Since the weatherman has seen fit to send the Arctic weather back to the North Pole where it belongs, all Eugene rhododendron growers have been anxiously examining their precious plants for signs of winter damage.
There were some fifty days of almost continuous freezing with periodic heavy snowfalls and in some places the snow covered the ground for over a month. The lowest recorded temperature was given as 9 degrees above zero.
In our own garden, with a North East exposure and protection from wooded areas, the only rhododendron killed outright was R. kyawii var. prophantum, which went into the winter in late tender growth, and a few small seedlings of various kinds.
In some other gardens where the exposure was greater, a few hybrids of R. griersonianum, and R. 'Fragrantissimum' were killed. The Kurume azalea were also victims of frost and sunburn in many gardens.
The only evidence of bud blasting to show up so far is in R. burmanicum and R. sperabile. R. neriiflorum and other members of this series suffered some damage when sunshine hit frozen leaves, turning them brown, but it is not evident as yet that any further injury occurred.
In a cool greenhouse, where there was only heat enough to keep the temperature above freezing point, all varieties were unhurt except for slight injury to one plant of R. carneum. In as much as there is considerable variation in the type of garden, the damage varies, somewhat, being more severe in the locations exposed to wind or sun. However, taking the locality as a whole the damage is comparatively light, considering the severity of the winter.
One-year-old seedlings, many growing in flats set out in a lath house, survived the winter in fine shape. Even certain varieties of R. maddenii were not hurt.
R. 'Gill's Crimson', with a rating of tender, is not injured, nor is R. 'Cornubia', and R. griersonianum which sometimes tends to bark split, survived beautifully.
It is quite apparent that those plants which were in good growing condition, received the least damage from the cold and freezing weather, giving strong support to those growers who feel that watering should be continued throughout the summer months and up to the rainy season in the Fall, as opposed to those who feel that water should be withheld in the late summer. Well grown plants were happy survivors.
On the whole it can surely be said that the winter of 1948-49, the most, severe ever to be recorded in 78 years, has proved that most rhododendrons are able to take any weather which is dealt out to them in the Pacific Northwest, and certainly a lot of the agony in growing them has been removed!