Tag: Azaleas

Rhododendrons 101

Rhododendrons 101

DSCF7719Members and guests of Chester Garden Club’s were recently treated to an informative presentation by Cora Swinamer, president of the Atlantic Rhododendron and Horticultural Society.   Cora, whose firm Under the Arbor has been designing gardens for clients along Nova Scotia’s South Shore for over ten years, has a special fondness for Rhodos, which do particularly well in this climate.

In addition to many colourful slides* used to illustrate her talk, Cora handed out a list of the many varieties of  Rhodendrons and Azaleas that have been proven to be good performers in our province.

Rhodo "Hong Kong"
Rhododendron “Hong Kong”

The 39 rhododendrons listed were classed as either Elepidotes, which are the large-leaf plants, or Lepidotes, the small-leafed varieties;  or as Azaleas – either deciduous or evergreen.   As a tip and memory aid, Cora suggested that the spelling of Lepidote reminds many gardeners of the word “leprechaun”, and someone else chimed in that the initial letters of Elepidote resemble the start of the word “elephant”, so that it should be easy to remember which description fits which category in the future!

Azalea "Chelsea peach"
Azalea “Chelsea Peach”, with a white Azalea “Shanty” in the background

All the plants on the list were characterized as to zone tolerance, height, approximate bloom-time, and colour; qualities that are important considerations when selecting any plant for any garden.

Rhododendron "English roseum"
Rhododendron “English roseum”

Cora pointed out that site conditions are also important when choosing which plant to add to one’s garden. Rhodos require  soil with good drainage, thrive in acidic soil, and do well in some shade, although, in Nova Scotia, full sun exposure is not a problem.  A useful tip is that “the larger the leaf, the more shade the plant can tolerate.” Exposure to cold weather and stiff winds can cause broad-leafed plants to suffer so, in some cases, a deciduous azalea might be a better choice for planting since they drop their leaves in cold weather.

Azalea "Flame"
Azalea “Flame”

Cora’s presentation covered many aspects of tending to rhododendrons, including planting, mulching, dead-heading, pruning, and dealing with the one pest that seems to affect these plants: the Black Vine Weevil.  She also clarified the terms “tomentosum”  and “indumentum” –  the fine or matted wooly hair growing on the upper and under side of leaves of some varieties of rhodos. Several lucky members of the audience took home cuttings from a rhododendron branch that Cora had used in her presentation.

* Note:  The photos used in this post are not Cora’s but come from a Chester garden.

More Rain-splashed Rhododendrons

More Rain-splashed Rhododendrons

Continuing with more photos from Chester gardens on a rainy day, here is a close-up of an Azalea “Chelsea Reach”, which has a captivating perfume, even on a damp day.

Azalea "Chelsea Reach"
Azalea “Chelsea Reach”
A mass planting of three unidentified  rhododendrons
A mass planting of three unidentified rhododendrons

The gardener whose rhodos are shown in the photo above apologized for not remembering  the name of this particularly fragrant variety, and noted that they were bought years ago from the late Captain Dick Steele, who was known in Canada as the Rhododendron King.

An Azalea border
An Azalea border

un-named azaleaThe unidentified azaleas above and below were purchased through the Garden Club and from other local groups as part of fund-raising programs years ago.

azalea lemon colour

A spring garden vista includes an azalea, alliums and even perennial poppies in the distance.
A spring garden vista includes an azalea, alliums and even perennial poppies in the distance.
Colourful and Fragrant Blooms

Colourful and Fragrant Blooms

Perhaps inspired by the proliferation of blooms around them, Chester gardeners took advantage of warm weather last week to devote themselves to garden chores and to invest in yet another season’s worth of new plantings.  Some new plantings along with a few old favourites are featured in this post.   

Blue salvia

The first blossoms of a few blue Salvia plants (above) hold the promise of fuller blooms once the new plantings become established. Below, an Azalea (Brazil flame) was just beginning to open on May 31st and then, four days later it was in full bloom. 

Flame azalea


Rhododendrons and azaleas do very well in our climate. The white flowers below are on an Azalea named Chelsea Reach, which has a lovely fragrance.

Azalea (Shanty)

The name of the peach-coloured azalea below is lost in the mists of time but it too gives off a heavenly perfume as one walks by.


Although many lilacs are past their “best before” date, the pale pink variety seen below is just coming into its own and continues the scent-filled tradition of its mauve cousins. 

light pink lilac

Water gardens are sometimes overlooked in our area, perhaps because our daily lives are so marked by the vast ocean at our side. Instead, it is earthy garden beds, orchards and farms that dominate the landscape in our county.  There are, however, many ponds, marshes and lakes in the surrounding area and some gardeners have started to take an interest in water features for their gardens. The Iris pseudacorus (below) is an early bloomer, followed later in the summer by waterlilies.  (The fish are resident in the pond year-round.)

Iris pseudacorus (yellow)

Another yellow beauty in full bloom now is the unidentified shrub below. It started as merely a few cuttings from a friend’s garden. They took root, thrived, and developed into the exuberant plant we see below. The yellow flower heads are like pom-poms and I can’t find its likeness in my plant encyclopedia. If anyone can advise me of its botanical name I would be grateful.

Many gardeners of all interests and specialties will gather next weekend in the Annapolis Valley for the annual convention of the Nova Scotia Association of Garden Clubs. Guest speakers, tours of gardens and vineyards, as well as the opportunity to brouse vendors’ displays, will make for a busy program.