by Rudolph Henny
The illustration on the cover of this issue of the Quarterly Bulletin of the American Rhododendron Society is R. 'Loderi King George'. Though all the varieties of R. 'Loderi' are superb, R. 'Loderi King George' is acclaimed by many as the finest of the entire lot. The individual flowers of this hybrid are usually from five to six inches across and white in color, though the flower as it emerges shows much pink, and is quite fragrant.
Most of the varieties of R. 'Loderi' are from a single cross made by Sir Edmund Loder. Though much mysticism surrounds the parentage used in this single cross that produced all the varieties of 'Loderi' as we now know them, much is left unanswered. Kew Gardens made the original cross of griffithianum x fortunei many years before the same cross was made by Sir Edmund and at that time it was called R. 'kewense'. Now R. 'kewense' as we know it here is far below R. 'Loderi' in quality yet both are of the same identical cross, i.e., griffithianum x fortunei.
I have read many times since, of the way the cross was made, which parent bore the seed, and that very superior forms of the species were used by Sir Edmund. No one has to date been able to equal the results of the one particular cross that bore the Loderi varieties for Loder, yet, the cross identical has been made many times since. During the last year it has been assured that the Loderi hybrids are not tetraploids, by actual count of the chromosomes. The very pertinent question of why Sir. Edmund did not repeat the cross as originally made using the same identical species has often entered conversations on the Loderi's. I have heard that he did attempt the cross again several times, but the results were of no avail. It would be natural to assume that such a cross would be attempted by Loder again, since the question of use of superior species was predisposed to assure success. Why then did Sir Edmund fail in later attempts to equal the original cross, even by using the same species as parents?
I am not aware of the methods used by Sir Edmund in his hybridization but the fact must enter such a case as this that the entire cross could be one of chance, and not R. griffithianum x R. fortunei. Since both species are large flowered each may be the result of inbreeding or selfing.
As mentioned previously the superb quality of the bloom is almost beyond belief, and the sight of a mature plant in bloom is truly a sight not easily forgotten. Many of the large varieties of R. 'Loderi' such as in the gardens of George Grace, and H. H. Harms often excite comments of personal opinion as to which is the finest variety.
R. 'Loderi' is a plant for the larger garden, and to attempt to grow it in small gardens soon finds it out of place. In the larger garden and woodland it is unsurpassed. All the R. 'Loderi's should have partial protection from the sun especially during blooming time, when the hot weather of spring days will spoil the flowers.
A few of the varieties of R. 'Loderi' are hardier than others. R. 'Venus' proved hardier than 'King George' or 'Loderi Sir Joseph Hooker' during the severe winter of 1949.
The picture for the cover was taken by Irving Lincoln in his garden in Portland, Oregon.