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Rhododendron question

Hello all,

I've been lurking as usual, and Daryl's comment on a "fluke of the weather" prompted a question. There are virtually no buds on the native Rhododendron maximum here, and I didn't see any blooming mountain laurel either. I've noticed that some years are much better than others, but the almost total absence of blooms is strange to me. Any ideas why they didn't set buds?

The local throngs of deer have taken to eating the rhodies, though they don't seem to relish them much. At around 30 inches above the ground, almost half of the leaves have been devoured, leaving the stems in a spiky spiral arrangement. Very ugly!

Maria in NE PA

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