Rhododendrons frame a stump beside a reflecting pool in John and Gael Dodd's garden in Langley, B.C.
Bordering a lawn are red 'Jean Marie de Montague' lavender-blue 'Fastuosum Flore Pleno' and pink 'Trude Webster'.
Rhodies for small spaces
Even if you only have a small space, it's usually possible to work a plant or two into the garden.
LOW BORDERS. Lower-growing rhododendrons (to 3 feet or less) are the ones to use in short borders along entry gardens or paths. These compact rhodies tend to have smaller leaves.
LIVING SCULPTURES. Place a small, shapely rhododendron as you would place a sculpture in your garden―at the ends of paths or in locations framed by larger plants.
ESPALIERS. Fortunately, most rhododendrons take well to pruning, so you can train them almost flat against a wall or fence. When you shop, try to find plants with a fan shape rather that a bush shape, so you'll have a head start on the training process.
Rhodies for grander shows
TALL BORDERS. Broad pathways and winding grass corridors look especially inviting when they're lined with tall rhododendrons (to 6 feet or taller). Grow such rhodies in places where trees rise above or behind them to provide scale.
NEAR THE WATER. Mass rhododendrons on the far side of a pool or pond so their flowers will be reflected in the water, doubling their impact. Just make sure the rhododendrons are planted well above the waterline; otherwise, the roots will rot in the saturated soil.
IN THE WOODS. Most hybrid rhododendrons trace their lineage to plants of the open forest, which makes them natural choices for woodland gardens. In low-maintenance areas, you can use rhodies to create an evergreen cover that goes well with ferns, ocean spray, and other native woodland plants.