Big, bold and beautiful.

Not everyone’s favourite, I know and even considered a bit old fashioned by some, but rhododendrons and azaleas are coming into flower, all guns blazing! They certainly aren’t shy, retiring plants, their bright colours can be seen from a great distance, they are big, bold and brash and I can’t help loving them! Our soil is just the acid side of neutral so we are able to grow a good range of plants from across all soil types. The first few photos are of plants in a border that faces the house at the side and leads through to the bog garden. I have made a path through the centre, mainly for ease of weeding, but also it means that I can plant more of my favourite woodland plants and therefore call it my woodland edge border.

Opposite kitchen

Opposite kitchen

I planted all of the rhodos here except one, but as it was years before I even thought of writing a blog, sorry, no records have been kept of names for most of them!

Pink pearl

I think this one is Pink Pearl and was already here when we moved in. It obviously wants to grow very big, but I prune it back every few years , when it has finished flowering otherwise I wouldn’t be able to walk along my path through the border.

Woodland Path

This view is looking through the border from the other end, along the path which leads to the back garden. On the left is Clematis montana,  joining in with the rhodos.

Opposite Kitchen

Facing the house at the other end of the path through the woodland border, you can just see one white flower of Schnee Kroner or Snow Crown, in front of Pink Pearl at the back.


Over to the woodland proper, at the front is Solomon’s Seal with a variegated Pieris and beyond in the distance,  a couple of rhododendrons.

Woodland with cow parsley

Cow parsley has jumped into the woodland from the grass verges outside on the road through the village, where it forms a lovely frothing, billowing cloud, along with red campion and bluebells.


All the rhododendrons shown have been underplanted with snowdrops and this one has Erythroniums as well so there is interest from the middle of January.


I have never known this one to flower before, I told it, it’s days were numbered and it has responded as never before!

By swinging seat

Over to the centre of the garden where the dead oak is and this Azalea has been planted by  the swinging seat, the perfume when I sit here for morning coffee is absolutely wonderful.

By swinging seat

In the same area is Azalea Homebush in front of Viburnum plicatum Mareseii, lovely perfume from this azalea too.


The other side of the swinging seat, in the centre of the border is another perfumed deciduous azalea, such a strong perfume to this one, Rhododendron luteum. It will grow to about 8ft and 6ft wide and will fill the centre of the bed, so I must resist the temptation to plant anything precious near it. Strangely it has its autumn colouring to the leaves, maybe it doesn’t like the cold.

Azalea by steps

A japanese azalea in the back garden, by the alpine scree is such a bright pink, nothing can compete with it.

From the woodland

Even from the woodland, looking back into the garden, your eye is drawn to the japanese azalea first.

Azalea by steps

I think sunglasses are needed close to, the bees have certainly been enjoying it, maybe they don’t see it as the bright pink that we do!

All these wonderfully colourful flowers are thanks to the non stop rain we had last summer. The flower buds are formed then, but if there isn’t enough moisture then the plant aborts the buds which means hardly any flowers the following year, the same with camellias and other spring flowering shrubs. Normally as soon as we see the leaves looking stressed we fling buckets of water on their roots, but the damage is probably done then anyway because the following spring the flowering leaves a lot to be desired, not this year though, everyone’s happy!


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26 Responses to Big, bold and beautiful.

  1. Christina says:

    Sorry, I’m not a great rhodo fan; but then I’ve never had acid soil in any garden so they’ve never really been an option. You are very up to the minute with your cowparsley, I think every garden at Chelsea had some this year! Christina

    • Pauline says:

      The cow parsley jumped in uninvited Christina, I must remember to dead head it before the seeds form, otherwise we will have it everywhere!
      I knew some people wouldn’t be fans of rhodos, but they are making such a statement this year with so many flowers, I just couldn’t ignore them any longer, on good thing to come from last year’s downpour!

  2. pbmgarden says:

    Pauline, I adore your Rhododendrons and Azaleas. Magnificent color. I used to have 5-6 azaleas at my former garden and I really miss them here, but there is too much sun and the deer enjoy them too much.

    • Pauline says:

      PBM, that’s one thing we can’t complain about here, too much sun!! As you know, we have a lot of shade, and they seem very happy in half shade/ half sun. We sometimes see deer on the field next door and so far they have only been on the driveway, thank goodness! Such a shame you can’t grow rhodos and azaleas any more, they certainly bring eye popping colours to the garden at this time of year.

  3. kininvie says:

    I’m in two minds about rhodos, and I’m trying to sort my two minds out before writing about them. They can mess up your garden so easily if they are in the wrong place, because the colour dominates so much. But they take so long to flower, that you don’t know what effect they’ll have until it’s too late to move them. Also, even the supposedly hardy ones are hellish vulnerable to a late frost…

    • Pauline says:

      The colour only dominates for about a month Kininvie, after that plants in front take over. I have to say that mine have flowered from the day I bought them, I think a lot of breeding has taken place to ensure this but even so, they are one of the easiest shrubs to move because of their shallow root system, if you have planted them in the wrong place, as I have a couple of times. I agree that the late frosts that you have could be a problem, but thankfully, not one that we have here.

  4. I wish they were a little hardier, as my garden has enough part shade sites for them, but the winter is too cold. the first one is particularly pretty with the soft pink colour. Your second last picture showing the view across the garden to the other bed is lovely. You have some nice sweeping views.

    • Pauline says:

      I would imagine NS, that the cold and your deep snow would be a problem for them, such a shame when you have so much shade that they would like. Thank you for your lovely comment about the garden, it was all wall to wall grass when we moved in 23 yrs ago, bit by bit I carved out the beds that we have now!

  5. Helen says:

    Well at least all the rain does have some good effects. I don’t grow rhodos but have one camellia which I adore, and it also really appreciates the wet weather. Funnily enough, this is the wettest and coldest spring for 38 years or so, here, but in the flower garden plants are as large as hardly ever before, my day-lilies are huge this year, the veg patch, though, that is a totally different story. Everything is sulking, just sitting there not doing much but trying to avoid getting eaten by the slugs. The view across your garden really is lovely, it must be very satisfying seeing how all your hard work has been rewarded.

    • Pauline says:

      Yes Helen, we have to be thankful for the rain, though at the time it seemed never ending didn’t it! The plants seem able to cope with whatever nature throws at them, they are amazing. Some plants are about a month late coming into flower, I still have some daffodils flowering and its June tomorrow! I have to admit that sometimes I wander round the garden thinking everything is looking so pretty, but most of the time I just see the weeds and the work that needs doing, pity!!

  6. Gitte says:

    I also like the vibrant colours of rhododendrons and azaleas. I only have 3 rhododendrons. They are also nice when they are not flowering. A friend of mine gave me a Rh. Luteum and the perfume from it is wonderful.

    • Pauline says:

      So glad Gitte, that you are a rhodo fan! I agree, they form a nice evergreen backdrop to the planting in front when they have finished wowing us with their wonderful colours. Rh. luteum has a fantastic perfume, doesn’t it, with 2 perfumed azaleas planted either side of the swinging seat, morning coffee is bliss!

  7. All are lovely, but the yellow with pink-blushed buds is absolutely dreamy.

    • Pauline says:

      I thought that one was just a bit different Marian, when I bought it years ago. I’m now thinking that it looks like the colours of a sunset, so am adding more flowers to blend in with it and carry the theme on through the year.

  8. Alberto says:

    Hi Pauline! Honestly I’m not really into rhodos or azaleas, mainly because I can’t even think to grow such plants in my garden but I also admit I am one of those considering azaleas somehow old-fashioned plants. Indeed I love the yellow ones (both the rhodo and the azalea), they have a cheerful shade of yellow, and I didn’t know they are scented too, I wish I could sit down there for coffee and enjoy the sight of your garden with you, I’m a little envious! 🙂

    • Pauline says:

      The deciduous azaleas Alberto, are the scented ones and they also have lovely autumn tints. The west side of the UK is where most of the rhodos are found, anywhere with acid soil and plenty of rain to keep them happy! Any time you wish to join me for coffee, you are welcome Alberto!

  9. Cathy says:

    The colours, Pauline!! Fantabulous! If you have a big garden like yours and my friends then it is easier to stand back and admire them, and I am rather sorry that people have such mixed opinions of them. Mine are meant to be more compact varieties and I do keep them restricted to the woodland and the woodland edge border, where I don’t think anyone could say the colours were too bright. Do remind me about watering once we get into the summer, as after this year’s showing I would love to have a repeat performance next year.

    • Pauline says:

      The ones that I have bought Cathy, are supposed to stay fairly small, the couple that were already here are having to be cut back every few years so that I don’t have to move the path again! I quite enjoy the bright colours, it’s only for a few weeks anyway, the garden can have more tastefull, harmonious colours for the rest of the year! I think in the past, I have left it too late to start putting water on the rhodos, if we have a decent summer,(please let it be so!) I will try to remind both of us, because the difference has been absolutely amazing. It’s been good that something beautiful has come from all that rain last year.

  10. Angie says:

    You’ve some lovely colours going on there Pauline. I have a few Rhods and Azaleas too – the fact that they don’t flower for too long makes them a bit more easy to live with.
    I love that Vibirnum you’ve got growing. Thank you for naming it, another added to my ever extending wish list!!
    Generally here in Scotland we don’t need to worry much about lack of water during the summer! My Camellias, Pieris and Leucothoe have all failed to flower this year – I doubt drought is too blame!!

    • Pauline says:

      I agree Angie, we must enjoy them for the short time they are with us. Viburnum Maresii is a lovely shrub with horizontal layers, it does grow rather wide with age but takes pruning well, if done sympathetically!
      Sorry to hear that your shrubs haven’t flowered this year, could all the frost and snow that you suffered from be to blame?

  11. Hi Pauline, I got rid of a lot of rhodos when I arrived here, they were all a strong red which I am not a fan of and planted in inappropriate places. Besides, my soil is the alkaline side of neutral, and I am not in to changing soil aciditity locally just to grow particular plants. But – and it is a big but – I really love your rhodos in the woodland setting, they are surrounded by suitable companions and the colours go well together, so the overall effect is rather wonderful. A case of right plant right place.

    • Pauline says:

      I think a woodland setting is the right place for them too Janet, that’s where they originate in China and Tibet, when they are surrounded by green, they aren’t the least bit garish. I’m not surprised you got rid of yours, they really aren’t a seaside plant, I would have done the same!

  12. Anna says:

    Oh you have some beauties there Pauline. I was absolutely astounded by the colour and the scent provided by the rhododendrons and azaleas when we visited Hodnet Hall Gardens at the weekend. There was a most deliciously perfumed yellow one which I think may well be luteum. Do you grow any climbers up them e.g. clematis to provide colour later in the season?

    • Pauline says:

      From what I remember Anna, the Azaleas and rhododendrons at Hodnet are magnificent, I bought the azalea Homebush from there and it’s perfume is delightful. No , I don’t grow any climbers over them, but have lots planted in front, for colour later on, they in their turn provide an evergreen background to set the flowers off nicely, or that’s what I think anyway!

  13. wellywoman says:

    For me I think rhodos need a certain type of setting to work and they work perfectly in your garden. It’s a garden with lots of trees that recreates the feel of their natural habitat. I love seeing them in the valley gardens of Cornwall because they seem to fit so well. I’m less keen when they are just plonked somewhere but that goes for many plants. I often think the scent aspect of them is overlooked though. I’ve smelt some amazing ones.

    • Pauline says:

      Lots of green is needed WW, to surround rhodos so the colour doesn’t hit you in the eye! The perfume from the azaleas is really fantastic, coffee time has another dimension at the moment, it won’t last long, so we are enjoying it while we can!

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