QBARS - v16n1 Rhododendron Notes

Rhododendron Notes

R. 'Barto Rose'
Fig. 12.  R. 'Barto Rose', a clonal form of R. fargesii
Phetteplace photo

A recent visit to the Biltmore Estate, near Asheville, N.C. was pure pleasure. Dr. Fred Nisbet, Superintendent and past president of the Southeastern Chapter gave generously of his time to show me established parts of the garden, work going on at present, and future planning. There is ample room for expansion, since the road from the main gate to the house is about 5 miles in length.
Biltmore Estate contains the only complete collection of native American azaleas. There are many superior forms of these natives in the garden. One in particular is so spectacular that at blooming time, as Dr. Nisbet took a guest to see it, they found they had to stand in line. Visitors to the garden were standing in line, waiting to take each other's pictures with the azaleas.
Deer damage looms large at Biltmore. Of 100 holly trees planted on a hillside last fall, very few remained this spring. They do not exempt the azaleas from their tastes. Present work includes fencing and an elaborate wooden grillwork on the ground, where driveway and fencing meet, to deter the deer from crossing.
A new addition to Biltmore is the nursery under ideal high shade. A mylar house is under construction, and the overall picture for the future is grander than ever.
A conversation on the Blue Ridge Parkway with a naturalist and teacher at the University of Virginia brought his recommendation of apple pumice--the residue from the making of apple cider-or apples, around azaleas, for maintaining soil acidity.
An interesting sidelight developed from my telling this apple recommendation to members of our Chapter, Mr. and Mrs. Arrington. They had formerly put apples around their plants, but discontinued it when they found a herd of deer eating the apples in the midst of a planting of rhododendrons. One deer in particular was a ringer for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 'with a whole apple in his mouth.

- Betsi Kelius, Philadelphia

Our notes for this issue are being written on the Mendocino Coast of California where ideal climatic and soil conditions contribute to a near perfect growing situation for the bulk of the rhododendron family. Fort Bragg located in the middle of this area has developed into a cultural center for our favorite flower. Here is located the famous "Bowman Garden" with its hundreds of species and varieties and one of the largest collections of maddenii and large leafed varieties in this country. His garden looks fine today, most plants having an unusual set of buds. There are a few blooming now. R. kyawii , a beautiful and rare plant 7 to 8 feet high, has just finished blooming. It was a beautiful sight in full flower. R. venator is in full bloom and most interesting, blooms twice a year. The Doctor has two new addition; to his large Maddenii collection, namely R. cubittii and R. scopulorum . We are all greatly indebted to him for his foresight in collecting and assisting in the introduction of the wonderful Maddenii family which is so beautiful and so well adapted to California soil and climate. It seems to be almost immune to Phytophthora which is our worst enemy in this area.
Mrs. Bowman has in operation the new propagating box, built by Tom Russ and presented to her at our October meeting. We can expect many new and pleasing developments by its use.

A trip through John Druecker's garden is a must when visiting Fort Bragg. He has had a fine year and is doing a good job of introducing newer varieties to the public. His customers have been well pleased with R. 'C.I.S.' the outstanding hybrid introduced by Rudolph Henny. It bloom, young and profusely in this area.
John has a plant which later will be of interest to many people. A few years back a double R. macrophyllum was found in the woods by a local man and later moved to a local garden by Jim Drury. John has taken four cuttings and rooted them. It will be named 'Macrophyllum Fastuosum'.
Mrs. Druecker says that one of the questions most often asked by rhododendron buyers is whether or not the old flowers should be removed from a plant. We are giving her answer here as this article may be read by many people who have received conflicting advice on the subject. In the large parks and gardens the old blooms are not removed because of economic problems. Where a plant does not set seed pods the only advantage of removal is esthetic. All plants will do fairly well without removal but if the old blooms are removed you will have more and larger flowers the following year. However, great care must be used in removing the old bloom or you will damage the plant and destroy much growth and bloom. It is important to break or cut off the bloom at the base in such a way that the small lateral buds appearing at the base of the old flower and which form the start of the following year's bloom are not damaged.
The seed pods if allowed to develop take away a substantial amount of sustenance and strength from the flower stem and to this extent it retards the flow of sap to the new lateral shoots which will bear next year's flowers.
While discussing this cultural pruning feature, Dr. Bowman remarked it would be helpful to mention the advantage of disbudding where plants have an unusually heavy set of new buds. This procedure has several advantages, you get much larger trusses and the plant will bloom more consistently because a very heavy blooming year may cause the plant to skip the following year's bloom. Also it is not unusual to have a fine plant die from exhaustion due to continuous "over blooming." R. 'Cornubia' is an example of a plant that in some favored locations is prone to over blooming.
Another warning that can not be too often repeated: Four favorite plants that will not tolerate fertilizers, R. 'May Day', R. 'Elizabeth', R. 'Vulcan', and R. 'King of Shrubs'.

A recent and most valuable addition to the members of the rhododendron growing complex of the Fort Bragg area is Charles Richards, a genius in propagation by slip rooting. He is rooting many plants that heretofore have proven impossible or very difficult to root, among them being several elepidotes. His success comes from study, experimentation and superior equipment. His method roots plants in a few weeks that heretofore took months. Charlie is to be commended for his fine contribution to the art of propagation.

Past President, Chas. Jensen was in Fort Bragg for a few days recently to acquire several new varieties of hybrids to try out in the hot dry climate of Sacramento, located inland in central California. His work will eventually be of much value to the Society members in selecting plants suitable to that kind of location.

Dr. and Mrs. John Evans, Dr. and Mrs. Bowman and ourselves have in the last few weeks gone over our slides showing the wonderful gardens and people we visited on our trip north to the International Conference last spring. It is almost as good as taking the trip to view and discuss the gardens, flowers and hospitable people we met.
Dr. John P. Evans has a beautiful Javanicum, name unknown, now in bloom. Can anyone place it?
Small bush 16" high, 4 years old, first bloom November 10th. Inflorescence - loose umbel, 1 to 4 flowers.
Leaves - lamina, leathery, light green, entire, elliptic acute, base cuneate, mid rib prominent on upper side, veins do not show on under-leaf. Calyx-rudimentary.
Corolla-5 lobes, Dutch vermillion 717/1, lobes 1½" x 1½", funnel-companulate.
Stamens-10, 1¼" long vermillion. Pistil-Same length as stamens. Scales dark and 2 to 3 times their diameter apart, cover mid rib at lower part of leaf. Irregular pattern.

- Edward H. Long, Oakland, Calif.

Ten years ago the Bulletin of January 1952, pictured on the cover a Barto plant sometimes called a form of R. souliei , sometimes a type of R. campylocarpum . Visitors to England have said they have seen various forms of this plant there and that it is a species which has not been identified. The plant illustrated on the cover represents a group of plants which came from the Barto collection, no two exactly alike. A few forms have been given names. They have occasionally been referred to as the Barto Penjerricks. Whether species or hybrids these are beautiful plants and should be more widely distributed.

There are many more interesting articles in this ten year old Bulletin, which apply to the selection of a rhododendron garden, selection and growth of plants, and plant descriptions which are as useful today as when written. A file of these old Bulletins is a valuable source of information.

There are many interesting plants in the rhododendron family, some have fine flowers, some don't. Many are well worth growing just for beauty of foliage and form. The grey-green rounded leaves of the R. oreotrephes subseries plants are a welcome contrast when planted with darker greens, and most of this group of plants, in good forms, have fine flowers. R. lepidostylum has grey-green hairy leaves and an extremely compact growth habit. It won't flower for years and then usually sparsely, but it is an outstanding garden foliage plant. Plants such as R. bureavii seldom set a bud until 20 years or more of age and then flowers are not first-rate, but as a foliage plant it's tops. Mr. E. H. M. Cox several years ago noticed that R. roxieanum was growing in our garden and most casually remarked "it would bloom for us in about 30 years," (our plant was at least 10 years old then.) But it is admired by those who appreciate handsome foliage. There are many others, the forms of R. souliei , R. wardii and R. orbiculare are examples of plants with fine flowers, good but variable growth habits and a wide range of leaf sizes. These are the type of plants which add interest to rhododendron collections. There are many others.

Many hybrids have fine flowers but a sameness of foliage making for monotony when mass planted. Species rhododendrons, open growing hybrids, plants with a wide range of leaf patterns and sizes, and interesting plants other than rhododendrons are needed to make a pleasing garden picture. Tight trusses and compact growth habits are nice, but "breaking" up the solid masses with loose graceful flowers, unusual foliage and growth add greatly to interest and pleasure.

- Bob Bovee, Portland, Oregon

Breeders of either rhododendrons or azaleas are urged to send names to the Registrar, J. Harold Clarke, as early as possible. Those who wait until they are ready to advertise or sell a variety and then name it may find that the name is already in use or for some other reason does not conform with the code. Within the last couple of years we have "headed off" about a dozen names which were already in use. Probably about 10,000 names are in the International Registry, all previously used for a Rhododendron or Azalea variety, so even the more unusual names may not be available. No one wants to introduce a variety with a name which rightfully belongs to another.