When Sir Joseph Hooker was collecting rhododendron seed in the Himalayas 150 years ago, he remarked that above 12,000 feet in Darjeeling, about three-quarters of all plants were rhododendrons. If Hooker were to walk through some neighborhoods in the Northwest or coastal Northern California today, he might make a similar observation―that three-fourths of all the flowering shrubs are rhodies. There's good reason for that. As landscape designer Beatrix Jones Farrand once noted, no other shrub compares with them for grand effect.
The photographs on the next 2 pages show some of the beautiful ways rhododendrons can be situated in various landscapes. The design challenges come in giving these bold evergreens enough shoulder room and keeping their flower colors from clashing.
As you choose among nursery plants in 2-gallon cans, remember that, with time, most will grow taller than you. So before you buy, ask the nursery staff about the plant's size at maturity.