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The plant of the month for April is the rhododendron

31 March 2015

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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