For those who have always wanted a rhododendron grove on their property but have more time than money, here's the answer to your quandary.
If you have the time but not the money, you can save hundreds of dollars by starting your own rhododendrons from seed. The Atlantic Rhododendron and Horticultural Society holds an annual seed exchange sale featuring many rare species.
CARLA ALLEN PHOTO
The seed exchange for the Atlantic Rhododendron and Horticultural Society (ARHS) is now open to the public. Until March 31, seeds can be ordered from the webpage for very low prices, ranging from $2.50 each packet for seed collected wild, $2 for hand-pollinated and $1.50 for open-pollinated seed. The seed has been donated from collectors around the world.
In addition, there are rare perennial and shrub seeds available. These make good companion plants for rhododendrons and azaleas. Some of the species available include aconitum, allium, clematis, epimedium, lilium, magnolia and more.
Instructions for growing rhododendrons and azaleas from seed is provided on the ARHS website.
One method of growing rhododendrons and azaleas from seed is to start them inside in October/November and growing them under lights until late June. At that time they are gradually moved outside to a prepared nursery bed.
The young plants settle in over the summer and can spend the winter outside with minimal protection. Other growers start seeds in the spring (or late winter) with the result that their plants are somewhat smaller come summer. Many growers keep these little plants in a protected cold frame for the first winter.
Another method is to sow seed on top of moistened, chopped green sphagnum moss.
Place the pot inside a plastic bag out of direct sunlight. It’s very important to keep the surface moist at all times by misting as required. Seedlings can germinate within 21 days. Once they become larger, they can be transplanted into a mixture of finely ground bark mulch and peat and fertilized with a weak solution after a few weeks.
Azaleas can bloom as soon as three years after sowing. Rhododendrons take longer - from four to 10 years. The open pollinated and/or collected seed can yield surprising results.
Regular meetings for the ARHS are held the first Tuesday of each month at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History at 7:30 p.m. Visitors are welcome.