Monday, May 14, 2012

Native Plants: Rhododendrons at Home in the Northeast US

Rhododendrons surrounding the waterfall
For Mother's Day, our family went hiking into the Lehigh Valley Gorge area via Jim Thorpe, PA.  It was a wonderful day of getting out and back to nature.  Along with all the water (waterfalls, rivers, lake, streams, etc.), which was the whole reason I picked this area for Mother’s Day, was the beauty growing all around us.  And most surprising were the MANY rhododendrons growing wild in the mountains.  This wasn’t the first time I’d seen them growing wild.  On another hike near White Haven, it appeared to be a whole forest of rhododendron just waiting to bloom.  I wished we had been there a few weeks later and seen a whole forest lit up with the colors of the blossoms.  Again, this past weekend, I was not so lucky to match the timing of our visit with the blooming. 

However, I did walk away with a respect for what nature does on its own.  So often we focus on the newest plant hybrid or the latest methods for growing our plants bigger and better.  We “shop” for the ones that are deer-resistant, pest-resistant, award-winners, drought-tolerant, and on and on.  Meanwhile, God already designed the plants to grow without any help at all…in their own habitats.  The rhododendrons were growing out of rocks!  (That tops the clay soil of my PA yard!)  They were growing under tall trees, fighting for the same sun and rain.  Complementing the landscape could be seen fields of purple and white phlox.  They were also in their native habitat. 

So while it’s important to pay attention to the labels and conditions when buying new plants, we need to worry less about “perfecting” our gardens when the plants are native to our specific area.  I have a rhododendron in my garden, and now that I think of it, I rarely need to tend to it.  After all, it’s not just at home in my yard, but the Northeast US is its native home also!


  1. I am so glad you went! The pic and the post is beautiful--thanks for sharing :)

  2. very true!! and there are extension services free..that give all kinds of advice about what grows well in our area...