JARS v51n3 - Down But Not Out

Down But Not Out
Harry Wright
Courtenay, British Columbia Canada

March 3, 1996, started out like a normal day for the time of year in the Comox Valley (east-central Vancouver Island), but by 10 a.m. the light rain had changed to snow and 24 hours later we had 24 inches of wet snow to deal with. The majority of rhododendrons were bent to the ground. They all recovered nicely, except one.

There is always something to be thankful for and that day it was the fact that there wasn't any frost in the wood. My favorite rhododendron happened to be the "one" that didn't bounce back. For years I have been calling it Rhododendron auriculatum , but now I know that it is a hybrid.

I called Lynn Watts, owner of the Greenery, Bellevue, Washington, as I was pretty sure that I had obtained the plant from him about 15 years ago. He informed me that when he received the Caperci collection there was a bed of R. auriculatum seedlings and Caperci wasn't sure where the seed came from -; he thought China or Japan.

The plant has been blooming for three years, after waiting 12 years for the first, the first two years blooming mid June and the third year mid July - a good looking plant with attractive foliage and a nicely shaped light pink truss.

Now back to the present problem. As the snow melted I could see that this was a plant that needed help and I had quite a bit of work to do if it was to be saved.

The three main branches came off a single trunk about 6 inches from the ground. And now the entire plant was lying flat.

With help we managed to get the plant back into a upright position without doing any more damage and secured it to other plants while the repairs were being carried out.

The next job was carried out with the help of an electric drill, eyebolts, turnbuckles, cloths-line and some tree wound dressing.

R. auriculatum cross
The truss of Harry Wright's R. auriculatum cross in July 1996.
Photo by Harry Wright

The picture shows the method I used to support the branches and hold the plant in a secure position, in hopes that at least part of the plant could be saved. I carried out a light pruning in March and a heavy pruning in July. Signs of new growth were visible in the top area, and I was hoping that the next spring growth would be forced out lower on the plant so that a new stronger structure could be created.

plant secured using eyebolts,
turnbuckles and clothesline
The plant was secured using an electric drill,
eyebolts, turnbuckles and clothesline.
Photo by Harry Wright

Some of the late blooming rhododendrons can be a disappointment as the new foliage has a habit of hiding the flowers. This R. auriculatum cross proudly displays a beautiful fragrant truss that can be enjoyed, and the new growth is also extremely attractive.

I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who may have a suggestion as to what other rhodo may be responsible for such a union.

Hopefully in a few years I can have this plant back in its original condition so that it can regain its position as "best rhodo" in my garden.