There are thousands of species and hybrid rhododendrons growing around the world in conditions ranging from the Himalayas to your garden. Because of our colder and often dry winters we are able to grow only the hardiest varieties. My very favourite rhododendron has always been ‘PJM.’ Not only is it hardy to around -30 deg. C but it combines vivid lavender-pink blooms with attractive foliage for a shrub that’s a year-round winner. Read on and you’ll learn how ‘PJM’ got its name.

‘PJM’ has a compact growth habit to about one metre tall, with small oval leaves that have a pleasant, spicy scent. Foliage ranges from dark green in spring to a beautiful rich mahogany-red in fall and winter. Flowers appear early for a rhododendron, in mid-April. The plant grows well in full shade and will even tolerate afternoon sun as long as the soil is to its liking; moist, organic and acidic.

I love plants that have a story. The owner of Weston Nurseries in Weston, Massachusetts, Ed Mezitt, had given a donation to a group of missionaries travelling to the Himalayas. As a thank you the missionaries brought back several plants, including a species rhododendron, R. dauricum var. sempervirens. Mezitt crossed one of these plants with the native species R. carolinianum, bringing together the early blooming and winter hardiness of both parents. He named the resulting offspring in 1945 after his father, Peter John Mezitt, initials PJM. Ed further tested his new plant by growing it on a rocky, windy hill to determine its hardiness. It passed the test. Today ‘PJM’ is the most popular hardy rhododendron in North America, a perfect compliment to yellow daffodils in the spring garden, and an attractive four season shrub for your landscape.

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