A Glimpse Of Gold!
Kallista, Victoria, Australia
In early spring when our garden is stirring from its winter sleep, what do we look for most as the days begin to draw out a little? Well, to me, it is always the "yellows" that lighten up the garden - they glow in the sunshine and on dull days they give a lift to the garden scene. All yellows are welcome from the pale primrose to the bright golden shades.
In our garden the cold days of late winter bring the first flowers of one of my favourite yellows, this is 'Talavera', one of the 'Golden Oriole' group. It is remarkably weather hardy, the winter rains seem not to bother it a bit. 'Talavera' is the child of R. moupinense x R. sulfureum, so if you can grow R. moupinense in your garden I feel sure that 'Talavera' will be happy with you too. This rhododendron has been around for a long time, but strangely it does not seem to have been as widely commercialized as one would expect, when one considers its many attributes.
Photo by Felice Blake
It was hybridized at that beautiful home of many hybrids, Caerhays Castle, in the English county of Cornwall, by the late Charles Williams. It received the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Merit in 1947, as 'Golden Oriole', when it was described as follows: "The stems are bright cinnamon-brown, and bear elliptic, coriaceous leaves about 2 inches long and scaly beneath on red petioles. These, together with the crimson bud-scales, form a pleasing background to the three-flowered trusses of Dresden Yellow (H.C.C. 64/2) flowers. The corolla is 1½ inches long, 2 inches wide at the mouth, with five rounded and spreading lobes." To those who are interested in such things, the current equivalent of the old H.C.C. 64/2 on the R.H.S. Colour Chart is Yellow Group 5C, although personally I do consider that 'Talavera' is more of a golden yellow than that colour.
Over the years there has been a certain amount of confusion concerning the name. After others of the same grex were named, this hybrid was renamed 'Golden Oriole Talavera', but apparently in accordance with the rules of nomenclature, the 'Golden Oriole' was dropped and this rhododendron was named simply 'Talavera'.
So over the years, it has been grown under three names! A bit confusing isn't it? In our garden, my plant grown from a cutting, seven years ago, now measures about two feet high by two and a half feet across. It is suitable for a large rock garden, and also for the border. I grow it in filtered sun, as in our climate it does not like hot afternoon sun in summer which, although it does not burn the leaves, does bleach them. Certainly this does not add to its attraction. In semi-shade the deep green leaves retain their richness, and shade does not deter the plant from freely forming flower buds. One great advantage it has over some other early flowering rhododendrons is that rain does not spot the flowers. It is very easily propagated from cuttings taken in late summer or as the wood ripens a little. Use a hormone (0.25% I.B. acid) in a peat and coarse river sand mix, in a heated propagator with misting. One usually has nearly 100% strike. These will flower within three years.
This delightful rhododendron flowers prodigiously every year, and with blue primroses blooming at its feet, makes a lovely early spring picture.
An avid gardener, writer, photographer and researcher, Felice Blake regularly contributes articles to the ARS Journal.