a path where brushing against it released sweet scents.
Return to beginning:
In Praise of the Variety & Beauty
of Rhododendron Foliage, Part I
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