We did a bad thing this weekend. We went to a ARS chapter sale. What's ARS? American Rhododendron Society. Sadly but not uncharacteristically we went crazy and bought a few... well, many different cultivars - they were all so beautiful.
We also learned why some of our previously planted rhodies would just turn brown and die, despite frequent watering. We have clay under approx. 4-6 inches of trucked in topsoil. Apparently I've been digging a non permeable bowl that would fill with water and drown the poor rhodies. Other plants are more resistant to being waterlogged I guess as they seem to thrive. The recommendation for planting in clay soil was to put the rhodies on top of the clay and just mound a mixture of 1/2 good garden soil and 1/2 fine pine mulch. The pine mulch is also great for the rhodies acid requirement. We were also cautioned to water regularly . Apparently rhodies require very little fertilizer if any so we were told not to use any.
So I've been hauling several loads of bagged topsoil, garden soil and pine mulch this weekend. Dug many large shallow holes and planted all but two plants and today I feel like a punching bag...sore joints and muscles. But I keep telling myself it's all worth it.