Arthur W. Headlam, Bentleigh, Australia
Photo by Arthur Headlam
R. griffithianum, S. Fortunei, S.S. Griffithianum (formerly R. auklandii), has received considerable praise for its many attributes, for its beautiful flowers with exquisite form and color, white with green spotting or white tinged pink, for its perfume and the fact that it carries the largest flowers of the Himalayan rhododendrons. Its large pale green leaves, slightly glaucous below, add to its attractiveness and hybridists have been quick to realize its potentialities. It has produced the magnificent Loderi's and other outstanding cultivars such as 'Beauty of Tremough', 'Gill's Gloriosa, 'Gill's Triumph', 'Angelo' and 'Dr. Stocker' to mention a few of the nearly 100 hybrids listed in the R. H. S. Hybrid Handbook, 1969.
It was introduced in 1849 and named to honor William Griffith, Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanic Garden, but, unfortunately, it is somewhat cold-tender and, as a consequence, is a greenhouse shrub in all but the mildest climates.
However, grown in the 10-acre garden of Peter Damman at Olinda, Australia, where climatic conditions are relatively mild and present no problems, it makes a magnificent spectacle in the flowering season. R. griffithianum, like a number of other species, had not flowered for over twenty years. But when it was recently lifted and moved to his new garden, less than one mile distant, it flowered for the first time last year.
It is always a pleasant experience to visit a garden and find a species one has not seen in flower before, to carefully examine it, photograph it and assess whether it measures up to one's expectations formed from descriptions and photographs in rhododendron publications. In this case it pleasingly exceeded all expectations.