JARS v56n3 - Rhododendron of the Year Awards, 2002: Midwestern, Northwestern

Rhododendron of the Year Awards, 2002: Midwestern, Northwestern
Laura Kentala
Plant Awards Committee, Chair
Kirkland, Washington

The ARS Plant Awards Committee has selected the Rhododendron of the Year awards for 2002. The names were announced in the spring 2002 issue of the Journal. Because of climate differences, the committee selected plants for six regions: Northeastern, Mid Atlantic, Southeastern, Midwestern, Northwestern and Hawaii/Southern California. For each region, the committee chose an elepidote, lepidote, deciduous azalea and evergreen azalea. The exception was the Hawaii/Southern California region for which only a lepidote (vireya) rhododendron was chosen.

The first criterion was that the plant perform well in the region - even for a novice. The plant had to exhibit good form, foliage and flowers, to prove itself cold and heat hardy for the region, and to show resistance to pests and diseases. In addition, the plant had to be available in the nursery trade.

In this issue, photographs and descriptions of the plants from two regions, Northwestern and Midwestern, are featured. The remaining four regions will be featured in later issues.

The Rhododendron of the Year awards are intended to educate the public about the wide range of rhododendrons that will do well in specific regions. They are plants that have proven themselves in the gardens of ARS members and represent some of the best choices for the beginning gardener.

Fred Galle, Azaleas .
Salley & Greer, Rhododendron Hybrids .
Greer, Guidebook to Available Rhododendrons . The International Rhododendron Register 1958 and Supplements.

Elepidote: 'Mist Maiden' (form of R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum ). Slightly faster growing than other forms of this species. Buds very deep pink, opening to apple blossom pink, then white; flowers openly funnel shaped, 2.2 inches across, 5 wavy lobes, in bell shaped trusses of 14-17. Plant broad, well branched; stems and winter buds grey. Leaves typical of the species; 5¾ inches long, with heavy grey orange indumentum, held 5 years. Plant hardy to -20°F. Selected and introduced by Leach in 1962 and registered in 1983.

R. 'Mist Maiden'
'Mist Maiden'
Photo by Harold Greer

Lepidote: 'Olga Mezitt' ( R. minus , compact selection x a pink-flowered R. dauricum hybrid). Leaves are mahogany in the winter and bright, light green in the summer. They are just part of what makes this plant appealing. Small, tight balls of moderate purplish pink cover every terminal of this plant during bloom. Hardy to 0°F. Hybridized by Mezitt, 1958.

R. 'Olga Mezitt'
'Olga Mezitt'
Photo by Harold Greer

Deciduous Azalea: 'Crimson Tide' ('Homebush' x 'Melford Red Letter'). Strong red flowers are double, 20-40 per truss, tubular funnel-shaped, 2¼ inches wide, with short, rather compact petaloid center. Plant is about 3 feet x 2 feet in 5 years, and hardy to -20°F. Hybridized by Girard, 1969.

R. 'Crimson Tide'
'Crimson Tide'
Photo by Harold Greer

Evergreen Azalea: 'Karens' ( R. yedoense var. R. poukhanense x 'Hinodegiri'). Deep reddish purple, darker spotting, wavy and fragrant flowers. Flowers are 1¾ inches wide. Plant is semi-evergreen that is 4 feet by 4 feet in 6 years. Tolerates soil with a pH 7. Plant is hardy to -25°F. Hybridized by Pederson about 1940.

Elepidote: 'Ken Janeck' (select form of R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum ). There is a long list of selected forms of the species. It is one of the best forms for its appealing heavily indumented foliage and its richly colored pink flowers. This is the only yakushimanum selection to receive an Award of Excellence. There is continuing debate as to whether the large type "yaks" are varieties of the species or perhaps are hybrids with R. smirnowii or other species. Selected by Janeck pre 1964. A.E. 1969.

R. 'Ken Janeck'
'Ken Janeck'
Photo by Harold Greer

Lepidote: 'Ginny Gee' ( R. keiskei x R. racemosum ). Leaves are quite small. Flowers only 1 inch across are white with pale purplish pink mottling at lobe margins, both inside and out. They bloom at branch ends from groups of up to 11 buds which hold 4 to 5 flowers each. Hybridized by Berg in 1969. S.P.A. 1985.

R. 'Ginny Gee'
'Ginny Gee'
Photo by Harold Greer

Deciduous Azalea: R. schlippenbachii . Growth habit of this deciduous shrub is upright and open with thinly textured leaves in whorls of five at each stem tip and with flowers that emerge either just before or along with the leaves. The light foliage will not tolerate excess sun exposure, and the choice of location protected from afternoon summer sun will result in a soft green well-shaped plant. Obovate leaves to 5 inches are dark green and smooth on top, paler beneath with a few hairs, turning to crimson, orange, or yellow in autumn. Star-like delicate pink flowers to almost 3½ inches across, flat-saucer-shaped, may also be white tinged pink or white with reddish spots. They are held in trusses of 3-6. This species is native to Korea, Manchuria and parts of Russia.

R. schlippenbachii
R. schlippenbachii
Photo by Harold Greer

Evergreen Azalea: 'Hino-crimson'. Old Kurume Hybrid from Japan ('Amoenum' x 'Hinodegiri'). Strong red flowers 1¼ inch wide. Dense plant that flowers heavily every year. Excellent plant for borders or hedges.

R. 'Hino-crimson'
Photo by Harold Greer