A Compact R. aberconwayi
Cecil Smith, St. Paul, OR
R. aberconwayi compact form
Photo by Cecil Smith
A plant brought into the garden as R. aberconwayi about 30 years ago is distinct in several respects from many other clones of that species grown here Including several named forms. It branches more than the others do and the new growth is never over six inches and perhaps does not average two inches, while many of the other clones growing here may have new growth averaging five or six inches with some wild shoots growing eighteen inches in one year.
Another distinction is that the usual form has saucer shaped corollas as compared to the with bowl shaped ones on this form. The compact form has flowers that are larger, much more heavily spotted and the spots are chocolate colored rather than the usual reddish hue or no spots at all. It has a great deal more substance, as can be seen and felt.
The flowers on most R. aberconwayi plants slide over the ovaries at least twice as soon and when they fall to the ground the compact form appears to stay in a good state of preservation for a much longer time. This habit of early dropping of the flowers seems to be passed on to most of the limited number of R. aberconwayi crosses which I have made.
When R. aberconwayi is crossed with a variety of a different color, the white of R. aberconwayi is apt to be recessive, while the saucer shape is dominant. Also, the wild growth of most R. aberconwayi hybrids may appear even after several years of modest growth as a seedling.
A hybrid of the compact form, with the AM form grown by Tom McGuire, has been judged the best R. aberconwayi in the Portland Show a number of times. In a repeat of the above cross made here, about sixty seedlings were grown. The great majority were vigorous growers; and the flower shape and spottiness varied all the way between the two parents.
For those who do not judge the quality of a rhododendron primarily by the size of the flower, there may be the opportunity of creating a quality plant with a pansy-like bloom and delicate colors.