QBARS - v27n2 Rhododendron sutchuenense var. geraldii

R. sutchuenense var. geraldii
Molly Grothaus

R. sutchuenense var. geraldii
R. sutchuenense var. geraldii
Photo by Cecil Smith

R. sutchuenense var. geraldii is an early spring favorite in the Pacific Northwest. It bloomed the last week in February at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland untouched by the record-setting December freeze. This year it has proven again that the unopened buds are completely hardy and growth is not likely to be damaged.
R. sutchuenense has a hardiness rating of H-2 and is grown in the milder areas of Sweden. It is hardy as far north as Boston but in colder climates a site should be provided which will give the opening blooms some frost protection.
For gardens with space to give it, R. sutchuenense makes a beautiful rounded shrub of tree-like proportions. Each of its many trusses tops a dramatic rosette of long, eight-to-ten-inch, leaves held at a descending angle.
Flowers may vary from white through rosy-pink. Widely bell-shaped and about three inches across, the flowers are carried in trusses of 10 or 12. R. sutchuenense has purple spots where its variety geraldii has a blotch.
Particularly beautiful is the Del James form of R. sutchuenense var. geraldii . This is an unusually deep pink with a glossy black-purple blotch in the throat.