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The Rhododendron Growers Handbook for New Zealanders

By Margaret Tapley
Published by David Bateman Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand, 1991

Reviewed by Graham Smith

The latest addition to the excellent 'Growers Handbook' range, 'Rhododendrons for New Zealanders' should find a ready market in a country where books specifically written for our conditions are rare.

Margaret Tapley has covered almost every aspect of rhododendron growing extremely well. Some of the material comes from her other book 'Rhododendrons in New Zealand', but is much more comprehensive. Details such as general care and attention, pests and diseases, propagation, companion plants and container growing are all well covered. Errors are relatively minor and some only an interpretation of different growing conditions. Mrs Tapley mentions the changes in rhododendron nomenclature using the Cullen and Chamberlain Edinburgh system. However that system has superseded classification in series and sub-series, she states, and we now classify in sections and sub-sections.

The bulk of the book is devoted to descriptive lists of plants grouped together for colour, size, hardiness or flowering times. These are quite comprehensive and inevitably there is some repetition as varieties find themselves in two or three sections, usually with the same description. Occasionally this is changed slightly, but confusion then sets in, e.g. 'Seven Stars' is listed as being 0.9 m, mid-season flowering, white with pink flush and with shiny dark leaves, or 1.2 m, late mid-season, light pink flowers and with dull green leaves. I also found the use of sizes expressed either in centimetres or as a fraction of a metre irritating as there was no consistency with this. In fact the sizes given generally would be my major criticism as they bear no relation to plants that I know under the same name.

Two small colour sections are included and these are quite good representations of the plants portrayed. Line drawings of planting and propagation methods are very clear and concise which is more than I can say for the odd shapes that head every chapter. If they are to represent the rhododendron species described in the chapter then they should at least look like the real thing.

This small book is good value for money and should be on all rhododendron growers' book shelves because it answers so many of the questions that are frequently posed. Used in conjunction with a good rhododendron catalogue, you should not go too far wrong in planning and planting a superb rhododendron garden.

Horticulture in New Zealand: Journal of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture 1992 3(1): 15-16

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