The Regal Rhody
By Laura Swanson
Published: 02/16/2010  Updated: 08/14/2019
photo by Sue Owens

If there is such a thing as a "perfect" plant for coastal gardens, surely rhododendrons would be at the top of the list.

One of the first bloomers in spring, rhododendrons are a mainstay for coastal gardens. The recognizable shrub has big, leathery leaves, usually evergreen, with rounded clusters of stunning white, pink, red or purple blossoms.

The Pacific Rhododendron, state flower of Washington, ranges from shoreline pine groves to the slopes of the Cascades. The bushes produce a spectacular floral display in late spring and provide wonderful glimpses of pink to rose-purple color to our forests.

Rhododendrons range in size from dwarf varieties that are a few inches tall, to giants that reach 40 or even 80 feet in their native Southeast Asia. Color ranges include scarlet, yellow, near-blue, and an array of blends of orange, apricot and salmon.

Part of the heath family of shrubs and trees, rhododendrons prefer acidic soil, ample water and aeration, growing best in filtered shade with constantly moist soil and humid air. With several rhododendrons in your garden, you can have blooms from early spring through summer.

There are several coastal gardens featuring rhododendrons that are well worth a visit. The Connie Hansen Garden Conservancy in Lincoln City features a 50+ year-old Rhododendron 'Cynthia' planted by the original property owner. Connie Hansen purchased the property in the 1970s and developed an ongoing interest in rhododendrons, scalping away the sod and creating bed after bed for her newfound treasures, collecting the common hybrids and unusual species wherever she found a new name. Azaleas and heathers caught her eye as well, and combine beautifully with her beloved rhodies. The garden is open from dawn to dusk daily for unguided tours. Stop by at 1931 NW 33rd Street in Lincoln City for a tour.
The Regal Rhody