The Lure of Rhodies

The boys have been taking a writing class and an Ancient Literature class with a tutor in town this year. The home of the teacher has some beautiful landscaping that I get to admire twice a week when I take the boys to class.

Friday when they had their last class I happened to have my camera with me and couldn't resist taking some photos of the rhododendrons which are in full bloom right now.

The property is set back in an area nicely wooded with fir trees. The trees are underplanted with dozens of rhododendrons.

 In their native settings of Northwest mountain forests, rhodies grow in the shady protection of the fir trees. They are adapted to the dry conditions of summer and the snowy blankets of winter.

When we first came here to Oregon from the flat land Midwest I was immediately enamored with these evergreen shrubs that flower spectacularly in the late spring. They were the very first thing I planted in my gardens. My native Northwestern friends think they are common but I had never seen shrubs like these before and thought they were so beautiful with their large showy clusters of blooms. In Portland there are many old rhodies as tall as houses.

There are many colors, mostly shades of pinks, lavenders and whites but occasionally deep purples, reds and yellows.  The first summer we were here I heard that rhodies could be dug out of certain areas of the national forest for transplanting. I immediately got a permit and a map from the forest service to dig myself some free rhodies. The permitted areas were along  mountain logging roads where shrubs could be removed to keep the roads clear. I packed up the kids and a shovel and drove for miles on many bumpy  and somewhat dangerous logging roads looking for wild rhododendrons. I never found a single one in the permitted areas. Someone neglected to tell me that all the available plants had already been taken out.

But I quickly learned that buying nursery grown rhododendrons was easy and economical so I started acquiring them at the local plant sales.
This is the first one I planted, under the tall Douglas fir in the front yard, and it is now five feet tall and eight feet wide. I have planted many more over the years.

This year I planted these three near that first one and I'm sure these won't be the last rhodies that I plant. To me they are just irresistible.