JARS v41n3 - Three New Yaks From Barnard's Inn Farm

Three New Yaks From Barnard's Inn Farm
Polly Hill
Hockessin, Delaware

Three new rhododendrons, raised on Martha's Vineyard, Zone 6, have recently been introduced by Barnard's Inn Farm. Of the three, the most recently introduced is Rhododendron yakushimanum , 'Wild Wealth'.

The name 'Wild Wealth', although somewhat ponderous for a debutante just coming into flower, makes a pure and positive statement about the plant, its past and its potential. Marion Rombauer Becker co-authored a book by that name, and it is my intention to honor her memory and her horticultural gifts by using her title. (She has also reached a wider audience through her book, The Joy of Cooking ).

R. 'Wild Wealth'
'Wild Wealth'
Photo by Polly Hill

My rhododendron, 'Wild Wealth' #61-81, has a history documented by Dr. Tsuneshige Rokujo, who sent me the seeds in December 1961. He stated, "The seeds of R. yakushimanum were collected near Hana-no-Yego of Mount Miyanoura of Yakushima by the college students". As the only survivor of that small seed packet, after 25 years in my soil, it has proved reliably hardy on Martha's Vineyard, Zone 6. Many years ago, when 'Wild Wealth' was only inches high, the Don Smiths of Watnong Nursery walked through my Play-Pen, spotted the leaf form and singled it out as an exceptionally good yakushimanum . Their judgment I had many times found impeccable, so I felt very proud of my little survivor from the tumultuous stormy summit of Mount Miyanoura on Yaku Island.

Its taxonomic status is unmistakable. Further, it is neither a dwarf like 'K. Wada', nor a large plant like 'Mist Maiden', but it is of intermediate height and shape. It is now four feet high and five feet wide. The indumentum is thick, ranging through the seasons from pale peach to rich tan. The leaves are two to four inches long and the edges curl down enough to display their gleaming surfaces. In July, thickly furry new leaves, bright white in color, grow upright and catch all eyes, appearing to be in bloom. They evolve through grey to greenish to deep glossy green by autumn. Patrician in its bearing, it shows the genetic wealth of its ancestry, which comes from the pinnacle and center of R. yakushimanum territory. This plant fills a unique place in size and conformation which will make it useful to discriminating gardeners. Perhaps I should refrain from adding another yakushimanum to the registration lists, but this one demands recognition for its quality. In bloom, or during the other eleven months of the year, it commands attention.

R. 'Big Yak'
'Big Yak'
Photo by Polly Hill

Rhododendron yakushimanum , 'Big Yak' #66-005-02 is an F-1 hybrid of yakushimanum . Because of its (unknown) male parent it has lost most of its indumentum, but has gained in dimension and poise. I have been told that it may grow to 15 feet in height and 20-25 feet in width in maturity. 'Big Yak' is huge. Out of flower it appears dark and massive and is best used in large landscapes.

It is memorable and handsome nearby or in the distance. Every year the flowers are recklessly produced in each terminal. The trusses spread from the ground over its smoothly curved surfaces to the very top. The buds begin to open cherry red, then progress through pink shades to white. The inflorescence is typical of its yakushimanum parent. Now, after 20 years from seed, the plant has grown to eight feet tall and ten feet in width. It is still growing, flowering annually, and setting seed.

R. 'Samisen'
Photo by Polly Hill

Rhododendron yakushimanum , 'Samisen', (formerly 'BIF #1') is named for the three-stringed instrument of Japan, because of its three color phases, common to yakushimanums of all types. It, too, is an F-1 hybrid yakushimanum from the same seed packet as 'Big Yak'. The seed was listed in the American Rhododendron Society Seed List for 1966. The seed was described as yakushimanum "self hand-pollinated Exbury form at Washington". In this plant some of the indumentum, rusty red, can be seen, and is more conspicuous in the autumn.

The elegance of 'Samisen', as I see it, is due to the smooth, orderly spacing of its terminal branches, with broad leaves well presented in overall flattened sphere silhouette. In profile 'Samisen' is a restful low mound. The blooming time is mid-May usually, along with our lady-slipper orchids, while night temperatures may still drop to 28 degrees Fahrenheit. During the more than two weeks of bloom the rich rosy buds turn to pink flowers and then the whole inflorescence becomes white. Ultimately, I expect 'Samisen' could grow to ten feet tall and fifteen feet wide, a hardy trouble-free member of the great clan of Rhododendron yakushimanum .

Because of the fellowship of rhododendron people and our Seed Committee's labors great riches have become available to us all.

Polly Hill is well known for her interest and skill in raising and selecting fine varieties of rhododendrons and azaleas.