The solitary Rhododendron dauricum ‘Mid-winter’ shrub here at Chartwell can be found at the bottom of the Winter Border and it is starting to bloom right now. This lesser known form of Rhododendron is not found in many UK gardens. But it is perhaps surprising that it isn’t more common because it will provide some much needed colour when it becomes covered in pinky purple flowers in mid to late Winter. It thrives in full sun or partial shade (hence why it was chosen for this sometimes shady spot) but can be a bit temperamental if exposed to regular early morning sun. It is generally a hardy little thing though, one of the hardiest Rhododendrons in fact, with attractive, glossy dark green leaves from Spring right through to late Autumn/early Winter when they turn a browny purple and the shrub’s semi-evergreen status gets put to the test.
Like all Rhododendrons, this species thrives in acid soil (hence it’s position in the Ericaceae Family) and will not tolerate deep planting. It won’t become a thug though, growing to a maximum height and spread of only 1.5m, which it can take up to 20 years to reach.
Originally from East Asia, R. dauricum can be found in the wild over a wide area, from the Altai Mountains in Russia to North Mongolia, Manchuria, northeast China, Korea, Japan, and Sakhalin Island. It was first described by Linnaeus in 1753 with it’s species name relating to the area of discovery (Dauria in Siberia) and was introduced into England in 1780 from the Botanic Garden in St. Petersburg. Due to its hardiness and unique flowering time, it is regularly used for breeding by Rhododendron specialists Worldwide.
A proud recipient of an RHS AGM award in 1984, this oft-overlooked Rhododendron is looking great right now at Chartwell so why not come and check it out soon?