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Journal American Rhododendron Society

Current Editor:
Dr. Glen Jamieson ars.editor@gmail.com


Volume 45, Number 2
Spring 1991

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Whidbey Island in Bloom
Felice Blake
Kallista, Victoria, Australia

        The day in May dawned bright and sunny which augured well for a keenly anticipated trip from Woodinville to Whidbey Island, Washington, in company with Jeanine and Rex Smith. We were soon crossing on the ferry from Mukilteo to Clinton near the southern end of the island. As most readers know, Whidbey Island lies in upper Puget Sound in Washington State and is renowned for its wonderful conditions for growing a wide diversity of rhododendrons. The island was discovered by Joseph Whidbey, the Master of H.M.S. Discovery, the flagship of Captain George Vancouver's flotilla in 1792, but was not settled until the 1850s. Our first visit was to see the collection of Frank Fujioka and Greg Kesterson. Here we saw a spectacular display of many hybrids, both named and unnamed, whilst some bore nicknames which showed up the owners' sense of humour! I was interested in the hybridizing of indumented species and hybrids, and several caught my eye - the pink and white R. yakushimanum x 'Medusa', the bright pink 'Fabia' x R. bureavii and the pale pink R. yakushimanum x 'Anna'. There were some lovely yellows in bloom including 'Hotei', 'Odee Wright', 'Nancy Evans', and one rather nice pale yellow seedling which bore with fortitude the appalling nickname of 'Sour Pineapple'! An interesting dark red was 'Lem's Stormcloud', and there were many more of note, including an unusual pink sport of 'Unique' and a frilly pink 'Flirt' x 'Pink Petticoat'.

R. yakushimanum x 'Anna'
R. yakushimanum x 'Anna'
Photo by Felice Blake
 
R. yakushimanum x 'Mrs. Lammot 
Copeland'
R. yakushimanum x 'Mrs. Lammot Copeland'
Photo by Felice Blake

        From there we visited Pat Halligan at Langley, where we admired his very interesting Subsection Maddenia crosses, R. nuttallii x R. lindleyi F2, and R. nuttallii x R. taggianum, both with beautiful large blooms and exquisite perfume. These are rather tender here and are grown in a gazebo. Pat says that in October he covers the gazebo with two layers of plastic and puts in an automatic thermostatically controlled ventilation system. Above 35° F outside air circulates; below 35° F heaters warm the greenhouse. In April Pat removes the plastic. So the old adage comes true, where there's a will there is a way. Unfortunately we were just too late to see his notable hybrid R. keiskei 'Yaku Fairy' x 'Else Frye'.
        We then drove up past Coupeville, one of the oldest towns in Washington State, to the picturesque Captain Whidbey Inn, a delightful luncheon spot on the water's edge. The Inn dates back to 1907 when it was built primarily of Madrone (Arbutus menziesii) logs, and in many ways, we are told, it is the same today as it was then.

Meerkerk Hybrid Test Garden
Meerkerk Hybrid Test Garden
Photo by Felice Blake

        South again to Greenbank and the Seattle Rhododendron Society's pride and joy - the Meerkerk Gardens. Much has been written about the Meerkerk Hybrid Test Garden (see Pat Halligan's comprehensive articles in the Summer 1989 Journal), but there is also the charming old woodland garden abounding in many choice mature species and hybrid rhododendrons, with the hybrids predominating. Down one leafy path we enjoyed two huge bushes of R. augustinii, and along another path we were greeted by an old and lovely 'Loderi King George' in company with 'Crest' and an outstanding red R. elliottii (KW 7725). Every path we took heralded some new delight, a large and very beautiful R. smirnowii, a striking 'Big Jock', an exquisite pink R. vaseyi. Then it was time to explore the Test Garden, where Pat and Greg were busily engaged in evaluating many plants in bloom. There is no doubt that the Test Garden is really an education, highly recommended to all to enjoy. There was so much to see in this sea of colour, sometimes brilliant, sometimes delicate, but always interesting, enticing the visitor to do his, or in this case, her own piece of private evaluating!

R. vaseyi
R. vaseyi
Photo by Felice Blake

        For those who enjoy large luscious flowers, 'Canadian Beauty' in shades of pink, would have much to offer. 'Lem's 121' was a beautiful yellow in flower, but alas! the foliage was so poor as to be a real deterrent from growing it. Then I was attracted by the vibrant red of 'Heart's Desire' and the lovely 'Hello Dolly', yellow overlaid with warmer tones, with a large calyx giving a double effect. In all an almost bewildering variety of large and small growing rhododendrons. My companions were most informative about the garden and its history, so too were Mary and Bill Stipe, manager of Meerkerk Gardens. In answer to a query I had, Bill immediately produced a computer printout with the required information!
        This was a most rewarding and fascinating day, and my thanks to those who planned it. Whidbey Island is truly a lovely place to visit and enjoy, and I hope that sometime in the future I will have the opportunity of visiting again.

Felice Blake is a regular contributor to the ARS Journal. She toured the Pacific Northwest in 1989, and out of that visit have come several articles (Summer 1990 and Fall 1990 issues).


Volume 45, Number 2
Spring 1991

DLA Ejournal Home | JARS Home | Table of Contents for this issue | Search JARS and other ejournals