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  • Why did you name the nursery Chimacum Woods when you’re not in Chimacum?
    When we named the nursery in 1976, we were in Chimacum and we haven’t moved in 45 years. Chimacum moved, thanks to the mail ladies who decided to rearrange things based on their routes. We are not really in Port Ludlow either. We are south of the Hood Canal Bridge on the Olympic Peninsula side. Please click on location to see where we really are.
  • Can we visit the nursery and do we need an appointment?
    Yes, you are welcome to come to the nursery, but we would like to know when you plan to arrive, as we are not a standard garden center with posted hours. We are happy to set up a time that works for you, including weekends. Please call 206-383-2713 to set up a time for your visit.
  • Are you really going to spray the soles of my shoes when I arrive?
    Yes, we are trying to prevent the spread of dangerous plant diseases such as phytophthera ramorum. We will spray the soles of your shoes with isopropyl alcohol, as this is what the USDA has recommended.
  • What’s the difference between a hybrid and a species rhododendron?
    Species rhododendrons are plants that occur in the northern hemisphere around the globe growing all on their own. No human planted them and no human tends them. Hybrid rhododendrons are plants that have been produced originally from species by humans who have attempted to improve on Mother Nature. Once more than one species is used to create a new plant, it’s a hybrid. Species rhododendrons always have Latin/Greek sounding names (that are sometimes hard to pronounce or remember). Hybrids have names from the vernacular that are good for marketing and easier to remember, e.g. Teddy Bear, Morning Sunshine, etc.
  • Why are Chimacum Woods plants sold in nominal two-gallon size pots or larger?
    By having grown to this size, our plants are ready to plant in your garden and have a better chance of survival than smaller-sized plants. Because they have been grown from seed, our plants are at least five years old — or older! Plant hardiness and vigor seem to increase with age.
  • Can you recommend a fertilizer and a frequency?
    Around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, use any fertilizer labeled specifically for rhododendrons. Follow instructions on the package, sprinkling it out at the drip line (the outer circle made by the branches). Don’t pile it around the trunk. If not sure how much, give less rather than more. Rhody roots are at the surface and can burn if you pile the fertilizer on. Don’t work the fertilizer in to the soil, because you will chop up the fine roots on the surface.
  • How often is “gentle watering?” I’m not sure exactly what that means.
    Gentle watering means: rhodies prefer to stay moist but they don’t want to drown. So more frequent (daily if needed in the summer) light watering is better than once-a-week flooding. You will know the plant needs water if the leaves are drooping. If your plant is in a container, don’t waterlog it. Also, be sure your plant is in an area that drains (e.g. not sitting on a bed of hard clay that would trap the water around the roots). For the first year, make sure that the root ball is actually getting wet. Check by sticking your finger gently into the root ball area. If you are just transplanting a plant, it will take a little time to expand its roots into your soil, but right now all it has is what came out of the pot.
  • We heard that summer is not the best time to plant rhodies. If so, do we just leave them in their pots until September or so?"
    Rhodies from containers can be planted any time of the year. So this is a fine time to plant them and they will be happier out of the pots than in them. You simply have to pay a bit more attention to watering through the summer months, whereas if you plant in the fall, Mother Nature most likely will do the watering for you. But, go ahead and plant yours now!
  • Is it ok if we plant our rhody in an area that DOES get direct sunlight (well, over the summer anyway)? Or should we try to put them under eaves, or something like that?"
    Rhodies will take a fair amount of direct sun here in the Northwest. The basic principle is not to cook them. If their leaves start to sunburn, you can seek more shade. The toughest sun is full, direct sun from noon to 5 p.m. Putting them under the eaves is not the best idea, because if they are a large species, they will get too big too close to your house.
  • Is it OK to plant our rhododendron under a tree?
    Our rhodies thrive under a woodland canopy and it’s inevitable that they will end up next to trees whose roots extend into the rhodie area. Rhodies are quite social and play well with others. In the wild they often grow among the trees. Many of our rhodies are doing well in the full sun, so it’s important to know the likes of your species. Remember that rhodies are easily moved, even when they get bigger, because their roots are fairly shallow. So, if your plant is not happy, you can move it.
  • Do I have to water my rhododendron?
    Yes. There is no such thing as a drought-tolerant, desert loving rhododendron. Here in the Northwest, Mother Nature usually does the watering for us for most of the year, but all rhodies need summer water (even our native R. macrophyllum has had trouble in the droughts of the past decade). The good news: rhodies do not need tons of water; they prefer more frequent sips, and so drip systems work quite well and do a good job of conserving water.
  • Why do you suggest Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day for applying fertilizer?
    By giving fertilizer early in the season, you provide the plant with nutrients for its upcoming growth cycle. By fertilizing in May, you provide nutrients for setting flower buds for the following spring. You don’t want to fertilize in the fall because that might spur new growth which would not harden up in time for winter.
  • When’s the best time to move a rhododendron?
    Rhododendrons, even big ones, can usually be moved fairly easily because they are surface rooters. If you have watered well during the summer, fall is a great time to move them because the upcoming rains will help them settle in to their new spots. Try to take a root ball that reaches to the drip line (outermost edges of the leaves). It doesn't have to be super thick but do get as many roots as possible.
  • We have clay. Can you tell me how to amend it?
    Lucky you. You will never have to dig a hole again. Unless you are going to amend every square foot of your garden, all you will do is create a bathtub designed to drown your rhododendron. Instead, plant on top of your clay pit. Put down a layer of sharp rock for drainage, then place a good soil on top of that and put your rhody on top of that, mounding up to the top of the root ball.
  • When’s the best time to prune a rhododendron? How do I keep them from becoming leggy?
    The best time is when it’s in full bloom. You can even bring any flower trusses you cut into the house to enjoy them. The plant should then put on new growth after trimming. Any time is a good time to cut away dead branches. A good way to “prune” is to pick out the center bud as it elongates in the spring if it’s just going to make a single shoot of new leaves. By doing this, you force the growth buds at the base of each leaf to develop into new branches, giving you a bushier plant. If it’s a flower bud, don’t touch it. Flower buds will generally be larger and rounder than leaf buds.
  • Do I have to dead-head (take off the old flowers of) my rhododendron?
    Only if you don’t like the looks when you don’t. Mother Nature does not employ dead-headers.
  • Can you recommend a good book about rhododendrons? There are so many rhody books out there!
    Visit the American Rhododendron Society (ARS) for some good recommendations.
  • Are there garden clubs specifically for rhododendrons?
    The American Rhododendron Society (ARS) has chapters in many locations in both the United States and Europe. Attending a meeting will introduce you to all sorts of interesting people with questions and answers much like yours. Membership also includes a subscription to their quarterly Journal. This publication offers a wide range of articles covering all aspects of the genus Rhododendron.
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