Philadelphia Region 'Garden Gems'
We have long known that the genus Rhododendron turns enthusiasts into devoted partisans for their particular favorites - be they hybrids or species, lepidotes or elepidotes. At every opportunity, we eagerly compare our favorites to the lists of "Good Doers," "Garden Gems," or "Best Twenty" that are included in every rhododendron/azalea book ever published, as well as the Journal American Rhododendron Society. We tend to wonder why our favorites don't always make these lists. However, my eye for beauty doesn't necessarily agree with yours, and when you consider the almost infinite variety of rhododendrons on the market, you begin to understand there are Garden Gems to suit everyone.
Well, I wanted to see how many of my current favorites would make a list of 1997 Garden Gems. I sent survey forms to ARS members in the District 8 chapters: Greater Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley, Pine Barrens, Susquehanna Valley and Valley Forge. The replies (44) proved interesting and instructive, as they came from a wide geographical area with a wide range of weather and growing conditions. Pennsylvania reports included Bethlehem, Cochranville, Gladwyne, Leesport, Narberth, Newville, Oreland, Philadelphia, Pottstown, Quakertown, Revere, Rydal, Villanova, and Wynnewood. New Jersey responses came from Cherry Hill, Clinton, Swedesboro, Vineland, and Voorhees. Other reports came from Wilmington, Delaware; Randellstown, Maryland; Berkely Springs, West Virginia; and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
THE TOP 25 ELEPIDOTES Votes Variety Color Comment 25 'Scintillation' pink "PERFECT PLANT," likes p.m. shade 17 'Janet Blair' pink/cream "Always pleasing," sun tolerant 16 'Roseum Elegans' pink/lavender "The standard for reliability and toughness, sun or shade, tall 14 'Solidarity' rosy pink "No. 1 for me," sun tolerant, yak hybrid 12 'Caroline' orchid pink "A must," good grower, tall, sun tolerant, fragrant 11 'Mist Maiden' pink to white "A garden plant for all seasons," yak or yak hybrid 11 'Gigi' rosy red "Excellent all around," sun tolerant, midsize 10 'Todmorden' bicolor red/cream "Good performer," tall, sun tolerant 9 'Mary Belle' peachy yellow "Beautiful flowers," low, sun tolerant 8 'Yaku Angel' white low, sun tolerant, floriferous yak 8 'Ruth Davis' pink to white great foliage, a.m. sun, p.m. shade, yak hybrid 8 'Ben Moseley' light purple glossy foliage, hardy, floriferous 8 'Catawbiense Album' white reliable, takes sun, very hardy 7 'Dexter's Champagne'* pastel pink-buff sun tolerant, fragrant, gets better with age 7 'Ken Janeck' pink to white classic yak or yak hybrid, low, hardy 7 'Wynterset White' lavender to white early-midseason, some fertilizer 7 'Judy Spillane' pink R. maximum hybrid, hardy, nice foliage 7 'Wheatley' silvery pink outstanding flowers, nice foliage 7 'Cadis' light pink fragrant, late bloom, big with time 7; 'Chionoides' white dark foliage, sun/cold tolerant, low 5 'David Gable' pink/red throat vigorous habit, good bloomer 5 'Nestucca' white low yak hybrid, interesting foliage 5 R. hyperythrum white species, low, hardy, good foliage 5 'Percy Wiseman' peach apricot yak hybrid, p.m. shade, avoid heat 5 'Catalode' ivory tall, vigorous, good bloomer THE TOP FIVE LEPIDOTES Votes Variety Color Comment 8 'Olga Mezitt' pink vigorous, winter color, shiny foliage 7 PJM Group lavender pink early, sun tolerant, needs good drainage 7 'Windbeam' white to pink hardy grower, blooms in light shade 5 'Mary Fleming' bisque yellow early good bloom, low, takes sun 5 'Ginny Gee' pink/white 2-foot dwarf, sun tolerant, rock garden hit * Name is not registered.
As you might expect from a survey of our Mid-Atlantic region, 'Scintillation' was the most mentioned rhodie. However, you may be surprised at the mix of newer hybrids and old-timers. This newest list of Garden Gems and survey comments are shown here. We hope they prove useful to you in your gardening endeavors.