Kallista, Victoria, Australia
We all like surprises, pleasant ones. When the surprise is in the form of an unexpected rhododendron, and a lovely one, well, our joy knows no bounds!
Many years ago, I was given a tiny seedling rhododendron as R. luteiflorum grown from Scottish seed. It was duly potted up and left with other little ones in the shade house.
It was not until a couple of years later, when the seedling was making its presence noticeable, that I suddenly realized that it could not possibly be R. luteiflorum as the leaves were plain green on both surfaces, not with the glaucous undersurface of the species. Obviously the renowned bumble bee had taken a hand in the pollination process.
What do we do, when we realize that our species seedlings cannot be true to name? Do we cut our losses and discard them, or do we decide to be patient and wait to see whether the seedling will turn out to be something worthwhile?
I decided to wait and I had to wait for several more years. Then came the time one autumn when I noticed the first flower buds. Spring was awaited with keen anticipation. What a pleasant surprise was in store for me. The flowers were campanulate, about the same size, and with the typical bent style of the seed parent, but with a lovely flame coloured many flowered truss.
Photo by Felice Blake
This hybrid is very generous with its flowers over an extended season from mid to late winter until mid spring. The leaves are much larger than its parent and with its flame flowers of undeniable charm, it makes me wonder about the identity of the pollen parent. After nearly twenty years, this rhododendron is now about four feet high and four feet across. It is enhanced by its lovely flaking cinnamon bark, fascinating when the sun shines through it.
This rhododendron is an interesting addition to either the larger rock garden, the background of the smaller rock garden or the border. It has proved easy to propagate from cuttings, taken in mid summer, using hormone powder, mist and bottom heat. These little plants flower in about four years.
As this rhododendron always attracts attention, it is now in one of our big gardens which is open to the public, it cried out for a name. After much cogitation 'Coralynne' was chosen as reflecting its charm.
Now the moral of this little story - don't discard those species seedlings which don't appear true to name, you might discard a very special rhododendron, better than any deliberately planned hybrid!