QBARS - v13n2 Sub-Normal Winter in Central California

A Sub-normal Winter in Central California
By Edward H. Long, Oakland, California

We have read with interest in the past year of the effects of sub-normal cold on the rhododendron gardens. It might be of interest to hear of the effects of the opposite winter conditions in California. We have gone through the driest and mildest winter in over 100 years with unusual and startling effects on many rhododendrons.

Up to February 22, 1959, in Oakland, California, we have had only two mornings when the thermometer came down to about 35 degrees F., the balance of the time the morning average has been about 45° F., mostly in the 50's. We, of course, have had to do winter watering.

Nuttallii has grown continuously about 6 or 7 inches. R. 'Victorianum' and R. taronense have also thrown out new growth to the detriment of the bloom which fell off. R. 'Max Sye' is through blooming. It started in October. R. 'George Ritter' has just finished blooming - trusses only fair. R. 'A. Bedford' started in January, blooming very poor. R. 'Elizabeth' has been blooming two or three blossoms at a time all winter, only one-third of buds left to bloom normally.

In December R. 'Pink Pearl', R. 'Goldsworth Crimson' and R. 'Unknown Warrior' showed a few blossoms but finding conditions unsatisfactory the plants are now behaving normally. R. lutescens shows a few lonely blossoms each month but will bloom normally, we hope. R. 'Sapphire' was full of buds in October, new growth started in December and the buds are 80 per cent dried up.

R. 'Forsterianum'
Fig. 25.  R. 'Forsterianum'
Bacher photo

Now blooming beautifully is R. 'Forsterianum', (Fig. 25) much ahead of normal. R. 'Ivery's Scarlet' and R. 'Cornubia' are coming into bloom, also is R. racemosum . R. 'Royal Flush' is blooming on the lower branches, the top level will not bloom for at least six weeks. R. 'Countess of Athlone' has been blooming a few at a time since November but the flowers are one-third normal size and distorted.

R. spinuliferum is in full bloom and very attractive, it grows fast and well here. We will bloom this spring for the first time: R. taggianum , lindleyi , yakushimanum , artosquameum , bullatum and ciliicalyx . We are looking forward to comparing taggianum and lindleyi to identify the very small differences in flower and leaf. The blooming of yakushimanum grown from seed with six buds (5 years old) will be an event for us.

About 80 per cent of the plants appear to have weathered the warm winter in normal fashion and with few exceptions have a heavy bud set.

We are waiting patiently for R. 'Lady Chamberlain' to bloom and also R. cinnabarinum . They are several years old but slow to bloom.

We plan to visit the May Society Show in Portland and are glad to hear that weather conditions in the North have been favorable.