Rhododendron Elliottii: Irroratum Series, Parishii Subseries
George D. Grace, Portland, Ore.
The front cover of the April, 1963, A.R.S. Bulletin was a color photograph of the blood red form of R. elliottii, with a most interesting description by the Editor, Mr. Rudolph Henny, of both the bright red form and the older, rose lilac form. At your Editor's suggestion I shall try to fill in some details.
The rose lilac or rose purple form has been grown in England for many years, and for the last twenty years has been grown in the Northwest and in California. I have grown both the older rose lilac form and Kingdon Ward's No. 7725.
The blood red Ward form was lost in the 1950 freeze; however the older form of mine has continued to bloom ever since. This older form is not really rose lilac in color, but rather a cerise with the edge of the florets a lighter color. It has the usual small spots. A recent count showed fifteen to eighteen florets to the truss. The leaves are more tapered than Ward's form.
Fortunately I was able to procure, from Cecil Smith, Kingdon Ward's form number 19083, which is equally as good as No. 7725. This plant has been kept in the cool house. It probably would not stand one of our bad winters.
It was my privilege in 1949, along with John Henny, Dr. and Mrs. Harold Clarke, Dr. Clement G. Bowers and Guy Nearing, to visit the garden of Colonel Bolitho in Cornwall where we saw his plant of Kingdon Ward's No. 7725. Certainly it had as fine a truss as one would ever expect to see on a red rhododendron. The Colonel had picked a fine truss to be photographed. I managed to get Mr. Bolitho aside and asked him for the truss with the pollen. There were several others after the truss, each one having the same idea in mind. Our good friend, the late Francis Hanger, was one who wanted the truss.
When we were ready to depart yours truly came up with the truss. Needless to say I did share pollen with Dr. Bowers and Francis Hanger.
That night pollen was carefully mailed to my good friend the late Charlie Vollum, with instructions to put the pollen on any white or red Rhododendrons which he could find at my garden.
Mr. Vollum grew many of the seedlings of these crosses, but he died soon afterward. The flats of seedlings were not labeled. He no doubt knew the crosses but left no record of which was which. I received some of each of the plants. At present some of those crosses are blooming. Out of them have come some fine reds and speckled pinks. All of them, elliottii crosses, have good substance and are heavy bloomers. I have shown a few of these blooms at the Rhododendron Show in Portland and labeled them elliottii Crosses.
For several years I have shown the blood red species R. elliottii. As there was no class in which to enter it it has been relegated to one side, the judges probably not knowing or caring what it was. The rose lilac form has not been shown, as the color does not satisfy the average Rhododendron fancier.
Fig.40. R. irroratum growing on the
Rhododendron Island in Portland.
Photo by Cecil Smith
In the series Irroratum, subseries Parishii, I have grown two very fine series, one of which is R. kyawii. The trusses look much like the good form of R. griersonianum. It is a fine late bloomer but must be grown in a cool house in the Northwest. It has a fine upright geranium red truss. If it were not tender, it would be one of the great red species Rhododendrons. I have used R. kyawii pollen on R. discolor and got hardiness with a good apricot truss. Some of these are worthy of naming.
Another fine species of this series is R. venator, which froze outside in the cold winter of 1950. It was shown at the First American Rhododendron Society Show at the Park Blocks in Portland, in 1944. I had dug up the plant in my garden for the Show, where it was a sensation. One cross was made on R. 'Fabia', an interesting cross which Ben Lancaster of Camas, Washington, raised and showed a number of times. R. venator comes from Tibet, while R. kyawii comes from Burma and Yunnan.
Of the named R. elliottii crosses, my favorite is 'Grenadier', R. elliottii x 'Moser's Maroon', a real dark red with large upright trusses hardy enough for our local climate. The flowers have small black dots in the corolla. R. elliottii comes from Manipur, while its sister, R. eriogynum, comes from Yunnan.
Another hybrid called 'Phoenix', R. eriogynum x R. elliottii, has a good truss but is only hardy enough for a cool house.
R. elliottii x R. griersonianum made 'Fusilier', a very fine orange red. It was grown and shown for a number of years but has not been hardy enough for our coldest winters. Other good crosses that I have grown or seen are 'Leo', 'Gaul', 'Kiev' and 'Jutland'.
R. eriogynum has produced some fine hybrids such as 'Tally Ho', 'Romany Chat' and 'Firetail'. Our 'Tally Ho' is a very fine orange red rhododendron but slightly tender for our coldest winters.