A Stroll Through the Rudolph Henny Garden
Molly Grothaus, Lake Oswego, Ore.
(All rhododendrons for which the parentage has been given are Henny hybrids.)
Fig. 34. R. 'Whimsey', R. souliei x 'Bow Bells'
South of the Oregon City Falls, the valley of the Willamette widens until the foothills bounding it on east and west are dim lines in the distance. The farms are moderate to small in size, and clusters of farm buildings are scattered everywhere across the landscape. Dark patches of Douglas firs are common on the gently rolling valley floor. Groves of Quercus garryana grow on the drier slopes and here and there have been left in the pastures, as have large specimens of Acer macrophyllum, to provide shade for livestock. Here, some forty miles south of Portland, is the garden of Rudolph Henny.
The house and garden are situated on a rim-like rise of ground above the dark bottom land known as Lake Labish. On this rich land Mr. Henny raised onions as do many of the neighboring farmers.
The house itself stands close to the road and the driveway has a massed planting of rhododendrons and camellias along its north edge. Here are two of Mrs. Henny's favorite rhododendrons. 'Ermine' ('Britannia' x 'Mrs. A. T. de La Mare'), now 12 years old, stands four feet high clothed to the ground. The flowers 'are white and the long sharply pointed leaves make an attractive pattern. The other favorite, 'Ming', is long in flower and is a much taller plant with the pale cream flowers which might be expected from an 'Albatross'- R. wardii cross. The walk to the house is bordered with a row of 'Jock'. A large R. schlippenbachii and some of the first rhododendrons acquired by Mr. Henny are also planted here.
The lawn surrounding the house has many Japanese flowering cherries including the large flowered white 'Taihaku', the yellow flowered 'Ukon' and 'Asagi' and P. sargentii with its excellent autumn color. This was an expanding interest of Mr. Henny's and the nursery beds of rhododendrons to the south and west of the lawn have been planted with young trees of many varieties of cherries not commonly seen in this area: 'Fuku-rokuju', 'Hisakura', 'Ingram #2' and 'Mikurumagaeshi'. Here, also, are numerous crabapples among which are 'Ming Shing', 'Lady Northcliffe', and 'Red Jade', whose brilliant red fruits hang in striking contrast to rich deep green leaves.
Great ten foot mounds of Camellia 'J. C. Williams' and 'Mary Christian' stand on the lawn near Camellia 'Grandiflora Rosea' and 'Finlandia'. Here also the yellow green foliage of Magnolia x Soulangiana and M. lilifora nigra contrasts with the misty blue of Koster's spruce.
The largest area of the garden lies to the north of the lawn under the cover of Douglas firs and comprises about five acres. Here is, in reality, a rhododendron park filled with many rhododendrons which are rare or unique. No accurate count has been made of the number, but an estimate of 10,000 has been labeled conservative. There are few shrubs other than rhododendrons, but many moderate sized trees the most numerous of which are cherries, crabapples, magnolias and maples. Wide grass paths wander through the park widening into alcoves, broadening to provide a vista, or cutting the plantings into islands. The center rhododendrons in these islands are more than head high, so that the garden reveals itself bit by bit as progress is made along the maze-like paths.
It is generally conceded that the garden should be visited three or four times during the blooming season if it is to be properly sampled. Each visit reveals the changing aspects of a magnificent rhododendron collection and offers the opportunity of seeing the first blooms of new hybrids.
Near the south edge of the park is a seven foot R. 'Topaz'. This cross of 'Loderi' and 'Faggetter's Favourite' was made by Mr. Henny in 1942. It's pink flowers open near Easter and are set off by the gently undulating leaf edges.
Here, also, is a large 'Betty Wormald' and a group planting of 'Leona' ('Corona' x 'Dondis') growing tall in the shade. 'Leona' grown in full sun near the house is compact and blooms a month earlier than these plants do.
Under Prunus serrula an eight foot 'Diane' is studded with chartreuse yellow buds. Outstanding among the plants in this grouping is the glossy, oval foliage of a cross made by Mr. Henny between R. wardii and 'Loder's White'.
Some of the early plants are grouped under a Douglas fir which measures 14 feet in circumference 4 feet above the ground. Here 'Borde Hill', 'Dairymaid', and 'Letty Edwards' F.C.C. cluster around Prunus'Amayadori' and are fronted by a grouping of R. xanthocodon.
The path leads us to a massive group of eight different varieties of 'Naomi' and an 'Avalanche' with 12½ inch leaves. The group is topped by an unusual weeping cherry which has been grafted on a 15 foot standard. Nearby a number of 'Red Cloud' P.A. ('Tally Ho' x 'Corona') draw attention to their handsome dark foliage. They are edged with a mass of 'Goldbug' (R. croceum x 'Fabia') whose red-spotted flowers open scarlet and fade to yellow.
In this section there are a number of 'Bow Bells' grafted on standards up to 8 feet tall. One large 'Bow Bells' on a four foot standard is fronted with a mass of lower growing rhododendrons which obscure the standard and make a most pleasing grouping.
The newly named 'Debutante' showed its first bloom last spring as 'an 18 year old. Standing seven feet tall this R. calophytum x 'Goldsworth Yellow' bears a much larger truss than R. calophytum. Our cool summer and warm fall had coaxed a few buds to open and the flowers of demure white are marked with a vivid pink spot. The nine inch long foliage is carried in R. calophytum fashion. A mass of 'Little Bert' swirls around the base of 'Debutante'.
Several of the largest firs in the park were blown down during the October '62 hurricane. It took the top out of a specimen R. calophytum and did considerable damage to the various Henny hybrids around its base.
Acer barbatum and A. davidii are among the many young maples recently planted. There are occasional trees of the native Cornus nuttallii, each brightly studded with circlets of red fruit.
'Mrs. Mary Ashley', heavily budded, is massed with 'Loderi King George', 'Hawk', and the biscuit form of 'Day Dream' under a large tree of Prunus 'Washino-o'. There are some very large plants in this section. A R. williamsianum spreads across eight feet, a multi-trunked R. decorum brushes a height of ten feet, and rising six feet and densely mounded to the ground a massive 'Augfast' covers an area nine feet across. The domed mass of a fourteen foot broad R. sutchuenense branches from a tree-like trunk, and filling the entire end of one alcove is a fourteen ft. high A. fargesii noted for its masses of flowers.
Some interesting groupings in this central area include 'Rosy Morn' under Magnolia stellata rosea, 'Lady Chamberlain' and 'Lady Rosebery' in front of Magnolia x Soulangiana rustica rubra, and a large planting of 'Loderi', R. auriculatum and 'Mrs. Walter Burns' under a drift of the Syrian Pinus halepensis which is the airiest of grey-green two needle pines and was studded with a heavy crop of old and new cones.
Fig. 35. A large plant of 'Augfast'
growing in Rudolph Henny's Garden.
Fig. 36. Rudolph Henny grew several
rhododendrons as standards, including
this nice specimen of 'Bow Bells'.
A more formal planting centers about a low rock wall which is topped by a cut-leaf maple 'and Japanese stone lantern. The rock area itself is planted with R. forestii var. repens, flanked by black bamboo, and framed by two Japanese cherries.
Toward the north end of the garden are many large plants of Mr. Henny's hybrids. Some have been named; many, many more have not. Here is a six foot plant of the white-flowered 'Parasol' ('Rosy Morn' x 'Dido'). 'Hoopskirt' ('Letty Edwards' x 'Corona') has long lasting flowers which are a true peach. 'The Idol' ('King George' x 'Britannia'), whose Tyrian rose flowers have a lighter center, is another favorite of Mrs. Henny.
A mass of blue-green foliage indicates the original plants of a cross between R. oreotrephes and 'Royal Flush'. A cross of two selected plants from this group produced 'Gold Strike' whose bells of excellent substance Mr. Henny termed the "very yellowest."
A favorite planting for visitors is an arcshaped mass of Mr. Henny's own hybrids: 'Little Pudding' P.A.; 'C.I.S.' P.A.; 'George Grace'; 'Capt. Jack' P. A.; and a striking, tall 'Naomi' cross. This is edged by a six foot long crescent of R. forrestii var. repens planted in logs which they have completely hidden. Here also are the original plants of 'Lake Labish', 'Confection' P.A., 'Leona', and 'Blushing Bride'.
A favorite nesting spot of hummingbirds is the glen at the far corner of the garden. This area is open overhead and dominated by the arching limbs of a tremendous 15 foot specimen of Philadelphus lewisii gordonianus which is native here. The glen is filled with around 2000 rhododendrons. There are many of Mr. Henny's own seedlings, and a mass planting of his outstanding crimson and creamy yellow 'C. I. S.', but the large number of plants raised from seed sent back from the Rock expedition prompted Mr. Henny to call this his "Mekong Valley."
Note was made on the stroll back to the house of the soon-to-be-named 'Nuthatch' whose porcelain rose flowers fade peach, the outstanding foliage of a 'Naomi' x 'Fabia' plant, and the headhigh masses of 'Jock'.
Growing now in considerable sunshine since the loss of the lathhouse in the October hurricane of last year, is the wealth of the legacy left by Rudolph Henny. Among the plants growing here and not previously mentioned are 'Jade' ('Fabia' x 'Corona') a very compact plant whose flowers of pink and orange eventually become greenish yellow; the small 'Quinella' ('Britannia' x 'May Day') whose rose red flowers appear to be double because the calyx length is equal to the corolla; 'Whimsey' (R. soulei x 'Bow Bells') much lower growing than its parents with larger and more upright flowers than 'Bow Bells'; 'Voodoo' P.A.; 'Honey'; 'Little Sheba' P.A.; 'Capt. Kidd' P.A. They are all here plus many other outstanding rhododendrons which are among the 75 of Mr. Henny's crosses which have been named. The high standards which he set for himself have resulted in the introduction of plants which are truly improvements and are 'actual breaks in color and form.
The several members, who know this garden well enough to give it adequate description, were not willing to compress its complexities into a short article; nor would it be possible to describe or evaluate the garden within the limitations of a single article. This has been the description of an autumn stroll with Mrs. Henny and George Grace through the immensely impressive garden of the late Rudolph Henny.