All about Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Camellias from the heart of England. Will Murch from Osberton Nurseries offers advice and tips on how to grow Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Camellias. Find a stockist and read Will's Blog.
Find inspiration for your garden in our gallery of images from our nursery and established gardens. Choose by colour, type or height or look for Will's recommendations.
We try to cover all the questions you might want to ask about Rhododendrons, Camellias and Azaleas in your garden in Will's Blog. If there is something we have missed then Will Murch, the nursery owner and plant expert is ready to answer your most pressing questions.
We all know that Rhododendrons are fabulous for their dramatic flower colour but did you know that some have great foliage colour too. Moser's Maroon is a perfect example. The flowers are a memorable shade of rich, slightly translucent ruby in themselves but the new foliage is an attraction in its own right.
This foliage stays the same amazing red all summer and through autumn and into winter. The effect is more pronounced when it is grown in a sheltered spot in the garden and given a little shade. Light shade is great for all rhododendrons as the flowers last longer out of the harsh glare of the sun. Try using it to cover ugly features like drainpipes and utility boxes round the house.
Traditional large flowered rhododendron hybrids have all the glamour of a lost world, just like the one immortalised in Downton Abbey. They are dramatic, colourful and exciting – definitely “drama queens”. Surely with such qualities they are going to be challenging to grow. Not so, they are really very easy and satisfying in the garden.
Two of my favourites come from a group of hybrids produced since the second world war called the Walloper Hybrids. These stem from rhododendrons that were taken to a safe haven in the USA during the war to ensure they survived. The city of Southampton was being heavily bombed and one of the best collections of new hybrids was riskily housed in the garden of Townhill Park, the home of Lord Swathling.
Lord Swathling’s talented gardener, Fred Rose, had an uncanny knack of creating exciting new varieties. Lionel de Rothschild had tried to lure him away to his rhododendron collection at Exbury on many occasions but with no luck! The 1939 seedlings were taken to a cluster of rhododendron breeders in the USA. The unnamed hybrids were split out between them and they awaited the results.
Scottish rhododendron grower, hunter and breeder Peter Cox visited the garden of a neighbour and world reknowned plant hunter George Sheriff. He was so inspired by a yellow rhododendron he spotted that he was allowed to take pollen home to create hybrids. This started a long challenge to grow dwarf rhododendron suitable for today's smaller gardens and the tough Scottish climate.
The results were a series of new hybrids named after birds and among those, in my opinion, are 2 of the best dwarf rhododendrons ever.
The first, Razorbill, is a beautiful, unusual hybrid with lovely, tubular, bubblegum pink flowers on an open attractive plant showing its stems leaves buds and flowers. For small gardens it is just perfect with really attractive foliage.
I constantly keep my eye on the latest research and test it out myself in the garden back at the nursery to make sure you get the very best advice on how to plant successfully.
1. Decide where you want to plant and remove any weeds growing in the area.
2. Water your plant well in its pot before planting. Letting it sit in a bucket of water until it is well soaked is very effective.
3. Dig a hole twice as deep and three times as wide as the root ball (this is the compost around the roots of the plant) in the pot and then loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole to improve the drainage. Don't skimp on this stage as it is crucial to your plant's quick establishment in the garden and its ongoing success over the years.
The Perfect Present
Ask any experienced gardener and they will confirm that Camellias are some of the best plants to give as presents. They look luxurious and exotic and long established gardeners love them but they are easy to grow so new gardeners will find them very rewarding. They grow in pots or in the ground so they suit all sizes of gardens. They love some shade so they work in difficult spots. They keep their handsome foliage all year round, they live for years and years and years and they flower in the early spring - what more could you want?
Our Camellias are all lined up in the glasshouse ready to find their way to your garden. This picture shows you 15,000 Camellia "Dr King" all looking lovely and evenly grown and packed with flower buds.
Five Star Treatment
Sometimes you can be made to feel that gardening is really complicated and hard work. Knowing what conditions your plant likes will save you time, money and heartache.
Most people know that rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias belong to the group of plants called ericaceous plants along with heathers, pieris and magnolias but what does that really mean? A lot of people see it as “lime hating” but it's not really quite like that. It means that they are unable to use certain essential foods in the soil if the pH (a measure of how acid or alkaline a soil is) goes higher than 7. They will grow steadily more sickly and weak.
So how do you know what pH your soil is? You can buy a simple soil testing kit from your local garden centre. Follow the instructions carefully and always test the soil where you are intending to plant as it the soil can vary around the garden. If you can't find a soil test kit a simple test is to look for hydrangea plants in gardens near you and see what colour they are. Blue hydrangeas indicate an acid soil and pink or purple ones an alkaline soil. White hydrangeas don't change colour except in the very centre of each flower, if you look really carefully you will see the centre is either pink or blue. The best time to look for his is when the flowers first open as flowers later in the season can take on other tints due to the flower ageing.
Get Winter Ready!
We know you love your Rhododendrons, Camellias and Azaleas but are they ready for the winter weather?
Pots and Containers
Plants in pots and containers are more vulnerable to problems than those planted in the ground. We all worry a lot about the cold temperatures and, although these can be an issue if they get too extreme, actually it is the wet weather that can do the most damage. This is because the plants rate of transpiration (breathing through the leaves) slows in colder weather and so the plant is unable to lose excess water gathering at the roots. The other danger to your plants is cold winds.
How to Plant in a Pot
The great news about Rhododendrons, Camellias and Azaleas is that they are so adaptable that they grow really well in pots and containers. Sometimes we grow them there because we have the wrong soil, sometimes just because we want colour in pots.
So how do you go about it?
First, look at the size of your plant and choose a pot where the measurement across the top is about 10-20cm smaller than the width of the plant branches. This stops the compost getting too wet in rainy weather.
Christmas Cheer is the first of the traditional Rhododendrons to flower in the year but under its own steam, it will miss Christmas by just over a month. Early February onwards, large coral pink buds will open slowly to long lasting white flowers throughout February and into March, marking the beginning of spring along with camellias, daffodils and crocuses.
One of the great values of this early flowering variety is as the weather is cooler, the flowers come out much more slowly and also slightly in succession. Again with the cooler temperatures the flowers once out will bloom for longer period of time to give you more enjoyment.
People worry about the frost but the only time the frost will affect the flowers is if you can see the open buds or flowers yourself. So when in bud there is no need to be concerned but as soon as you see the pink and white petals, if there is going to be a frost, just cover the plant with some fleece carefully draped over the top for the night and you will be fine. This is a very hardy, low maintenance plant.
Spring flowers are a real delight, especially after the dark days of winter. Bright crocus, deliciously scented winter honeysuckle, carpets of nodding hellebores and tiny fragrant sarcococca flowers all light up the garden but one flower that stands out amongst them all is the camellia. People will admire the majority of flowers and gardens on the go as they stroll past but stop and stare at exotic camellias in bloom.
Their show starts well before Christmas in September when conspicuous flower buds form and you watch them in expectation for five months. They gradually begin to swell. in late January and then flower from late February onwards.
As they flower early, the buds slowly open up revealing their flowers with a degree of succession as opposed to all at one moment. This can be a form of slow pain if you are desperate to see them or long lasting delight.
They will flower for at least a month, all be it with a bit of colour explosion towards the end as a grand finale, so you definitely get value for colour.
There are some lovely colours to choose from; whites, creams, pinks and reds in various styles of flower from single rows of petals, rather like a rose, to multiple rows of flower petals and peony shaped flowers.
FIND A STOCKIST
Our Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Camellias are available from a wide range of garden centres right across the country so there will be one not far from you.
If you wish to purchase a Rhododendron, Azalea or Camellia or simply browse our plants, then please complete our contact form and we will send you details of the closest Garden Centres that stock our plants.
If you have a particular variety in mind, again let us know the one you are looking for and we can do even better, we can let you know the nearest centre to yourselves that has one that has been freshly delivered.
Do let us know which centres you have visited and any comments with regards to our plants - look out for our logo for correct identification.
Osberton Nurseries is registered in the UK. Registered office West Buildings, Osberton Grange, Worksop, Nottinghamshire, S81 0UF Company registration number 07128413 VAT registration number 890 764 583
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