QBARS - v18n2 Rhododendrons for New England

Rhododendrons for New England
Condensed and reprinted by permission, from "American Nurseryman" for March 15, 1964

Rhododendrons suitable for New England conditions were recommended recently by James S. Wells, Red Bank, N.J. Mr. Wells presented the data in talks delivered at the Connecticut nurserymen's short course.

Asserting that rhododendrons have more to offer than any other plant, he pointed out that they have reasonably simple cultural requirements; produce good flowers; are available in a wide range of flower colors, some of the varieties having the bonus of fragrance; come in a wide range of types, sizes and shapes; are generally available, and sell at a reasonable price. Mr. Wells believes it would be well worth the nurseryman's spending some time and effort to determine what rhododendrons grow best in his particular area.

Recommended Varieties

Mr. Wells commented on a number of color slides of rhododendrons and azaleas. First shown was the mauve-pink 'Peter J. Mezitt' (P. J. M.) rhododendron, which he considers completely hardy, well shaped and attractive. He remarked that the P. J. M. hybrids are available in various shades. Regarding the rose-colored mucronulatum hybrid, 'Pioneer', he noted that it might not be safe to consider this plant an evergreen in Connecticut.

Of the white-blooming types, he stated that, though 'Boule de Neige' is a good hybrid, it does not grow so well in full sunlight as 'Chionoides.' He also considers 'Luciferum' an excellent clone, but it is not a pure white; it has a pale blush appearance in bud stage. The other white clones recommended were the hardy standard variety 'Catawbiense Album' and the extremely heavily flowered 'Mont Blanc'.

Rhododendron 'Roseum Elegans' was described by Mr. Wells as another standard in the nursery trade, but he believes the 'English Roseum,' a deeper-colored sport, has a better pink color. He remarked that 'America' is a good red, but it is not so attractive in growth habit as 'Nova Zembla', which it closely resembles.

He commented that the clone 'James McIntosh' roots well and has produced buds on 2-year plants. Another good variety of rhododendron stressed was Shamarello's 'Bessie Howell', which the speaker considers to be in effect a red-flowered 'Boule de Neige', being hardy and compact and budding well. Gable's 'Caroline' was described as a completely hardy R. fortunei hybrid with blush-pink blooms.

Dexter Hybrids

Mr. Wells commented that, although the Dexter hybrids are extremely variable, many good varieties are to be found in the group. He likes the extremely floriferous and sweetly scented 'Merley Cream', which has proved reliably hardy in New Jersey.

He also recommended the luminous pink 'Scintillation', a recent introduction of compact growth habit. Another pale pink type that has proved hardy in New Jersey is the large leaved 'John Wister.' Mr. Wells also mentioned 'Blue Ice', a pale blue fading to white, which he noted does not set buds at an early age.

The two evergreen azaleas (Gable hybrids) suggested by Mr. Wells were the reasonably hardy early-blooming 'Springtime,' with clear pink single blooms, and the completely hardy 'Flash.'