Dave Goheen, Camas, WA
Photo by Dave Goheen
Many hybridizers in attempts to prolong the rhododendron blooming season have created hybrids using late blooming species such as
. Although a number of very good hybrids have been obtained, few of them have had colors other than white or white tinged with pink. Since 1937, however, a hybrid with a late blooming period and a brilliant pink color has been available. This hybrid, 'Europa,' has not however been widely available nor even known. It was first exhibited by Lionel de Rothschild as a cross between
'Europa' is an excellent hybrid in almost every respect and thus it is surprising that it is rarely grown today. Not only is the truss of good size and shape with many bright pink florets, the foliage is also very attractive so the plant is a good year-around addition to almost any garden. The leaves are fairly large, averaging about ten inches long by three inches wide. The upper surface is dark green with heavy veining and the under surface shows a grayish rather heavy indumentum. The most outstanding trait is its blooming period which in my garden in Camas, Washington, is generally from the last week in July to the first week in August. In 1983 as shown in the color plate, it was in full bloom on July 29.
For those growers interested in extending the blooming season, this plant is an excellent choice. If provided with some shade from the hot summer sun, the florets of rather heavy substance last for several weeks and make an attractive display when most rhododendrons have been long out of bloom. Rothschild chose the parents of this hybrid well. Although kyawi is a rather tender species related to the Parishii grouping of species from the monsoon region of upper Burma, this tender nature is offset by the much hardier ungernii from the Caucasus mountains and related to the Ponticum group. The plant has never shown any damage from the cold east winds of the Columbia River gorge.
Not only should this hybrid be grown more widely, it should be used as a parent for other late blooming hybrids. We have been remiss in not using it for this purpose. After its fine display during the last blooming season, I am convinced that it has a good future and that R. 'Europa' should be rescued from relative obscurity and should be widely grown and used in hybridization.