Notes on Selected Illustrations from J. G. Millais' Two
Volumes Rhododendrons and The Various Hybrids, Part V
Clive L. Justice
Vancouver, British Columbia
'Mrs E. C. Stirling', top, 'Corona', left, and 'G. A. Sims', right,
painted by Winnifred Walker.
This plate from Millais (1917) of three rhododendron hybrid truss portraits painted by Winnifred Walker pictures these hybrids at their height of bloom. All do bloom in late May and all bear the Waterer mark. Hybrid 'Mrs E. C. Stirling', the crowning glory of the portrait, was created by John Waterer before 1900 as it received an RHS Award of Merit (A. M.) in 1906. One of the parents of the hybrid 'Mrs E. C. Stirling' is R. griffithianum. For its time it had one of the most desirable forms and shapes for a winning show truss, but because of its lateness of bloom rarely if ever made it on the show table to be judged the winner that it is. The hybrid is named for Mary Ann Kehl, the English, Mayfair born, actress who married the Drury Lane Stage Manager, Edward Stirling. She performed on the London stage from 1833 until 1886 and died in 1895.
The deep red high right cheek truss is another Waterer, but Anthony Waterer Jr. created hybrid 'G. A. Sims'. The parents are unknown but the name honours a Victorian playwright and journalist, George Robert(?) (Albert) Sims, 1847-1922. It is quite possible that Mary Ann (Mrs. E. C. Stirling) was an actress in one or more of his many stage plays; Sims wrote fourteen plus twenty-two more jointly with another playwright. Perhaps in "The Lights of London" produced in 1882, but not "Dorcus Deane, Detective," as it was staged fifteen years later, in 1897.1
The lower left cheek in the Millais/ Winnifred Walker portrait is the hybrid 'Corona', yet another John Waterer creation of unknown parentage created before 1900; it received an A.M. in 1911.2 The word "corona" from the Greek has many meanings: astronomical, architectural, botanical, theological and practical. Two of the most practical are: the ridge surrounding the nugget of a spot weld or a long straight cigar. Avoiding the perverse, it is most probably that the name derives from the crown-like arrangement of the stamens in each flower of the near perfect egg-shaped truss. The petals overlap to form a corolla so with the circle of white tipped stamens inside, imagine a narcissus. Now that's a bit of botanical trivia.
1The Sims azalea, R. simsii, is named for another Sims, an earlier one, J. Sims 1749-1831, who was an early editor of the Botanical Magazine. The writer has photographed this rhododendron species in gardens on Penang Hill in Malaysia and in the botanical garden on Hong Kong Island.
2Salley and Greer note 'Corona' is "often a parent, possibly of 'Mars'."
Part V is the last of the series by Clive Justice on illustrations from J. G. Millais' Rhododendrons and The Various Hybrids.