R. 'Pink Delight'
A. W. Headlam, Bentleigh, Australia
R. 'Pink Delight'
A. Headlam photo
R. 'Pink Delight' is one of the many hybrids produced by the great English Nursery of Veitch approximately one hundred years ago.
Although their hybrids were extremely numerous, the basic species were originally limited to only a few in number, amongst which were R. brookeanum, javanicum, and jasminiflorum.
A comprehensive description of the Veitch hybrids was given by the well known authority, Mr. J. H. Mangles, in his contributions to the Gardeners' Chronicle and Garden, 1869 - 1884, however, no particular mention appears to have been made of 'Pink Delight', nor was it mentioned in the Journal of The Royal Horticultural Society in which was published a paper read by the Rev. Professor G. Henslow, M.A., F.L.S., in May 1891, also giving a comprehensive description of the many Veitch hybrids, including interesting discussions on the subject of the effect of color, form of leaves and general effects of multifold crossings. However, the fact that the genealogy of this particular hybrid remains somewhat obscure, does not detract from its beauty.
With the considerable crossing and intercrossing between the species and the resulting hybrids, it would not be beyond the bounds of possibility for it to have some or all of the species previously mentioned, in varying degrees in its lineage.
Both 'Pink Delight' and 'Pink Seedling' growing in Australia originated from plants in Kew Gardens.
The story of the plant which produced the magnificent flowers is an interesting one. It was propagated from a plant which I described in the Royal Horticultural Society's Rhododendron and Camellia Year Book, 1971, "Malesian Rhododendrons - Resistance to cold in Melbourne, Australia". p. 88:
" 'Pink Delight' under cover of sarlon cloth had all flower buds damaged as well as some leaf burn, and its new growth lacks vigor and is very slow".
Subsequently when it appeared that the plant would be most unlikely to survive, Brian Clancy took all available cuttings, about one inch in length, which eventually struck and produced some twenty-three healthy plants. One of these was the one, which, grown in a piece of fern log (Dicksonia antarctica), some ten inches in diameter by fifteen inches long, caused considerable comment when displayed recently at a monthly meeting of the Australian Rhododendron Society.
Mr. Clancy readily agreed to leave the plant with me to photograph, and placed in a fairly sheltered position under a porch, the flowers lasted remarkably well, over three weeks, by which time the other buds shown in the picture had opened.
Many different media for growing Malesians have been used in Australia, chopped fern-fiber, mixtures of peat and sharp sand, and various mixtures containing sphagnum moss, etc., however, Brian has undoubtedly achieved his best results by growing his Malesians in pieces of fern log.
Although I live in the same locality, and use fern log as a planting medium, my 'Pink Delight' has produced magnificent foliage and vigorous growth, but so far, no flowers. I am looking forward hopefully to the coming summer and fall, for some flowers on this interesting hybrid, first raised by Messrs Veitch in the late nineteenth century.
It is interesting that with a number of rhododendron hybrids of known parentage, the cross has been subsequently repeated with superior forms, resulting in an outstanding progeny worthy of a specific clonal name, a well known example being 'Crest', however, 'Pink Delight', with its complex and obscure parentage, precludes the possibility of repeating the cross, and we have to rely upon a century of continuation of vegetative propagation for our present plants of this attractive Malesian hybrid.