Rhododendrons With Winter Buds - Backyard Shade Garden - February 2024

The neglected rhododendrons (they're only neglected because they have - imho - failed to live up to their promise) are back with buds that were set in Fall and (hopefully) have made it through the thick of winter temperatures.  

The pair of Rhododendons were planted on either side of our back stoop and sort of just were blah.  They started to get thin and decline.  Could be because of chipmunks eating away at their roots.  Or, could be they were were in the wrong spot.  I ended up digging them up and replacing them with a pair of handsome dwarf Spring Grove Ginkgos and I've been VERY happy about that move.  

Without much thought, I stuck them in around the small (immature) Dawn Redwood tree in the backyard.  That area is a sort-of no-man's land with nothing there on purpose, rather just the result of having 'available space' and plants that 'need a home'.  

They get a mix of shade and sun back there and since I water (with a sprinkler) that bed on-the-regular, they were getting a bit of water during the Summer heat.  That paid off with a little bit of late-Summer new growth - documented here.   Last Fall, they set buds and below you can see one of them standing proud:

Rhododendron Flower Bud In Late Winter - Zone 6A

I'd love NOTHING MORE than to see these evergreen (and semi-tropical-looking) shrubs to take off here.  Grow up and out and create a show along the fence.   I'm thinking that is going to start with me remembering to deadhead these.  To try to get the shrub to focus on foliage growth after the flowers expire.   

What I'm getting out of these (right now) are what I'd call 'bare legs' with a lot of woody stems with foliage bursts just on the tips/ends of them.  My plan (if I remember to do it) is to go in and deadhead these and cut down/prune away to where there are a set of small leaves/branches - in an attempt to get the shrubs to fill out a bit.  

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