Notes from the Exbury Gardens
by Edmund de Rothschild
Your English friends have read with considerable interest the Quarterly Bulletin which your society issues and I thought that members might be interested in hearing how our gardens have fared during the past twelve months since the visit of the President and members of the American Rhododendron Society.
The Spring of 1949 did not show the gardens at their best but this is quite understandable when one bears in mind the extremely severe winters of 1946 and 1947 followed by two others with only slight rainfall and a dreadful drought in 1949 which was making itself evident, at the time of the Rhododendron Conference. However, this year the weather has been fairly kind to us and in October 1949 we had a good rainfall of 82 inches followed by an ideal rhododendron winter and the most perfect conditions throughout this flowering season. Plants that we thought at Exbury would die of thirst survived and all show a lovely clean growth which is a joy to behold.
In all parts of the country, however, the weather was not so kind as early in May this year the most fearful snowstorm swept through a great part of southern England and the Midlands bringing with it much destruction of broken trees and shrubs as the sap having risen suddenly found the branches unprepared for the weight of snow that they received. At Exbury we had but a sprinkling of snow and that disappeared about 3 hours after daybreak, but Wisley and other places were not so fortunate.
We have been working hard at the layering of the Award plants and the nurseries are full to overflowing with good healthy clean plants. To accommodate all these young plants, it was found necessary to make new nurseries which have now been completed and these also are full.
There seems to be a large demand for all varieties of deciduous and evergreen aaleas, and as a result we have propagated both on a much larger scale than has been attempted in the past. A very high percentage have been germinated and rooted successfully and are looking very healthy in the frames and nursery beds.
The deciduous azaleas have been carefully selected and selfed, and thousands of new seedlings are coming along to keep the continual improvement in the stock which is now known as the Exbury strain. We exhibited some of the larger azalea plants at the Chelsea Show this year and they were greatly admired but it was disappointing to find that the first quality ones were over by the time of the Chelsea Show - after having flowered most profusely - and these could not be put into the group.
Due to the excessively wet season the new growth on most of the plants is inclined to be tender and therefore it is anticipated that the percentage of successful rooting will not be so good as normal. Cuttings, ripe for taking, have in the main been retarded some weeks owing to the same conditions.
We exhibited some of my father's new hybrids, all worthy of showing and up to the standard expected of Exbury hybrids.
R. 'Lady Berry' 'Rosy Bell' x 'Royal Flush' F. C. C. R. 'Bulbul' bullatum x moupinense A. M. R. 'Iliad' 'Nereid' x kyawii A. M. R. 'Jibuti' griersonianum x 'Gills Triumph' A. M. R. 'Queen of Hearts' meddianum x 'Moser's Maroon' A. M. R. 'Janet' 'Avalanche' x 'Dr. Stocker' A. M. R. 'Mariloo' 'Dr. Stocker' x lacteum A. M. R. 'Inamorata' wardii x discolor A. M. R. 'Francis Hanger' dichroanthum x 'Isabella' A. M. R. 'Rouge' T. L. 1249 x elliottii A. M. R. 'Kiev' barclayi x elliottii A. M.
R. 'Lady Berry', of course, stands supreme in this list as she does in her own corner of the garden but pride of place among the others must go to R. 'Inamorata' which adorns the woodland with large sprays of pure sulphur-yellow blooms. The widely funnel shaped flowers are carried most gracefully and loosely in a truss of up to eight. A new and more unique type, of rhododendron, and one that will assuredly be sought after by all experienced and enthusiastic collectors, is R. 'Francis Hanger'. It has a flat tight truss composed of seven large trumpet-like flowers of a most unusual shade of chrome-yellow flushed with rose towards the outer edge of the corolla lobes. This type of new hybrid is obviously what my father the late Lionel de Rothschild - was striving for during the latter years of his hybridizing.
R. 'Rouge' should also be mentioned, not so much for its quality-as this plant would not rank high in a good collection - but for its use as a really good garden plant. In spite of the R. elliottii in it, the R. 'Tom Lowinsky' blood makes it quite hardy and it supports extremely large red compact trusses: the R. elliottii giving it many dark spots in the throat.
R. 'Kiev' needs no mention as this beautiful waxy red rhododendron was seen by the President and members of, the American Rhododendron Society in full flower in 1949, and there is no doubt that it has been described verbally by those who saw it to most members of the Society. Of its type we consider that R. 'Kiev' is probably the finest dark red produced at Exbury but alas it is rather tender. Besides these, there are still many hybrids to flower of which we have considerable hopes.
We are all hoping, as you must also be, for a mild winter and always look forward to seeing our friends from the United States and hearing their news.