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.