I do not pinch SEEDLINGS as I want to see how the plant develops naturally on its own. The plant growth characteristics are just as important as the flower and hardiness. Almost all casual home gardeners are not going to pinch a rhododendron to try to make it into a dense, bushy plant. To take a seedling and pinch it to make it into something it wasn’t meant to be is fooling the hybridizer and anyone who propagates the plant.
This brings to mind “feau plants”. I can remember giving a talk to a chapter and before my talk the plant chairman showed off some of the plants the chapter was going to sell at the upcoming plant sale. He had plants of ‘Scintillation’ in 15” pots that were prime examples of ‘plants on steroids’. They were obviously plants grown using forcing techniques to develop a four year old looking plant in a year and a half. They had leaves to the ground and a flower bud on each terminal. Spectacular. Dense and bushy they looked like a 10 year old yakushimanum without an indumentum.
The casual gardener who purchased one of these was going to have a fabulous plant when it bloomed, but it was all downhill from there. As soon as it got into a normal growth cycle many of the leaves would drop. Even though it was dense and bushy when purchased, it was destined to grow into an enormous open growing plant that would overwhelm most small gardens after 15 or so years. No one told the purchaser of the need to yearly give the plant a “Delp Pinch” to keep it full and bushy and anyway he probably would not have done it as casual gardeners don’t want the burden of constant care for plants. “Plant it and forget it” is their idea of horticulture.
But you know it probably wouldn’t live for more than 3 years in their garden because of the problem of the difficulty of successfully planting a containerized plant and have it survive. Several years ago Hank and Ron produced a video that was fantastic. It showed precisely how to do it. The astounding feature of the video was the degree to which Ron cut up the root ball. Here is the http for the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02KxkPQdDd0&NR=1 Without seeing this video, how many casual gardeners do you think would tear apart the root ball as shown in the video?
So here we are; providing overgrown plants to unsuspecting gardeners who will not be successful with them unless they are explicitly told to tear apart the root ball. How many times have you been asked, “Why did my rhododendron die?” It is the constant question from casual gardeners to me. How long do you think casual gardeners are going to purchase rhododendrons to replace the ones that they were previously unsuccessful with?