R. wardii KW #4170
Carl H. Phetteplace, MD
About 1961 I imported a plant from Exbury as R. wardii KW #4170. It may be of some interest to report my experience with it during these fifteen years. It is a neat plant both in habit and foliage and is a modest grower reaching approximately five feet in this time.
It has proven hardy both as to bud and plant. After our record cold of December 1972 which registered minus 6 degrees F. here, it bloomed normally, growing in the open garden, in the spring of 1973. There is no tendency to bud blast seen in some other forms of R. wardii.
It propagates readily from cuttings or grafting on almost any root stock. It is not fussy as to sun or shade, but perhaps does better protected from the strongest sun of the day.
The flower is as good a clear yellow as any elepidote species I have grown. It is of good size, open saucer-shaped, quite unspotted and of good substance. It flowers in mid-May and plants will bloom in four years from cuttings with no special pushing.
For some reason, I have been unable to get a good quantity of seed from selfing to see if it comes true from seed, or to send to the seed exchange. However, I have not really been very serious in this effort.
I have crossed it with a number of rhododendrons (naturally) but have grown only a few to blooming size. Last spring its cross with 'Lionel's Triumph' (lacteum x 'Naomi') bloomed for the first time and appeared very worthwhile. This seedling was a good yellow, with a larger flower than R. wardii and of excellent substance. However, I would like to see more of it and its siblings in bloom for a few years before making a judgment.
All in all I would consider R. wardii KW #4170 an excellent garden plant even for those with room for only a few plants in a small garden.