I did some transplanting last month. My best girl was here from Victoria and I took advantage of her amazing arms (she paddles an ocean kayak for a living) to help me acquire two thirty-year-old rhododendrons. These rhodos belonged to my friend Cameron, whose walkway they have encroached on for the last ten years. She and her husband cut them back ruthlessly a couple of times a year, but these monsters will not be put down. Access to their front door was being seriously impeded by these titanic shrubs, so Cameron offered them to me.
Thing I Learned While Transplanting Magnitudinous Rhododendrons #1:
First you prune. And this is going to take you about 15 minutes. No time at all. Bring a set of 1" branch loppers and a saw. But don't get cocky: you will spend the next 2.5 hours getting to the next stage:
Thing I Learned While Transplanting Magnitudinous Rhododendrons #2:
Just Keep Digging. You're Not Done Yet. Keep Going. No, Not Yet Either. Dig More. Bit More. Little Bit More. Dig More. More. Not Done Yet.
At this point, we could not even rock the plant yet. That's how much this rootball did NOT want to let go of its life-giving Mother Earth. This is also the point at which my friend straightened up, wiped her brow, leaned on her spade, and said "I hate to say it Shan, but...."
"DON'T SAY IT," I warned her sternly.
She said it anyway. "I think we need a man."
"We do NOT need a man," I snapped, not looking up. I redoubled my efforts.
And, I was triumphant and smug when, twenty minutes later, we were here:
Thing I Learned While Transplanting Magnitudinous Rhododendrons #3:
But, manless, we managed it.
See how teeny my friend Cameron's wheelbarrow looks? It's not teeny, my friends. Neither is Paddlegirl's truck:
Thing I Learned While Transplanting Magnitudinous Rhododendrons #4-5:
Check The Tire Pressure Ahead Of Time and Bring Rope
That sucker was heavy.
When planning this wee bit of gardening, we had the happy delusion that we'd move both plants at once. As it happened, we barely got even ONE of them fit into the back of her truck at a time, and that only because her tailgate was pretty strong and the canopy window goes WAY up. And we had the devil of a time wrassling them onto the truck from the wheelbarrow - if I had had the forethought to take pictures of our arms you would see how much bloodletting this whole exercise involved.
Thing I Learned While Transplanting Magnitudinous Rhododendrons #6:
Have The Hole Dug Way In Advance
Here the lovely rhododendrons, in three years' time, will provide a screen for the less attractive area of our back garden, and will visually anchor that whole area. They are now in dappled shade, with lots of bone meal and peat under their poor traumatised roots, and with a soaker hose running cool soothing water over them.
One last note: it just happened that my friend came over just when the moon was almost perfectly situated for transplanting. It could have been very slightly better: fourth is better than third, and Cancer is better than Taurus, but we only had 24 hours' notice so I'm not complaining. The roots of this plant should do well (that is, if they prove resistant to the juglone from the nearby walnut tree).