Front Cover Illustration
The illustration© on the front cover of this issue of the Journal was drawn from life and painted in brilliant designer's gouache by botanical illustrator Christy Hansford Baker of Atlanta, Georgia.
Ms. Baker writes: "Upon discovering this crimson wall in the woodland gardens of Holker Hall, I was reminded of the "blood-red rhododendrons" described by Daphne du Maurier in the mystery Rebecca. So striking in stature and color, this original species puts all hybrids to shame. The mallotum was first introduced from Yunnan, Upper Burma, in 1919 and was the first specimen on the property of Holker Hall to interest the estate's owner, Lord Cavendish, as a child. The flowers are bell shaped and the undersides of the leaves a beautiful suede texture."
Variation exists within the species, with the characteristic leaf shape more obovate than the lanceolate leaves on the Holker Hall plant.
Christy Hansford Baker, a freelance illustrator, is an Atlanta native who earned a bachelor's degree with Distinction in Art from Colorado College in Colorado Springs where she studied field drawing, painting and botany. She worked as an exhibit designer for Fernbank Museum of Natural History where she conducted research in the field and produced illustrations for scientific publications. She travels extensively, documenting flora and producing work from live specimens. She is a member of the American Society of Botanical Artists and the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators and has her work in many private collections. She shows her work at select venues throughout the United States.
H. H. Davidian reports in his Rhododendron Species, Vol. III that Rhododendron mallotum was discovered by Frank Kingdon-Ward in 1914 in Upper Burma and that in 1919 both George Forrest and Reginald Farrer collected it in the Yunnan province of China. Its characteristic natural habitat is open hillsides, rocky slopes, at the margin of thickets and in rhododendron thickets.
The species is described as an upright shrub or tree up to 15 feet (4.5m) high. Its leaves are described as generally "obovate" - a term defined in The Encyclopedia of Rhododendron Species by Peter and Kenneth Cox as "ovate but the petiole is attached to the narrower end, as in R. mallotum..." ("Ovate" means egg-shaped.)
Although the leaves in the illustration by Ms. Baker are not "obovate" and presumably not characteristic of the species, the cinnamon indumentum she depicts definitely is - and is probably its most outstanding characteristic and one which excites gardeners more than anything else about this species, even more than its striking red flowers.