Saving a 100+ Years Old Rhodie

Rhododendrons are abundant here in the Pacific Northwest.  I’ve got them in my yard.  I like them especially when the flower for about 2 weeks in the spring.   Most of the time though, they just sit there as shrubs in the background and there’s nothing too special about them.  When I get a call to save a rhodie from their yard I would typically turn it down unless it’s got a special character or uniqueness to it.  Not long ago, I got that call from my brother who is a contractor.  He is remodeling an old house for my aunt that will be flipped.   They want to get rid of a very large rhodie in the front because it’s blocking the front of the house and frankly making the house look small (not very good for reselling) so they want to get rid of the rhodie.  What rhodie will make a house look small?  It’s a rhodie that’s at least 100 years old (at least according to the former owner of the house).   When I saw that rhodie, I can believe that claim.  The trunk of the tree is  close to 2 ft wide.   Although rhododendrons mean “Rose Tree”, they usually are sold as shrubs in nurseries.  For a shrub to grow this big it would have taken a very long time to get there.  A photo of the tree shows my crew dwarf by this tree.

Unfortunately, I could not keep the tree as a whole since transporting it would have been much more difficult and expensive.  I had to selectively remove many branches in the hope to regrow new ones and create a more compact tree in the future.  Knowing what I know about rhodies through bonsai, they grow new shoots readily at the lower trunk and branches.    I kept some higher foliage on branches I know I want to keep to provide me options in the future.  I also know that rhodies have fine roots closer to the nebari and therefore I’m confident in reducing the root ball into a much smaller and manager size.   It took 4 guys to dig it and a fork lift to load and unload the tree.   It’s moved into a temporary spot in the ground.  Depending on what it will do in spring then further pruning or work will be done then.  I’m hoping it will recover well.  This tree is a rare specimen.  My thought is a large bonsai or small landscape specimen tree. My aunt said this rhodie have purple flowers.


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