Forgiving the Rhododenron

August 31, 2008

Relocating to New England from England about four years ago seemed, at the time, (and often still does) like the landscape equivalent of a chef moving from Paris to Poughkeepsie.

More than anything, I get frustrated by the overuse of a relatively small palette of plants.

The primary target of my irritation is the rhododendron. At first I vowed to never use them, rip them out at every opportunity, and speak with every grower about the need to diversify. But with time, I have remembered that at Kew Gardens outside of London, The Rhododendron Dell was a magical place that was celebrated and visited by people far and wide. And I loved it too.

Here in New England, rhododendrons are ubiquitous. They are used as foundation plantings at every turn, often cited where they have little chance of success, and mostly in the most disgusting shades of candy or baby pink. They inevitably clash with the adjacent house or building color.

But as I have mellowed into my new life and home, I have come full circle again on the rhododendron – but only in good colors.  And only if I am really celebrating them for what they can do (grow in the shade and provide an excellent green backdrop or screening).  I vow to only plant them sparingly and smartly.

I found this cover of Selvedge (an amazing publication about textiles) so inspirational. It feeds my passion for fashion and gardening. And the color of those rhododendrons is just Mwah! (insert fingertip kissing hand gesture – like a true Paris chef).

And I can’t help but note the wildness and the grape hyacinths at the bottom left.  It is an enviable combination.  Forgiving the rhododenron - a beautiful cover from selvedge magazine


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