Our Front Cover: R. 'Wheatley'
Fred Knapp, Locust Valley, N.Y.
Rhododendron 'Wheatley' is one of the most popular pinks in the Northeast region. It is a clear light pink with a truss of impressive size when well grown. The color is vivid, even luminescent, yet combined with its frilled flowers gives a soft cottony, overall texture. Mature plants of 'Wheatley' tend to be relatively low and wider than high. Plant habit is good, with quite adequate leaf density. The leaves are smooth with crisp edges, of a light green color which is faulted by some. Leaf color is more satisfying if not subjected to full midday sun.
Many, including the author, have been heard to term it their favorite pink and refer to it as the best pink Dexter. Generally accepted as a Dexter, and often a prize-winner in Dexter classes at cut truss shows, 'Wheatley' is really no Dexter in the true sense. It is the best known result of a cross of 'Westbury' and 'Meadowbrook' made by Howard Phipps. Mr. Phipps is one of several of the original collectors of true Dexters on Long Island, and Westbury is one of the selected plants he obtained from the Dexter estate.
'Westbury' and 'Wheatley' are among plants from the Phipps estate named by Paul Vossberg. From this intimate entanglement with Dexter plants and plant personalities, and from its characteristics as a rhododendron which seems to represent the peak of perfection we would expect in a pink Dexter rhododendron, a natural confusion has resulted in classifying 'Wheatley' as a Dexter. In this case, no harm and all honor was due to the Dexter name and to rhododendron 'Wheatley'.
Since its introduction by the Westbury Rose Co. in 1958, 'Wheatley' has always been an outstanding competitor for the place of honor in gardens and in shows. Twice in recent years, the Best Rhododendron of Show award at New York Chapter cut truss shows has gone to 'Wheatley'. On garden tours at many smaller homes, as well as at outstanding collections, such as Dorothy and John Knippenbergs and Planting Fields Arboretum, 'Wheatley' will always make the crowd stop and gasp, and be one of the few plants remembered by name after the tour.