A Report of Some of My Newer Rhododendrons
by Dr. Royal Gick
On account of their newness, at least with me, the plants I am reporting are small as yet, averaging from one foot to three feet or more in height. In some cases the bloom has been only a single, first truss on a small plant, and thereby more or less hard to judge, but in most instances I have taken this fact into consideration and have been lenient. I believe nearly all have been proven in other gardens, especially in England, and have proven to be desirable.
Some of these plants and other new ones that will bloom for the first time next Spring, were set back by the severe frost of a couple of years ago. Descriptions are necessarily brief and non botanical. I have tried to keep this from reading like a catalogue, but rather as a brief description, as my notes show what I liked about each plant or bloom. I would like to mention also that these notes are observations of an amateur rhododendron gardener.
R. 'Barbara' (campylocarpum var. etatum Loderi.) Vigorous growing, well shaped plant, entirely hardy. A good truss of cream colored campanulate shaped flowers with a dark blotch. Foliage and flower after the shape of the first parent, but the second parent increases the size of the bloom. Best of my R. campylocarpum hybrids.
R. 'Blue Diamond' ('Intrafast' x augustinii) Very desirable, semi dwarf. Flowers and foliage smaller than R. augustinii, and a showy violet blue.
R. 'Bobolink' (discolor x neriiflorum) The finest deep yellow or apricot rhododendron flower I have ever seen. Large funnel campanulate shaped flowers, 10-12 in a lax truss. size of the plant and habit of growth like R. discolor, but with narrower foliage. It apparently took R. neriiflorum in a state of flux to produce this fine yellow flower. Usually this cross flowers mostly to shades of pink.
R.' Break of Day' ('Dawns Delight' x dichroanthum) A semi dwarf novelty. Loose truss of orange colored campanulate shaped flowers with calyx.
R. 'Bric-a-brac' (leucaspis x moupinense) A very desirable floriferous dwarf with open pinky white, frilled edged flowers. The flowers are borne in a loose formed group and open in March.
R. 'Carmen' (repens x didymum) One of the best dwarfs. Very free flowering and from an early age. The flowers are large for the size of the plant and are deep red. This plant with me is easier to grow and faster than R. repens, and is a most welcome addition to any dwarf garden. I imagine a bush 18 inches across will be a striking sight.
R. 'Cavalcade' ('Essex Scarlet' x griersonianum) Leggy grower, and needs constant pinching back before its spring growth cycle, but as a showy, red rhododendron, it is all right. Can almost make you turn your back on R. 'Mars' and the R. 'Earl of Athlone'. Good truss of tubular campanulate, red flowers.
R. 'C. P. Rafill' ('Britannia' x griersonianum) My plant is a clonal form of Mr. Raflll's selected plant. 'Britannia' type flower, but a deeper, richer orange red. The bush is small, but a large well grown plant will deserve every praise deserving of a fine red rhododendron.
R. 'Crossbill' (spinuliferum x lutescens) An upright, spindly grower, needs pinching or shearing to shape a good plant. A shy bloomer when young, but the open bell like yellow flowers are desirable. Should be striking when planted amongst similar shaped lavender flowering plants such as R. 'Electra'.
R. 'Damaris' ('Dr. Stocker' x campylocarpum) Cream or "biscuit" colored campanulate shaped flowers. Disappointed in this as I have several cream yellows much superior in color. I understand there are good yellow forms of this that are desirable.
R. 'Damozel' (unnamed x griersonianum) Bright rose red, good upright truss of tubular campanulate shaped flowers. In a rhododendron planting the bloom will catch your eye from 30 feet away. This plant is Mrs. Gicks favorite. Not a strong grower, but extra rich soil might make it huskier.
R. 'Eldorado' (valentinianum x johnstoneanum) A very attractive semi dwarf with hairy brownish green foliage, and yellow flowers, both like the species Valentinianum, but twice as large. More or less of a twiggy habit of growth and probably a little tender until a more mature plant. The dwarf yellow blooming varieties like this one and R. 'Valaspis' should add charm to any rock garden containing an abundance of lavenders and purples.
R. 'Electra' (chasmanthum x augustinii) Faster growing and larger flowered than R. augustinii. My plant is lavender flowered. If a seedling in this cross should come as blue as a good R. augustinii, it would be outstanding.
R. 'Elizabeth' (repens x griersonianum) Pictured in color in the 1949 R.H.S. Yearbook. This plant has created a sensation since, and is desirable in every way in the red rhododendron class. My little bush makes three growths annually and then sets buds. Every terminal will make a bud or more and bloom. This plant is of a sort of twiggy habit of growth and probably a little tender until mature. The dwarf forms of this and plants like R. 'Valaspis' should add charm to any rock garden containing the usual abundance of purples and blues. The repens red, tubular campanulate flowers about half the size of R. griersonianum are a delight. I understand there are many strikingly beautiful varieties of this cross.
R. 'Exburiense' (didymum x kyawii) Most attractive, R. kyawii like foliage with brown indumentum. Very dark red bell shaped flowers. This late blooming, vigorous plant would be a favorite if it were hardier.
R. 'Gay Gordon' ('Beau Brummel' x elliottii) Three good red flowered parents make a bright "hunting coat" red rhododendron. The funnel campanulate flowers are of thick waxy substance that stay fresh even after dropping. Blooms early in life and from almost every terminal. R. eriogynurn like, foliage with silvery indumentum. My bush is small as yet, but when large should be spectacular.
R. 'Golden Horn' (dichroanthum x elliottii) Orange colored, bell shaped flowers from the first named parent, but retaining some of the size of the second. Flowers with calyx, are bell shaped and orange colored. This plant will have to have larger bloom before it will be well liked here.
R. 'Grosclaude' (haematodes x eriogynum) Semi dwarf, prolific bloomer, waxy red campanulate shaped flowers. Brownish-green foliage with heavy brown indumentum. This plant will be a collectors item in a sheltered garden spot only.
R. 'Hecla' (thomsonii x griersonianum) Another good red rhododendron. Not as good as R. 'Earl of Athlone' but again I would prefer it before R. 'Mars'.
R. 'Hummingbird' (haematodes x williamsianum) Foliage and flowers similar to R. williamsianum as is also the habit of growth. The flowers are deeper pink than R. williamsianum. I wish I had six or eight R. 'Hummingbird' for a group planting.
R. 'Icarus' ('A. Gilbert' x dichroanthum) This novelty has a lax truss of many small variegated, pastel shades of pink and orange, bell shaped flowers. The only possible reason I like this rhododendron is that I don't dislike any rhododendron.
R. 'Jan Steen' ('Fabia' x 'Lady Bessbrough') These two parents have produced many good hybrids, but none finer than this. Good upright truss of open, bell shaped flowers with cream edge shading to pink, and then to orange, with a maroon splotch in the throat. This plant is a hybridizers dream come true. Beautiful!
R. 'John Couts' I have really meant to save all the superlatives for this plant. Mr. C. P. Rafill originated this hybrid and it has never been released to the trade. When he leased it thru a Eugene, Oregon colleague, Mr. Del James, I was favored with a scion. This scion was grafted on a large understock - and the small plant bloomed the following year. The open funnel shaped flowers are dark pink in the throat. Each bloom is five inches across and they form an upright truss. The plant has excellent growth habit with large dark green foliage, and is entirely hardy. The finest pink rhododendron I have ever seen.
R. 'Jutland' (elliottii x 'Bellerphon') All the R. elliottii hybrids I have bloomed so far are excellent. Similar in shape, size and color to R. 'Gay Gordon' and R. 'Grosclaude'. R. elliottii hybrids graft poorly and grow poorly on any understock that doesn't have some R. elliottii in it. The plants propagate easily from cuttings however.
R. 'Koenig Carola' (falconeri x ponticum) An excellent foliage plant, but that is its principal attraction. A rugged compact bushy grower. The flowers are R. falconeri type, of lavender with a purple throat. This plant blooms remarkably young.
R. 'Lady Bessborough' (discolor x campylocarpum var. elatum) I waited a long time to get this plant into bloom. The A.M. form is "biscuit cream" with a maroon blotch in the throat, and is similar to R. 'Damaris' R. 'Barbara'. The var. Roberte has pink in the corolla which in my opinion makes it a more desirable plant. Var. Ottawa will bloom this coming season.
R. 'Ladybird' (discolor x 'Corona') This entirely hardy, compact bush makes a compact conical truss of light pink frilled flowers that shade to a deeper pink in the center. I like this plant very much.
R. 'Leo' ('Britannia' x elliottii) Large campanulate shaped red flowers about ten or twelve in a lax truss. This plant is similar to R. 'Jutland' and R. 'Gay Gordon', but with larger flowers. This plant will be outstanding in a large plant especially if set on a side hill where the entire effect would be apparent.
R. 'Lodabia' ('Fabia' x 'Loderi') This plant is vigorous and upright of habit, but should be pinched back. Flowers larger than R. 'Fabia', with a calyx. This plant will have to improve to stay in the garden.
R. 'Marcia' (campylocarpum x 'Gladys') I have found this plant difficult to grow. It is one of the more yellow of the campylocarpum hybrids a good deal like R. 'Barbara' but much more tender. This was the yellowest rhododendron I have seen until R. 'Bobolink' came into bloom.
R. 'Margaret Dunn' (discolor x 'Fabia') A vigorous growing, well shaped plant, with a good truss of large salmon pink flowers. Refreshing to look at after Seeing a lot of whites and reds. There are a great many different forms of this cross and it would be advisable to see the bloom before purchasing.
R. 'Matador' (griersonianum x strigillosum) I have only seen one truss on a plant damaged by the frost two years ago. The foliage is very dark and narrow and hairy as the species strigillosum. The flowers are dark orange red and quite tubular.
R. 'Nereid' x discolor This small neglected plant, apparently just another rhododendron for years in my garden was outstanding when it bloomed. The flowers were nearly five inches across with pink lobes and shades of orange in the throat. The truss had 10 flowers. The blooms are late about the first week in June and just a little late for the Rhododendron Shows where it would no doubt take a blue ribbon.
R. 'Tessa' (praecox x moupinense) Another attractive dwarf plant with loose groups of small pink flowers. Very floriferous, and would be a dandy companion plant for R. 'Bric-a-Brac'.
R. 'Valaspis' (valentinianum x leucaspis) Bronze green foliage with bright yellow open bell shaped flowers. Shy to bloom when young, but the best amongst the desirable yellow dwarfs.
R. 'Yellow Hammer' (sulphureum x flavidum) This is a tall, spindly, upright grower with small foliage, and also small yellow flowers. It was a very shy bloomer when young, but has recently done much better. This plant would be excellent as a background for other dwarfs in the rock garden.
R. valentinianum This is one of two species that I will report on. My plant is very dwarf and in five years grew only six inches in height, and is now only eight inches across. Last Spring it was covered with small deep yellow bell shaped flowers and was a pretty sight. I have not risked this plant to the vagaries of. the frost as yet, but I think it is listed as tender.
The other species I will report on that may be of interest to the members of the Society is R. aberconwayi. This plant is still unclassified as far as I know, and I think at most, all it ever will be is a collectors item. The dark green leaves are leathery like and recurved, but rather sparse. The plant is an upright grower but not at all slow as I had presumed. The compact truss of small open face, flat flowers are shell pink. With me the plant has not been floriferous.
In closing these notes I would like to make a few statements about Mr. Rose's seedling R. 'Earl of Athlone' x 'Loderi'. I have read reports that this plant had flowers as red as the R. 'Earl of Athlone' and as large as R. 'Loderi'. My small layered plant bloomed in the greenhouse at two years of age, and while it did not fill the above requirements, the small truss on this small plant did put out some fine large red flowers. It is a most vigorous upright grower and holds much more promise even though it cannot rival the famous Earl.