Arthur W. Headlam, Bentleigh, Australia
Photo by Arthur Headlam
R. giganteum, the largest of the Grande Series, and in fact the giant of the race, is said to attain a height of some eighty feet in its native habitat in the Yunnan Province of China at an altitude of 9000 to 11,000 feet. R. giganteum in the National Rhododendron Garden at Olinda, planted some twelve years ago, is now six feet high and its new growth makes an attractive sight in the spring.
Members look hopefully each year for a flower bud, but they may have to exercise considerable patience if this plant follows the pattern of a plant of R. giganteum in the foothills of the Dandenongs. Imported from England in 1927 by Bert Chandler & Sons, it was originally planted where it received overhead shelter. Growth was extremely slow and it was moved by the late Bert Chandler to a site deep in a fern gully where it was afforded considerable protection.
In 1971 it produced six flower buds which were anxiously watched as the season progressed, and eventually the buds opened with up to twenty five flowers to the truss. Enthusiasts came to see the deep crimson flowers, the first in 44 years!
Peter Damman, a member of the Australian Rhododendron Society and a species enthusiast, recently moved to his new home at Olinda, and numerous species which were raised from seed planted twenty five years ago, were lifted and replanted in the new garden about one mile distant.
The lifting and consequent root pruning resulted in many species flowering for the first time in the following season. Perhaps if R. giganteum had been moved more often it may not have taken, what must surely be a record, 44 years to produce its first flower.