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Journal American Rhododendron Society

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


Volume 50, Number 1
Winter 1996

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Hybridizing for Fun!
Felice Blake
Kallista, Victoria, Australia

        In the midst of the rhododendron season when one's enthusiasm knows no bounds, how often do the keen growers' thoughts turn to trying their hands at creating their very own hybrids? Perhaps inspired by the plethora of new hybrids gracing the show benches or, conversely, that after all couldn't one try to create something better! Now, you experts, read no further. These notes are not meant for you but for those who have not yet been tempted.
        It is quite some years ago that my late husband and I (mainly my husband) in a fit of enthusiasm sparked off by some beautiful rhododendrons in bloom decided to have a little fun and fiddle with the idea of trying to create our own good yellow. So many rhododendrons claim to be yellow, but so many seem to fall short of the ideal. At that particular time we had in flower the good yellow, Rhododendron 'Jalisco Elect' and that rather unusual clone of the R. 'Tortoiseshell' grex, R. 'Champagne'.

Parentage of R. Bramerton grex

        We delved into the parentage of these two hybrids and, of course, noted the yellows and oranges in the parentage and grand parentage and also that potent red, R. griersonianum. We decided that this looked promising, not only for yellows but also for the highly desirable apricots and peaches. It is certainly worthwhile and fun to make a diagram of the ancestors of your chosen rhododendron parents. Rhododendron 'Champagne' was chosen as the seed parent and R. 'Jalisco Elect' as the pollen parent. Naturally we took precautions to ensure that the stray bee or insect didn't take part in the proceedings. It is quite simple to remove the anthers of the seed parent before the flower buds open and to bag the style and stigma so that only the chosen pollen has a chance to fertilize the seed parent - but I guess this is so elementary that even the beginner would know. And so the fun began and the seed pods duly matured and the seed sown in a peat and river sand mix with fine peat just covering the seed and kept damp (everyone has different ideas for seed mix but I find this quite good for most ericaceous seed). Then the waiting began, and, dear friends, waiting is the hardest part of all! Germination was good and the little seedlings potted up as soon as they were big enough to handle. Then the waiting began again - several years of it - and as they grew bigger and bigger the usual problem occurred, what to do with all these progeny. One is always tempted to pass many of them on to our gardening friends - then one is hesitant or full of foreboding that perhaps one is giving away that very special elusive "winner," but one really does need lots of room for the growing plants.

Pastel colored seedling of the cross 
(R. 'Champagne' x R. 'Jalisco Elect')
Pastel colored seedling of the cross
(R. 'Champagne' x R. 'Jalisco Elect')
Photo by Felice Blake
 
Gold colored seedling of the cross 
(R. 'Champagne' x R. 'Jalisco Elect')
Gold colored seedling of the cross
(R. 'Champagne' x R. 'Jalisco Elect')
Photo by Felice Blake
 
Pink colored seedling of the cross 
(R. 'Champagne' x R. 'Jalisco Elect')
Pink colored seedling of the cross
(R. 'Champagne' x R. 'Jalisco Elect')
Photo by Felice Blake

        Great excitement comes when the first seedlings arrive at that most magical moment of flowering. And what were we blessed with? A fascinating array of colours - one golden yellow without a trace of pink or orange, not even in the buds which so often happens with yellows. A soft pink came with a deep throat as a present from R. griersonianum, and a bronzy one also with a deep throat, several sunset colours and a very deep salmon amongst other pinks. These were mostly of good quality with neat foliage, similar and as good as most hybrids of that style. These have proved quite easy to propagate from cuttings - an essential feature of rhododendrons these days when no one really wants to bother with grafting. Some plants were discarded after evaluating them for several years, as I think one needs to be very selective. No, we have not registered any names, but we have unofficially referred to selected clones as "Bramerton something." Why "Bramerton" this and that? Well, our home is named "Little Bramerton" after my husband's ancestral home, Bramerton Hall, a few miles out of Norwich in Norfolk. It really began as a joke and then somehow it stuck!
        I do think one should be very careful about naming since once a plant has been named the name should be registered. We are all inclined to look at our very own hybrids through the inevitable rosy glasses! But all this does not take away the sheer enjoyment of having our very own rhodo children. It is all great fun!

Felice Blake, a frequent contributor to the Journal, gardens in Kallista, Australia, approximately 20 miles from Melbourne at about 1,300 feet elevation.


Volume 50, Number 1
Winter 1996

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