Rhododendron lanigerum (See Cover)
James Caperci, Seattle, Washington
After having grown several plants of R. lanigerum from the seed of Dr. Rock's last expedition (1948), up until two years ago we had never seen them bloom. At that time, all of a sudden they decided to make up for their slowness by loading themselves with round buds that looked for all the world like little green apples. Because we knew they would be early bloomers, and we can almost always depend on late frosts here, we dug up four of these plants and put them in large tubs in our cold-house. We planned to self pollinate them when they bloomed.
We really were not prepared for the fantastic show they put on for us! Although the leaves of all of these R. lanigerum looked pretty much alike, the blooms were something else again. The trusses were all symmetrical round balls of about 35 florets. But the flowers on one plant were a light pink, on two were a beautiful bright pink, and on the fourth were bright red! If you can imagine that there were about 20 of these trusses on each plant, with four plants in three colors, then add lovely indumented leaves - you can see why we used a couple of rolls of film taking pictures of them. To be more specific, when these R. lanigerum bloomed they were about four feet high, and three-plus across well-shaped and fairly full. The leaves measure up to 6½ inches long and 2 inches wide. The upper surface is deeply veined and bright green. The under surface is clad with grayish-brown indumentum.
Given more protection than they have in our exposed garden, these R. lanigerum would be more spectacular than they are here. We feel sure that they also would bloom at a much earlier age.
Yes, we did get them selfed, and the seed was sent to the Society's Seed Exchange. If you happen to be one of the members who got some of it, just look at what you have to look forward to!