JARS v57n1 - A Treasury of Art and Artifact Revealed in J. G. Millais' Two Volumes: Rhododendrons and The Various Hybrids, Part II

A Treasury of Art and Artifact Revealed in J. G. Millais' Two Volumes: Rhododendrons and The Various Hybrids, Part II
Clive L. Justice
Vancouver, British Columbia

R. 'Cornish Cross' and R. 'Penjerrick', Penjerrick Gardens, Cornwall

R. 'Cornish Cross' and R.
'Penjerrick', Penjerrick Gardens, Cornwall
R. 'Cornish Cross'                          R. 'Penjerrick'

This Millais 2nd Series, 1924, watercolour of a part of Robert Barclay Fox's Penjerrick Garden near Falmouth in Cornwall was painted in late teens or early 1920s by Beatrice Parsons. Penjerrick along with next door Trebah (Private Trust) and Glendurgan, a National Trust garden, were three gardens founded by the Falmouth based shipping family. The Foxes - Robert Fox like Sir Charles Lemon - received rhododendron species plants from Kew that were raised from Hooker's Sikkim seed. Mr. Samuel Smith, the gardener at Penjerrick, created many rhododendron hybrids using rhododendron species arboreum , griffithianum , thomsonii and camplyocarpum var. elatum . Miss Parson's picture shows two of these: R. 'Cornish Cross' ( R. thomsonii X R. griffithianum ) in the left foreground and R. 'Penjerrick' ( R. camplyocarpum var. elatum X R. griffithianum ) on the right. Perfect bell-shaped flowers make the latter the most beautiful of all hybrids (Salley & Greer 2nd ed.). 'Cornish Cross' received an A.M in 1925. Other plants pictured are the South American Embothrium coccinea , behind R. 'Cornish Cross' and a grove of Cordyline australis , the cabbage tree or palm lily. The red rhododendron in among this grove with the tall red truss is undoubtedly blood red R. 'Cornubia' ( R. arboreum X R. 'Shilsonii' [ R. thomsonii X R. barbatum ]), A. M. 1912. There is a 35-foot-high 'Cornubia' in the University of California, Strawberry Canyon, Botanical Gardens in Berkeley. It blooms there in mid February.

Van Nes No. 149, R. 'Diphole Pink', 'Horsham'

Van Nes No. 149, R. 'Diphole Pink', 'Horsham'
Van Nes No. 149              'Horsham'
R. 'Diphole Pink'

Winifred Walker's painting of three trusses, hybrids with Rhododendron griffithianum "blood." The truss at the bottom is R. 'Horsham'. J. G. Millais' garden, Compton's Brow, was in Horsham, Surrey. J. G's nephew David Millais tells me the garden was destroyed and many large magnolias cut down when the property was broken up for housing in the 1950s. It was a cross with R. griffithianum and a hybrid of unknown parentage called 'Monsieur Thiers'. It may have been one of Otto Shulz's Berlin porcelain factory hybrids he sold to C. B. Van Nes in 1902, and it was appropriately named and introduced to the English market soon after World War I along with 'Earl of Athlone', 'Unknown Warrior', 'Brittania' and the like. Clever those Dutch. The history of Schulz's original hybrids is reported in an article by Henk Dekens titled "Dutch Hybrid Rhododendrons" published in the ARS Rhododendron Yearbook for 1947. The middle truss is R. 'Diphole Pink', a griffithianum cross made by the English nursery of J. Waterer, Son and Crisp; it was given an A. M. in 1916 when it was introduced. With a brown blotch it appears close to 'Mrs G. W. Leak' by Koster that also came out around the same time, 1916. The top truss is Van Ness No 149 named 'Sir Richard Carton.' J. G liked it for he wrote "round truss of shining crimson-scarlet flowers with cream antlers (sic) [editor was used to Millais animal books] and style. Close habit. Early May. Magnificent colour. First Class" (Millais 1917).

R. auriculatum , Highlands, Ivybridge, Devon

R. auriculatum

This collotype (from Millais 2nd Series 1924) shows Rhododendron auriculatum in flower in a garden, Highlands, on the south side of Dartmoor at Ivybridge (River Erme), town, which is on the road halfway between Totnes and Plymouth in Devon. This species was found by Augustine Henry, the great Irish dendrologist in Hupeh, China, and introduced to England by E.H. Wilson, via the Veitch Nursery, in 1901 (Millais 1917). The pictured plant is probably one purchased from the Veitch Nursery, in Exeter, which was not far away, also in Devon. The picture may have been taken in 1922 or earlier, making the plant around 20 years old. A truss of the fragrant white flowers will never appear in any spring show as it flowers at the end of July or later. It takes 12 to 13 years before flowering (Millais 1917). The new growth, with the flowers or soon after, has red ribbons (on some, yellow-green), similar to R. griffithianum . Rhododendron auriculatum is a large shrub or small tree, to 20 feet, tending toward an umbrella-shaped crown and an arboreal habit (Leach). It requires high light shade and summer moisture (Cox). Would do perfectly in Joanne and Joe Ronsley's Lions Bay garden (Justice). A number of large blooming age specimens are in the UBC botanical gardens. There is a Vancouver connection with R. auriculatum : It is the hybrids created by Ted and Mary Greig that are growing in the Stanley Park garden named for them that surround the Ceperley Pitch and Putt course. In this stroll garden, largely created by plantsman Alleyne Cook who registered them in 1981, is R. 'Royston Rose' ('Last Rose' X R. auriculatum ), 'Royston Summertime', the reverse cross, neyron rose edged white flowers, 'Royston Reverie' ( R. auriculatum X 'Fabia'), light yellow flowers with red edges, and 'Royston Festival' ( R. auriculatum X R. kyawii ), same as 'Leonore', Rothchild, introduced 1948 and registered 1958, A.M. 1948, as well as 'Richard Gregory', A.M. Williams, reg. 1968. Both the latter have raspberry red flowers, while 'Royston Festival' has neyron rose flowers with a delft rose centres (Salley & Greer 2nd ed.) Now, the lady in the picture - that's a whole other story.