I’ve never been this close to a rhododendron before. And they are sitting in a vase on my dining table. How grown up is that?
Indeed; I have always associated these ‘rose trees’ with an older generation. My grandmother, my parents-in- law. Old. But it’s silly really. When you garden in a climate that is London – maritime, often damp, acid soil, then the mainly Asian species just thrive here. And add in way too shady gardens owing to stonking large trees then you have the perfect woodland scene for a bit of spring colour.
This garden I am tending here in London is chock full of shrubs. And it was only this time of year did I realize what the strange blob of massiveness in the far west corner of the garden was there for.
Reach for the sunglasses and be amazed. The flowers are huge. Gargantuan. And scented. I never knew. The blossoms actually appear as fat pink spears, and I looked on with a bit of anxiety when we first moved here.
Are we going to have a Barbara Cartland moment?
No. Brilliant white when mature. And they stay on the shrub for ages and ages. So I’m coming round.
But the rest of the year? Not madly me. Fat leathery leaves that seem to me frankly menacing in such a hulking mass. I must ask my mother whether I had a traumatic experience as a toddler getting lost in a rhododendron thicket in the huge garden at our farm.
I know my grandmother didn’t plant any ones with such garish colours as these at Kenwood in Hampstead Heath.
Mind you on our walk with Michaela, Christoph and David yesterday, that all-your-worst- nightmares lipstick orange compelled us to take that path and get a closer look.
Yep, not madly me. (I’m being polite; I think they are vile.)
I think it’s the proportion of colour in relation to the foliage. There’s just too much glare and not enough blend.
But what do I know? I’m not about to take up growing rhodies in a big way anytime soon.
I hauled out the metal table and chairs from the shed and found it really too rusted and sorry. What to do? Laboriously repair? Recycle it? Replace it? Or do what gardeners do – turn it into a staging area for springtime pots and plants.