Arthur W. Headlam, Bentleigh, Australia
Photo by Arthur Headlam
The title 'Midnight' does not refer to the witching hour, but to a rhododendron hybrid raised by Karel Van de Ven, a Dutchman who came to Australia some twenty years ago because he thought it offered better opportunities and had a more equable climate. After working for several nurseries in the Dandenong Ranges he decided to start out on his own and in 1968 purchased a property of 13 acres and so began the Olinda Nursery.
Karel has a flair for hybridizing, his first registration being 'Cup Day', appropriately named as it flowers over the Melbourne Cup Day holiday weekend, which is also the time of the Australian Rhododendron Society's Annual Show held in the National Rhododendron Garden at Olinda.
'Cup Day', ('Fusilier' x 'Albatross') has an impressive background with R. griersonianum and R. elliottii on one side and 'Loderi', R. discolor , fortunei and griffithianum on the other. It has been used extensively in Karel's hybridizing program with very successful and sometimes spectacular results. The cross 'Purple Splendour' x 'Cup Day' resulted in a number of plants with the valuable characteristics of being easy to propagate and producing flowers at the very early age of two years, as well as inheriting much of the hardiness of 'Purple Splendour'. The colors range from lavender/purple through deeper shadings to the deep purple for which the name 'Midnight' was chosen.
The flowers do not have the same depth of color as those of 'Purple Splendour', but are much larger with a deep blotch in the throat and have a frilled edge, in all a very desirable rhododendron.