For some reason, we’ve received a few queries recently about the right conditions for rhododendrons so we thought we’d put out a bit of advice (and by the way, azaleas are from the same family and the same goes for them).
- They don’t like full sun or deep shade. Somewhere in your garden where they get a little of both is great.
- They thrive in acidic soils. Compost and oak leaves prepare the ground really well.
- They need a lot of water. They have shallow root systems so make sure you water them when the topsoil is dry. If your plant isn’t flowering, it’s probably not getting enough water.
- Plant them in late spring or early autumn.
Here’s something Grandma Jard used to say: “A weed is just a plant in the wrong place.”
So one, if something looks nice where it is, you can probably leave it there! If everything looks good, it probably isn’t competing with the plants you already put there, and as long as you keep order, everything will be fine. It doesn’t matter whether your neighbour calls it a weed – if you like it, keep it. It clearly wants to grow there, which is more than you can say for a lot of other plants!
Secondly, if you look at something and it’s out of place – something you don’t recognise or something which spoils the pattern of your garden – then you know it’s a weed. No matter how rare it is or how difficult it might be to grow, you can feel totally justified in getting rid of it. (Though in some cases, you might want to try and move it to another part of the garden!)
We strongly believe that weeds are what you make of them so just go ahead and pull the ones you don’t like, and leave the ones you do!
The biggest question we get asked is how to safely move a plant without killing it. Aside from the obvious answer – ask us to come in and do it! – we can offer a few tips on this front. First: you have to pick the right time of year. Late winter or early spring are ideal, though the ground can be too hard and the plants too busy surviving if there’s any snow or frost. In mild weather, though, it should be fine – and make sure you start before the plant really gets into its growing, flowering or fruiting season. You can often google that kind of information for an individual plant if you want to make doubly sure you’re moving it at the right time.
The next thing to do is prepare a new hole for the plant in question. Make sure it’s nice and big, because you need to accommodate not just the plant you can see, but also the root mass hidden below-ground. Don’t plant it too near other shrubs and plants, or you’ll just have to move it again. Make sure you prepare this hole for the new plant: chop up any solid masses in there, add plenty of organic material to give nutrients to the soil, maybe even buy and add some compost to give it a head start.
Now you need to dig up the actual shrub. Leave plenty of room around the stem – the bigger the root mass you can preserve, the happier the plant will be in its new home. You may have to chop through particularly long and thick roots, but try to preserve as much as possible. The best thing to do is get a sheet of something like hessian and wrap it around the root ball. That means you can remove it all in one piece and move some of the soil with the plant too.
As soon as you’ve done that, it’s time to move the plant or shrub. Put it in the new hole, fill up around it with fresh soil, and water it well.
And that’s our secret!