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Alternatives to Rhodies in Seattle

Posted by seattlemamadrama 8b (My Page) on
Wed, Dec 3, 08 at 18:41

I am working with a lanscape designer to design our front yard of our new Seattle home (near Greenlake). We are going with a contemporary color palette look with lots of chartreuse groundcover along with black mondo grass, and lots of reds/burgandy plants and trees. The front yard is fairly sunny, so plants need to be okay with little shade/full sun.

So far I like all of the plants suggested, except for these rhodies. They don't seem to fit (or maybe I'm just not a fan of the Rhododendron--that may make me unpopular here?!?), and I would like to know if you have suggestions for alternatives. She has 24 of these plants in the plan, so I think I need to find something that I love, not that are just "okay" with me.

10 - Rhododendon 'Ostbo's Red Elizabeth' Dwarf Red reblooming Rhodie
14 - Rhododendon 'Snow Lady' Dwarf White Rhododendron

Thanks for your advice!
Deb (a novice!)

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Alternatives to Rhodies in Seattle

  • Posted by bboy z8 WA USA (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 3, 08 at 19:18

Have you looked these two rhododendron cultivars up? Both are quite nice and probably were chosen for specific attributes, such as the leaf color of 'Elizabeth Red Foliage' ('Ostbo's Red Elizabeth'). We need to have some idea what they were supposed to contribute to the plan before being able to propose possible substitutes that won't poke holes in the design.

If you indicate what is specified to be planted adjacent to these shrubs it may be enough for someone here to come up with alternatives.

RE: Alternatives to Rhodies in Seattle

Often, rhodies are used by designers when a shrub with a large leaf texture is desired, especially when used in a part shade to shadier area. The fact that they flower as well is typically - but not always - considered a bonus. However, neither of these selections offer much in the way of large foliage texture, both having relatively smallish foliage as many rhodies go, so I am assuming the designer has other motives for using these plants. It seems a shame to use 'Snow Lady' in a mostly full sun location, as this cultivar in particular will bloom reliably in very shady conditions, which is always a tricky situation for flowering plants.

Perhaps your wisest course of action is to discuss this with your designer......get a feel for what she is trying to accomplish using these plants and explain your lack of enthusiasm for them. Most experienced designers will have several plants up their sleeve that can be substituted for a similar design effect.

Having said all that, most rhododendron cultivars would not be my first choice for a full sun situation, even here in our very northerly latitude, cool summer location. I'd consider something like kalmia first if an evergreen shrub with showy flowers is the primary motivation.

RE: Alternatives to Rhodies in Seattle

  • Posted by botann z8 SEof Seattle (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 4, 08 at 12:05

Gardengal, I figured the designer was a women too. Not much info to work with in this case, but I can usually tell. Thirty five years in the business gives me a leg up sometimes.

RE: Alternatives to Rhodies in Seattle

The "she" part was spelled out by the OP - it was not an assumption I made :-) Although (and I may be opening a can of worms here), I'd be interested to learn why you assumed it was a woman designer......there was certainly nothing the info provided that would have lead me in that direction otherwise.

FWIW, I tend not to use many rhodies in my designs as I find most of them coarse, ungainly shrubs that are large lumps of green for 11 1/2 months of the year. Not all, but most :-) There are just so many other broadleaf evergreen choices that offer better features and for a longer season of interest. And to be honest, most of my clients are looking for something a bit more distictive than the ubiquitous rhododendron.

RE: Alternatives to Rhodies in Seattle

I did take your advice and emailed our designer asking for rhody alternatives, but I haven't heard back from her yet.

I just thought folks here might be more familiar (than I am) with shrubs of similar size that work well in Seattle in a sunny front yard, so that I could avoid some back and forth with the designer--give her some direction as to stuff we do like. I won't scan in the plan, but here is the complete list of proposed trees/plants/shrubs/grouncover with quantities, which may be helpful.

Common Name No.

Bloodgood Japanese Maple 4 (going in parking strip)
Coralbark Maple 1
Slender Hinoki Cypress 3
Tall Stewartia 2

Yuletide Winter Camelliaq 4
Golden Mexican Orange 7
Variegated Redtwig Dogwood 4
Carol Mackie Daphne 3
Tricolor Hebe 9
med green/red flax (Phormium tenax 'Amazing Red') 3
Dwarf Lily of the Valley Shrub 18
Dwarf Red reblooming Rhodie 14
Dwarf White Rhododendron 10
Rosemary 3
Perennials, Grasses, Groundcovers:
Feather Grass 17
Dwarf Brass Buttons 198
Barrenwart, asst. colors 25
Lenten Rose, Christmas Rose 21
Yellow flowering winter rose 12
PER: Yellow/Burgundy Daylily 9
Sum & Substance Plantain Lily 7
Big Blue Lily Turf 65
Black Mondo Grass 90
Sky Blue Passionflower 2
Evergreen Chartreuse 'Moss' 144

The house is raised above street level, and we have a acid stained (copper brown color) concrete retaining walls at 2 levels with a planing beds on each level then the main front yard, where much of the larger plants/shrubs will be. The Bloodgood maples will be in our parking strip.

I hope this helps!
Thank you,

RE: Alternatives to Rhodies in Seattle

  • Posted by bboy z8 WA USA (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 4, 08 at 23:45

What I was saying was if we could find out what was supposed to go right around the rhododendrons then it might be possible to say what other kinds of shrubs would be suitable with those other plants. Otherwise various other low broad-leaved evergreens with similarly sized leaves could be used.

RE: Alternatives to Rhodies in Seattle

I hope you don't mind watering a lot!

RE: Alternatives to Rhodies in Seattle

  • Posted by bboy z8 WA USA (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 5, 08 at 12:45

I thought of that also, most of the list is plants that will require consistent irrigation on most sites here.

RE: Alternatives to Rhodies in Seattle

  • Posted by botann z8 SEof Seattle (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 5, 08 at 20:21

Gardengal, I must have read 'she' and then forgot about it when I replied. "lots of chartreuse groundcovers" is sort of a clue, but not enough to make an educated choice.

Women designers generally use more perennials resulting in more maintenance. Novices favor a low maintenance garden. It's usually mentioned before the budget.

RE: Alternatives to Rhodies in Seattle

botann, I would have thought that more of the client's choice (the predominate plant colors) rather than the designer's necessarily, although in this case, that may not be true. At any rate, I get your point :-)

Personally, except for a few low maintenance, diehard performers, I tend to avoid using a lot of perennials in my designs. Perhaps because the majority of my clients DO desire pretty low maintenance and drought tolerant landscapes (but don't forget those year round good looks!!).

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