Large Shrub or Small Tree?

There is a Rhododenron for every size garden. You may have a too large rhododendron that requires an annual pruning to keep it at a reasonable size. Unless the rhody is too close to your foundation or otherwise gets in the way, or pruning puts you in the zen zone, there’s a better way than wrestling with size reduction. Instead, consider embracing its ultimate size and “arborize” it, i.e., limb it up and turn it into a structural, small, evergreen tree; one that offers a month worth of luscious blooms and a year-round presence.

This time of year is perfect for enjoying the vast variety of the genus Rhododendron, from species to gloriously exotic. Most of us have more mundane rhodys that came with the house. Case in point: I have three large rhodys in the 6-10 foot wide strip of soil between my driveway and my neighbor’s driveway. They are interplanted with large, awkward-looking ornamental cherry trees (lovely in bloom, but they offer little value during the rest of the year). In the next year or two, the cherries will likely be removed, at which time we can begin to shape the rhodys into “replacement” trees.

I fell in love with the large and fragrant Rhododendron loderi ‘King George’ at the Cecil and Molly Smith Garden in St. Paul, Ore. And of course the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden offers months of stunning blooms, excellent for inspiration and taking colorful “selfies.”