The Thoroughbreds of the Plant World

The Thoroughbreds of the Plant World

28th May 2018

On the one hand, I always feel sad when the Cherry blossom has faded, but then I notice that a most wonderful show of colour is just beginning if I cast my gaze just a little lower.

I am referring to Azaleas and Rhododendrons. Now people get confused and mixed up as to which is which, but it’s very simple really:-  All Azaleas are actually Rhododendrons but not all Rhododendrons are Azaleas……. Oops, that’s probably even more confusing, so let’s just say that Azaleas are a sub-species of Rhododendrons.

For decades we were told that we couldn’t grow Rhododendrons in Kildare because the ground was too limey. Come to the Japanese Gardens and you’ll kick that theory out the window.

We have the most beautiful hybrid Rhododendrons, Japanese Azaleas and Exbury (Knaphill) Azaleas in full flower at the moment as though they want to let everyone know that there’s more to this garden that Cherry blossoms and Maples.


It is quite true that Azaleas and Rhododendrons will not thrive if the PH (limeyness… Is this a word?) of the soil is high, but if you want to grow them don’t let that stop you. You can quite easily reduce the PH of your soil by a couple of methods;

  1. Add in lime free compost and apply ericaceous feed regularly

   Or………. The old fashioned way;

  1. Put a few rusty nails in the soil around each bush and every time it rains they will oxidise and put iron into the ground thus dropping the PH.


Please ignore anyone who tells you to dig a big hole, line it with plastic and fill it with peat to make a bed for the Rhododendrons. This just makes a bog garden, which will certainly not grow Rhodos.

Loath though I am to say any time in the Japanese Gardens is lovelier than any other, I must admit that if it’s colour you’re looking for, this is definitely the time to visit.


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