Rhododendron 'Naomi' (Exbury Var.)
P. H. Brydon
Fig. 4. R. 'Naomi' gr.
According to Mr. Francis Hanger's article in the 1946 Royal Horticultural Society Year Book, the late Lionel de Rothschild made one thousand two hundred and ten crosses, but I doubt that he made one as lovely as that which he named after his youngest daughter Naomi. He could not have paid anyone a more beautiful compliment.
R. 'Naomi' (Exbury var.) (Fig. 4) is the result of a cross between R. 'Aurora' and R. fortunei and received an Award of Merit by the R. H. S. in 1933. The seed parent, R. 'Aurora' is a hybrid between R. 'Kewense' and R. thomsonii and the hybrid R. 'Kewense' as obtained by crossing R. griffithianum and R. fortunei, the same cross which made the well known R. 'Loderi'. With such a distinguished ancestry it is not surprising that R. 'Naomi' and its several forms should be accorded the highest rating of four stars. Theoretically R. 'Naomi' has 62½% R. fortunei in its make up and this "blood" is certainly evident in the large seven lobed flowers and the typical fortunei young growth, in itself a very attractive feature with their brilliantly colored bracts. The foliage resembles the Loderis but is more oblong and slightly smaller, giving the plant a neat sturdy appearance. Unlike the 'Loderis', 'Naomi' will stand more exposure, grows more compact, strikes from cuttings, and does not require eight or nine years to produce a well budded plant.
It was in full bloom on May 11th at Brooks and was the centre of attraction for several weeks. The truss was rounded and composed of from 9 to 10 flowers which individually were fully five inches wide. The broad frilled lobes were slightly recurved and spread out from the short tube allowing one to see at a glance the delicate shadings within. The petals were tinged a soft rosy pink but gradually became suffused a pale biscuit yellow towards the center of the tube. The exterior of the flowers was a lovely shade of rose pink which extended down the pedicels towards the rachis.
It is difficult to visualize a more beautiful Rhododendron and even more difficult for the writer to adequately describe the loveliness of this hybrid, one of the finest importations from England to date.