JARS 49n4 - Rhododendron 'Oban'

Rhododendron 'Oban'
Peter Cox
Perth, Scotland

When the Scottish Chapter of the ARS took on to run the Annual Convention of the Society in 1996, our committee thought it would be a good idea if one of my hybrids was selected for the Convention. Many readers will be familiar with my "bird" series of dwarf rhododendron hybrids, such as R. 'Curlew', R. 'Egret' and R. 'Razorbill'. One of my earlier hybrids R. 'Grouse' was a cross between R. campylogynum 'Bodnant Red' and R. calostrotum 'Gigha', both with flowers near red in colour. The object was to get a red-flowered dwarf hybrid, something unknown in Subgenus Rhododendron (lepidotes). While we have always found this hybrid relatively easy to grow, others in warmer areas have found it almost impossible to keep alive, probably because of its susceptibility to rust fungus. I thought it would be a good idea to cross the red R. 'Grouse' with the already proven parent R. keiskei 'Yaku Fairy'.
Only one vigorous seedling emerged from this cross, the others being weak and not worth keeping. This one seedling we had been observing for several years, and the original plant gradually drew our attention more and more as it expanded (mostly sideways rather than upright), and it is now about two feet across and nine inches high. From a small plant, it covers itself with funnel-shaped deep bright pink flowers, and given anything like an average season for flowering times this plant should be at its best for the Convention without forcing or retarding. In naming this R. 'Oban', we have broken the "bird" tradition, with the exception of R. 'Euan Cox', named after my father because it was the only dwarf hybrid that resulted from his own pollinations. See Cover photo.