It was a banner spring in area gardens and perhaps the most spectacular in recent memory for rhododendrons. From my own garden in Roland Park to fine gardens in Baltimore and Harford counties, rhododendrons produced huge, almost florescent blossoms and many on each bush.
Our ‘Catawba Album’ rhododendrons went in three springs ago. Three seems to be the magic number of years for plants to become established. This third cool, long spring, complete with a shot of warm weather, produced the best season of growth and blooms we have had.
This is the same hybrid that is a favorite of Jean and Sidney Silber, horticulturalists extraordinaire. Their 50-year old shrubs produce magical pink-to-white blooms that look like lanterns glowing down their long driveway.
Among hundreds of rhododendrons the Silbers have grown since establishing their gardens 50 years ago, is another favorite, ‘Nova Zembla.’ On a rainy spring afternoon those intense, pinkish-red globes beaconed visitors to forget the drizzle and take an unforgettable woodland walk.
The rhododendron is the state tree of Sikkim in Indian. It is no surprise that the Tsognie and Douglas Hamilton, with roots in that ancient country, have rhododendrons in a woodland area near their majestic pond and others throughout their stately gardens.
Harvey Ladew, of course, had rhododendrons too. The day I visited his now-famous topiary gardens no one was quite sure which hybrid towered behind his house, but it reminded me of ‘English Roseum’ or ‘Roseum Elegans.’ Looking at it stretch to the second floor of his house, I hoped that ours would also outlive us and continue to provide a floriferous screen along the ever-cacophonous Cold Spring Lane.