JARS v58n3 - Friendship Through Rhododendrons

Friendship Through Rhododendrons
Hideo Suzuki
Kumagaya, Japan

Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan has been under the sistership relation with the state of Washington, U.S.A., for the past forty years. In order to celebrate this anniversary the representatives of both parties met together on August 1, 2003, at Port Townsend, Wash., which has recently signed the sistership with Ichikawa Town of the same prefecture in Japan.

Some 500 people from both parties came to join on the day and in token of the event twelve plants of a Japanese rhododendron cultivar were donated by Mr. Mamoru Yashiro to the state of Washington including the city of Port Townsend. Mr. Yashiro, who lives in the same prefecture, is a landscape gardener and a member of the Japanese Rhododendron Society.

Mr. Mamoru Yashiro presents happi coats
to a representative of the state of Washington
Mr. Mamoru Yashiro, wearing a pink happi coat, presents happi coats to a representative
of the state of Washington. Standing behind Mr. Yashiro is Mrs. Yashiro. The man in the
blue happi coat is a representative of the state of Washington. The woman in the
blue T-shirt is an interpreter.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Mamoru Yashiro

He selected the cultivar and raised it under the name of 'Yashiro Homare' or "Yashiro's Honor" in English. The flower is not so flamboyant in color that just fits in with the taste of most Japanese. The detailed description of the cultivar is mentioned below.

R. 'Yashiro Homare'
A truss of 'Yashiro Homare'.
Photo by Mr. Hisao Nomura

Rhododendron Cultivar 'Yashiro Homare'

Both Rhododendron degronianum subspecies heptamerum and subspecies yakushimanum are the typical species of rhododendrons indigenous to Japan. The subspecies yakushimanum grows at high elevation on the small island of Yakushima that lies south of the main land of Kyushu, Japan. The typical features of the subspecies yakushimanum are its compact form and fine-lobed flowers.

On the other hand, subspecies heptamerum is native to the lofty mountains of Kyushu and Shikoku. The leaf of the subspecies heptamerum is comparatively large. Its blooms consist of seven lobed flowers that form into trusses of fifteen or so. Since the latter grows to the height of four or five meters, the plant is suitable for growing in gardens. Both subspecies, however, have beautiful leaves with felty indumentum underneath.

'Yashiro Homare' is an excellent example of the subspecies heptamerum , selected from among many different varieties, and the name has been registered with both the Japanese Rhododendron Society and on the International Rhododendron Register by way of the Royal Horticultural Society. The original plant of this variety is now located in the Rhododendron Garden owned by Mr. Mamoru Yashiro. Mr. Yashiro's address is: 1203-5, Nobuyoshi, Sayo-cho, Sayo-gun, Hyogo-ken, 679-5332, Japan.

The merit of 'Yashiro Homare' lies in the beauty of the flowers. The texture of the petal is thick and soft and the bloom is of the semi-open type. The hue is elegant, pale, purplish red. The petal edge is generally pink becoming white towards the throat. It also has pale yellow blotches, but they are not conspicuous. Fourteen cream colored stamens extend upward in an orderly manner surrounding the thick pistil. Despite the shape of the flower appearing somewhat flamboyant, the bloom as a whole can be likened to a noble mannered beautiful lady. Also the truss itself is a little larger than that of the average heptamerum and forms a plump ball.

The glossy leaves have indumentum of thick texture underneath and appear oblanceolate with pointed tips. Since the growth habit of 'Yashiro Homare' is, generally speaking, to spread horizontally rather than vertically, it can be enjoyed planted either in a pot or in the garden. This is undoubtedly an excellent form of the heptamerum .

This explanation was provided by Mr. Michihiro Shida, the Vice President and concurrently Executive Secretary of the Japanese Rhododendron Society and translated by Hideo Suzuki, Immediate past President of the Japanese Rhododendron Society.