Logo for the Journal American Rhododendron Society

Journal American Rhododendron Society

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


Volume 47, Number 2
Spring 1993

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

Benign Neglect Pays Off
Dennis Bottemiller
Puyallup, Washington

        Growing vireyas in the Northwest is something most people shy away from. They have the reputation of being difficult to grow and bloom, and most everyone assumes you need a green house to be successful with them. My first experience with vireyas came when I purchased Rhododendron retusum during my internship at the Rhododendron Species Foundation (RSF). After my summer internship was over I returned to college in Pullman, located in Eastern Washington. The summers are hot and dry, and winters can be bitter cold. In my ignorance of the difficulty of vireya culture I placed my new retusum on an end table in a nice south facing window and neglected it as I would any other house plant. I watered it whenever I noticed the rootball shrinking away from the sides of the container, but I don't remember ever fertilizing it. I was rewarded for this negative behavior with many beautiful delicate red bells in the winter, not once but twice in the first winter I had it! As I learned more about vireya culture I started taking better care of it and eventually managed to kill it with over-attention.
        With this lesson in hand I began my job at RSF which included taking care of the rather large collection of vireyas. As a result of having too little space and too many other responsibilities the collection suffered a significant amount of neglect under which it thrived. I discovered that nearly all of the vireyas are fairly easy to propagate from cutting, and most respond well to pinching and fish fertilizer.

R. javanicum ssp. brookianum
R. javanicum ssp. brookeanum
Photo by Dennis Bottemiller
 
R. javanicum ssp. brookianum
R. javanicum ssp. brookeanum
Photo by Dennis Bottemiller

        During my tenure at the Foundation I learned many things about vireyas and I continue to grow them at my home in Puyallup - outside in the summer and inside in the winter. The more I learn about these plants the better I like them, but the most important thing I have learned is to just jump in and try growing them. Your reward will come in winter when your gardening friends are over and you have an exotic blooming rhododendron on display indoors! Your status as a Rhodophile will greatly increase.
        Here is short list of plants I have found to be quite easy: R. retusum, R. commonae, R. loranthiflorum, R. christianae and R. gracilentum.

Dennis Bottemiller, formerly the propagator at the Rhododendron Species Foundation in Federal Way, Wash., is now horticulturist at the W.W. Seymour Conservatory in Wright Park, Tacoma, Wash.


Volume 47, Number 2
Spring 1993

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