UCCE Master Gardeners of Sacramento County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of Sacramento County

Chasing Springtime

photos by Lanie and Jenny Keystone

Driving North on I-5 in mid-May is akin to chasing springtime.  Especially when one begins in Solano County, where most of the beautiful spring blooms have already been spent or wind-blown from the trees--making way for their bright green spring leaves.  But as you wend your way up through California's northern counties, past Oregon, into Washington, and on into Canada, those 900 miles keep revealing the unfolding wonders of spring all along the way up.

That's exactly the journey my husband and I  took two weeks ago on our way to “Beautiful British Columbia”.  It is here, near Vancouver in the city of Surrey/Ocean Park, that we hope to adventure for the next few months.  And, chasing the spring blooms up the spine of our I-5 route didn't disappoint for even one mile.

Dogwood

We each had our favorites.  His were the Dogwoods, with their horizontally planed branches of white and pink flowers, shyly peeking out from forests and residential landscapes.  Mine were much bolder and showier—the dramatic Rhododendrons!  Some were such showstoppers that we thought someone had made the most intensely colored crepe-paper blooms and tacked them onto shrubs.  But, of course, they were natural and real and so welcoming.

Because the Pacific Northwest and BC have so much moisture and rain, when springtime comes, the Rhododendrons are ready to put on their show of shows without much effort.  The shrubs are huge (sometimes taller than the homes they adorn) and laden with bowers of blossoms. Some are even tree-like as you can see.

Can we grow Rhododendrons in Solano County and enjoy their beauty?  The answer is yes.  It just takes a bit more effort and forethought—not to mention water! 

Since Rhododendrons have no taproots, when one takes them out of their pots, you will find many fibrous roots that do not root very deeply.  Thus the root zone may dry out in our hot, dry weather.  So, the need for great attention to watering is most important.  The first year of transplanting is the most critical.  This is when they can act like cranky, thirsty children!  One good way to temper the need for watering is to mulch the plants deeply and make sure to pull any weeds growing near them.  Other needs are acidic soil and partial shade. 

Rhododendrons are not your California drought-tolerant natives!  And, they may not grow as large or as effortlessly as their British Columbia cousins. However, with proper care, when planted in our California zone, the blooms will still be beautiful--showing off the same vibrant shades of pink, red, lavender, white or deep purple. Once the blossoms have dropped and created a lovely, though momentary cover of color on the ground around them, the sturdy, leather-leaved shrubs will handsomely anchor any favorite landscape.  If you are attracted to these beautiful plants, then it's certainly worth the effort to grow them in your own environment.

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Posted on Thursday, June 6, 2024 at 10:07 AM

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