Home My garden New evergreen shrubs: Rhododendron and Photinia

New evergreen shrubs: Rhododendron and Photinia

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Rhododendron Goldflimmer
Rhododendron Goldflimmer

Rhododendron Goldflimmer and Photinia Pink Crispy join my garden chaos

When I was younger, I hated evergreens.

I thought them dowdy, old-fashioned and laughable, probably because I grew up loving the Knights Who Say Ni! sketch in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. ‘We want… a SHRUBBERY!’

Evergreen shrubs to me brought to mind those packs of low-maintenance shrubs advertised in the Sunday Express… if you’re my age, you will know of what I speak.

Compact rhododendrons

However, every plant has its day. Evergreen shrubs need not be dullards of the 1970s anymore, with a huge variety of leaf shape, size colour and flowers to choose from.

Even my most hated shrub, the rhododendron, has so many good forms suitable for smaller gardens that I have bought one.

The vast forms I associate with huge gardens like Cragside and Harlow Carr have been scaled down to compact, free-flowering and dare I say it, the dark foliage rejuvenated.

Revamp step 1: hedge clipped, shrubs planted - the Arabis may have to go!
Revamp step 1: hedge clipped, shrubs planted – the Arabis may have to go!

Planting acid-loving rhododendrons

I chose Goldflimmer, which grows to 5ft x 5ft, with bright gold streaks on its foliage and large light purple flower clusters with yellow centres in May. It will tolerate partial shade.

It likes acid soil, so forget about it in a border if your soil is strongly alkaline and grow in a pot.

Mine is neutral, so I dug a larger than normal planting hole and filled it with ericaceous compost, raking in some slow-release acid fertiliser.

How to plant Photinia

My other buy was Photinia Pink Crispy, a change from the usual Red Robin. I’m a sucker for variegation – it has heavily marbled dark green and cream foliage with large bright pink new foliage in spring.

It’s a little bigger than the rhododendron, growing up to 6ft with a spread of just 3ft.

Photinia is tolerant of either acid or alkaline soils but they do like organic matter in the planting hole.

March 2017: Rosemary and rose, now gone, and surviving foxgloves have been replanted
March 2017: Rosemary and rose, now gone, and surviving foxgloves have been replanted

Long bed renovation

The newbies are part of a partial renovation of the long bed, which was last done five years ago.

Out went a scruffy broom, moth-eaten climbing rose and the rosemary, split in two by high winds. It was quite a task trying to plant through Euphorbia griffithii Fireglow’s spreading tentacles!

Colonising Campanula carpatica and Lysimachia were cleared back and surviving Candy Mountain and Summer King foxgloves were replanted in a group. They really didn’t seem to like this cold, damp winter!

Staying put are Rheum palmatum (ornamental rhubarb) and Chaenomeles japonica Jet Trail (Japanese quince).

The border as it was in May 2016: the ornamental rhubarb and Euphorbia are staying
The border as it was in May 2016: the ornamental rhubarb and Euphorbia are staying
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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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