Some Outstanding Hybrids of the Maddenia Species
Within subsection Maddenia you will find some of the most interesting and special rhododendron species growing anywhere in the world. They are found in the wilds of the eastern Himalayas, in west and south Yunnan, China, in southwest China and on into the Indochina area.
Under cultivation they do very well in the mild climates of Cornwall and south Wales areas of Great Britain and also on the North Island of New Zealand. Here in the United States we do have a few areas where these beautiful and outstanding rhododendrons will prosper and show us their blooms and fine foliage. Such areas are along the California western coast, from Santa Cruz north to San Francisco and on up the coast to Fort Bragg and to Eureka.
The beautiful Rhododendron nuttallii falls within subsection Maddenia. As noted in an article by Larry Moss in the Humboldt Botanical Gardens newsletter The Guardian, "Rhododendron nuttallii is the most majestic of the maddenias and, to my eye, unsurpassed by any other rhododendron." Some of the many hybrids of R. nuttallii are: 'Mi Amor', 'Patricia Marie', 'Roy Hudson' and 'Virginia Stewart'. Another species within the subsection is R. ciliicalyx, noted for its sweet-scented, widely funnel-shaped blossoms. One of its hybrids, 'Else Frye', can often be grown here in the Northwest.
As an outstanding hybrid, I cannot think of a more beautiful flower than 'Floral Dance', a result of mating Rhododendron nuttallii and R. edgeworthii. Rhododendron edgeworthii falls within the subsection Edgeworthia and is a true beauty of a plant with leaves that are bullate above and woolly and scaled below. Its flowers are white, usually flushed rose-pink. They are perfumed and can be noted long distances away. I saw 'Floral Dance' in a number of gardens on a tour of private gardens in New Zealand. 'Floral Dance' is one of those flowers that, once noted, you just never forget.
'Floral Dance', a cross by Felix Jury of New Zealand, registered in 1982.
Photo by Bob George
To close, there are more than fifty named clones with parents in subsection Maddenia. Hybridizers here and in New Zealand are working with the Maddenia to expand the range of colors that are currently available, from deep red to blue. If you live outside the Maddenia growing area, you might try growing one of the many varieties in a greenhouse or in a very sheltered area. You will not be disappointed.
Bob George is a member of the Cascade Chapter and a frequent visitor to the gardens of New Zealand.