The plant of the month for April is the rhododendron, coming into full and spectacular flower from this month onwards. It's a great time of year to go garden visiting and enjoy some of the country's most famous displays: among the best are at Bodnant, in Conwy, Wales, Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire; Exbury Gardens in Hampshire and Caerhays Castle in Cornwall.
Once you're home you can create a display all your own. Rhododendrons need acidic soil to thrive, so if yours is neutral to alkaline opt for a smaller variety and grow them in tubs of ericaceous (acidic) compost. Good choices are the early-flowering “Christmas Cheer”, which reaches about 1.2m with pink-tinged white flowers, and any of the dwarf yakushimanum hybrids: 'Koichiro Wada' is white emerging from salmon-pink buds, while 'Fantastica' is a frilly electric pink.
In gardens on acid soil, the choice is huge. 'Gomer Waterer' is a gentle lilac; 'Albert Schweitzer' is soft pink; and for real pizazz try 'Lee's Scarlet', with crimson-pink, speckled flowers. Rhododendrons are easy to care for, needing no pruning: just choose a damp spot in part shade, and keep container-grown specimens well watered using rainwater if possible. Then all you need to do is sit back and enjoy those spring fireworks.
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