Thursday, 4 July 2013

Rhododendrons (04 JUL 2013)

Another failed cutting …  do you detect a theme developing ?

 
 
There were a variety of rhododendrons from which I had a choice to take cuttings. For example, the orange-flowered variety with variegated leaves, which if I remember correctly was the one which I transported back from the Chelsea flower show sale after being dragged there by my mother to serve as a courier. I wasn’t so interested in gardening then.
 
However, I chose the pink variety because it reminds me of a magical place that I visited and fell in love with, returning every year since  ... 

 
Forty Hall was built in the mid-17th century and stands on Forty Hill in the Greater London Borough of Enfield. Its land is now a public park which literally is in “EndField” as the M25, a major motorway directing traffic around the capital, is just a mile or two away. 
 
 
There are many cultivated rhododendrons in the gardens immediately around Forty Hall, but these are not the ones that I’m thinking of. Behind is a huge field lined by trees on each side. Archaeological findings suggest that this was actually an avenue leading to a royal palace directly opposite, which was mentioned in 1381.

 
I’ll always remember the first time that my friend T proposed a visit to the site where the historical palace once stood. We had a cup of tea at the Forty Hall café, walked down the field/avenue to what looked like the bottom edged by a wood. He then headed towards a partially-hidden dirt track to the left of a non-descript tree, which led us down a bank to another dirt track which encircled a secret lake, known only to us and a couple of dog-walkers ....  That was what I imagined, until we later returned and I noticed a sign-post to The Lakes pointing vaguely over there.

I didn’t have a camera that day, but it seemed like the whole lake was surrounded by a garland of rhododendrons.


 
When I checked the internet, I couldn’t find any photos with the exact image I saw. I’ve visited annually since, trying to catch that same moment in time. Last year I was too impatient, we made the trip when the rhododendrons in the garden started flowering, but by the lake they were still in bud. This year (when all the photos in this post were taken) some shrubs were in flower but still not quite as spectacular as I remembered.
 
The local council had spent lottery money on renovating Forty Hall which included health and safety modifications to the dirt track which, sadly, made it look more official. I’m sure I didn’t hear M25 traffic the first time.

Rhododendron ponticum was native in Britain before the Ice Age. Specimens from the Mediterranean or Asia were re-introduced in Victorian times when they were valued as ornamental plants in country estates with the advantage of providing shelter for game birds. However, as time passed they proved to be invasive in the relatively moist, post-ice-age, British conditions due to their tendency for lateral growth, brightly-coloured flowers which captivate pollinators, toxicity (not only to wildlife but to surrounding germinating plants), and their role in aiding and abetting the phytophthora plant-destroying fungus. These rhododendrons need to be culled regularly by volunteers. I didn’t know all of this when I was introduced.


 
Unfortunately, I am already smitten ... 

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13 comments:

debsgarden said...

Beautiful! A lake surrounded by a garland of rhododendrons sounds like a setting from paradise! I love rhododendrons, though most will not grow well in my climate. Their cousins the azaleas do much better.

croftgarden said...

I love the idea of a lake garlanded by flowers.
When it comes to R.ponticum, and for that matter Gunnera, Himalayan Balsam and Crocosmia, it is a case of right plant,right place. Fine in gardens but invasive weeds capable of immense damage elsewhere.

Mark and Gaz said...

It's a lovely plant, no wonder you're smitten!

Patty said...

Looks like a magical place. I certainly can see why you are smitten. Once smitten there is no going back.

linniew said...

You do well to follow your heart, in gardening just like everything else! Beautiful pictures and memories. You will prevail with the cuttings.

Tim Havenith said...

The theme I detect is that of the wonderful trait of perseverance- I'm sure you'll get there with the cutting. I'm sure JD Hooker would be happy to have another Rhododendron convert.

Alistair said...

B-a-g, we are like minded today talking of Rhododendrons, mind you, no way could I compete with the glorious settings which you show us. Ponticum, I must say I miss it from our countryside.

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

I know you will be successful...you are not one to chuck it in. I can see why you are smitten both with the place and flower. I will have to remember this place as I hope to visit beautiful gardens in Britain in the future.

HELENE said...

Hi, there can be many reasons to why your rhododendron cutting has failed, but from your photo I can suggest a few things for you.

First of all, for best result, choose a semi soft cutting, not hard wood, as the harder the wood, the less likely it is to root. Remove the top growth and leave just a few leaves. Wound the end of the cutting by a cut on each side, about 1.5 cm long, this will encourage root formation. Dip the cutting in rooting powder and place it in a in a pot with good compost mixed with perlite or grit, place two or three bamboo stakes taller than the cutting, leaning slightly outwards, water in and place a plastic bag over. Put a rubber band around to hold the plastic bag. Make sure the bag does not touch any of the leaves. Place the pot in a shady corner of your garden out of the sun and check regularly that it doesn’t dry out. The compost should be moist but not soggy. The cutting might lose all the leaves but that doesn’t mean it won’t root. Be patient, it can take up to 12 months to root and develop new leaves! When I make cuttings I always expect at least 50% to fail so if I want 1 plant I make 4 cuttings, if I want 2 plants I make 8 cuttings and so on – although sometimes I have better luck and get 100% success, some plants are much easier to propagate than other. You can place many cuttings in the same pot, place them around the edge of the pot as they root better if they are in contact with the pot, just make sure you wrap the plastic in such a way that it doesn’t touch the leaves. When the cutting has developed new, healthy leaves, tease the cuttings apart and re-pot each cutting into single pots. Don’t make the cuttings too big, the bigger they are the more nutrition is needed to support the cutting until the roots are developed.

Another way of propagating rhododendron is layering, if you have the mother plant for example in your garden or have access to it. You can find good instructions on how to do that on the Internet, I haven’t tried that myself yet but it’s one of the things I would like to try. It seems like a more safe method for rhododendrons, which are slower to root than many other plants. Good luck!

Cathy and Steve said...

I agree! Complete and total paradise... rhodies surrounding a lake. Thanks for reminding me that I have room for a few more of these beauties in our woodland grove!

b-a-g said...

Thanks all for your comments.

Helene - You must have just got back from hospital. Thanks for the guidelines, now I understand - it's not as simple as snipping, sticking into the soil and hoping for the best (though amazingly that did work with the hydrangea cutting). I'm going to try your method and I'll report back.

HELENE said...

The propagation instructions I gave you was specifically for rhododendrons, but can be used for other evergreens and woody perennials, other plants are easier to propagate and can be done just like your hydrangea, snip off an end and stick it in a pot!
If you Google how to propagate each individual plant you will find good instructions, that’s how I have learned :-)

Pam's English Garden said...

Beautiful posting, b-a-g. I just read Alistair's posting, so now you two have me checking out more Rhododendrons for my garden. P. x

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