Rhododendron ‘Unique’—Harbinger of Spring

When the ‘Unique’ variety of rhododendron (R. campylocarpum hybrid) starts blossoming, it’s the signal in the Pacific Northwest that the rhody season will be in full swing. It’s extremely popular locally, not only for the flowers but more importantly its handsome ovate leaves and compact shape that make it a valuable landscaping specimen throughout the year. I have several shrubs growing in the front yard. After 20 years or so, they’re now quite tall. Last year, our region suffered an almost unprecedented drought. I admit I didn’t water them, except for once, through this botanically stressful period which saw little rain between May and October. So, it was quite the surprise when the shrubs started sprouting a profusion of buds that could lead to the greatest floral display ever, maybe the result of our very wet winter and early spring. The buds start out pinkish and, as they start to open, take on apricot tones. When fully in blossom, they become cream-colored with faint tinges of pink.


Rhododendron campylocarpum hybrid (‘Unique’)