I think my favorite rhododendrons are those that make statements with their foliage. Most plants have a window of flowering time within a growing season, and as spectacular as that presentation may be, it can seem ephemeral. Good foliage can give your garden value for at least three seasons, if not longer.
Thick-flowered rhododendron takes fuzziness to the extreme
Thick-flowered rhododendron (R. pachysanthum, Zones 6–9) is a species that should be grown more widely. It may be the best example of textured rhodie foliage. The 3-to-4-inch leaves are arrowhead shaped, and they exhibit a gray-blue color (due to dense white hairs) with a fuzzy, rust orange reverse. In spring, the new foliage emerges with the same strong rust colors on the upper side of the leaves—an odd color combination but very eye-catching without being too loud or garish. This incredibly showy species is a great foil…
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