JARS v60n1 - Rhododendron of the Year Awards, 2006

Rhododendron of the Year Awards, 2006
Ray Smith
ARS Plant Awards Committee Co-chair
Glenwood, Maryland

The ARS Plant Awards Committee has selected the Rhododendron of the Year awards for 2006. Because of climate differences, the committee selected plants for six regions: an elepidote, a lepidote, a deciduous azalea and an evergreen azalea. The Vireya/Swisher Award is given to a vireya rhododendron.
The first criterion was that the plant perform well in the region, even for a novice. That 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 and the name registered with the ARS.

Northeastern Region
'Ken Janeck': Elipidote (probably a degronianum ssp. yakushimanum x smirnowii cross) One of the larger yaks, growing to 3' in 10 years; hardy to at least -15F; dark pink buds opening to "apple blossom" pink before fading to white; early midseason bloomer; beautiful dark green foliage with a heavy indumentum that is persistent and thick both on tops and bottoms of leaves; deer will be deterred by the indumentum; a fine plant that buds young; winner of ARS Award of Excellence 1969 (only yak to win it); registered by Janek in 1964.

'Manitou': Lepidote ('Conestoga' x unknown) An early midseason bloomer, similar to 'Windbeam' but with more compact growth habit; covered with light pink flowers from top to bottom; the prolific flowers open almost white and darken to a deeper pink with age; the mounding plant has delightful small leaves, and is able to stand sun and heat; grows to 3' in 10 years, hardy to -25F, the heavy production of golden orange buds makes it attractive in winter. This Nearing hybrid is a plant to be admired in the garden.

'Gibraltar': Deciduous Azalea A Knap Hill hybrid, has a large full truss of brilliant orange flowers with a red flush, coming from deep crimson orange buds; the blooms are frilled at the edges; has a compact growing habit, to 6' in 10 years; a mid-season bloomer, hardy in zones 5a-8a, mildew resistant and one of the best and most reliable deciduous hybrids.

'Red Red' Evergreen Azalea ('Hino-Red' x 'Ward's Ruby') A widely spreading, bushy plant with lush foliage and glowing blooms; 2-3' x 3' in 10 years; a midseason bloomer with 2 deep red flowers; hardy to -15 F; a Shammarello hybrid.

R. 'Ken Janeck' R. 'Manitou'
Elepidote: 'Ken Janeck'
Photo by Eleanor Philp
Lepidote: 'Manitou'
Photo by Harold Greer
R. 'Gibraltar' R. 'Red Red'
Deciduous Azalea: 'Gibraltar'
Photo by Harold Greer
Evergreen Azalea: 'Red Red'
Photo by Harold Greer

Mid Atlantic Region
'Bellringer': Elepidote (parentage unknown). A well formed plant that has soft creamy white flowers with wavy edges; the slightly fragrant, openly funnel-shaped blooms are held in dome shaped trusses of 17 flowers; a very floriferous, midseason bloomer with a spreading, dense growth habit; shiny dark green leaves; grows to 5' x 6' in 10 years; hardy to -5 F; Consolini hybrid.

'PJM Elite': Lepidote ( minus var. minus Carolinianum Group x dauricum ) An early bloomer that tolerates sun as well as both heat and cold; flowers are deeper pink than 'PJM;' bright green leaves turn a mahogany color in winter; growing to 4' in ten years, hardy to -25F; the latest of all PJM selections to bloom; a Mezitt hybrid.

'Homebush': Deciduous Azalea Very popular, upright growing Knap Hill hybrid; semi-double, rose pink blooms in a delightful ball shaped truss of up to 16 flowers; hardy in zones 5a to 8a, growing to 6' in 10 years; a different and attractive conversation piece.

'Elsie Lee' Evergreen Azalea ('Desiree' x 'Rosebud') A tall, upright grower that can be quite open in shade; hardy to -15F; the midseason bloomer has 2-3, semi-double, frilly bluish-lavender flowers; a great plant, hardy and showy, and an exceptional parent in hybridizing; a Shammarello hybrid.

R. 'Bellringer' R. 'PJM Elite'
Elepidote: 'Bellringer'
Photo by Don Hyatt
Lepidote: 'PJM Elite'
Photo by Harold Greer
R. 'Homebush' R. 'Elsie Lee'
Deciduous Azalea: 'Homebush'
Photo by H.E. Greer
Evergreen Azalea: 'Elsie Lee'
Photo by Don Hyatt

Southeastern Region
No Elepidote was selected.

'Jericho': Lepidote ( keiskei Mt. Kuromi form x minus var. minus Carolinianum Group 'Epoch') A midseason bloomer with six pale yellow-green flowers per truss; extremely floriferous hybrid with a low spreading habit; dome-shaped, more wide than tall, with very dense foliage; a good foundation plant growing to 3'; a Leach hybrid, hardy to -20F.

'Red Pepper': Deciduous Azalea ('Gallipoli' x R. austrinum ) Tubular, funnel-shaped flowers are a strong red in bud, opening to a brilliant orange yellow, flushed with vivid red; the lightly scented flowers have five wavy edged lobes and are held in a ball truss 3 x 6; very floriferous plant grows to 6' high by 3' wide in ten years; heat tolerant and hardy to at least 10°F, a Dr. Eugene Aromi hybrid.

'Carrie Amanda', an evergreen azalea ('Elsie Lee' x 'Marian Lee'). Single white 2" flowers with a purplish pink border; the earliest bicolor to bloom; the colored margin is unstable in young plants; low and spreading, has a very compact habit. 24" x 24" in 10 years; hardy to -15°F; H.R. Schroeder hybrid.

R. 'Jericho'
Lepidote: 'Jericho'
Photo by Harold Greer
R. 'Red Pepper' R. 'Carrie Amanda'
Deciduous Azalea: 'Red Pepper'
Photo by Linda Guy

Evergreen Azalea: 'Carrie Amanda'
Photo by Jackie Cottom

Midwestern Region
'Bravo!': Elepidote ( catawbiense var. album x [ fortunei ssp. fortunei x { arboreu m x griffithianum }]) A late midseason bloomer, this plant has a light purplish pink flower, shading lighter in center, with sparse dorsal brown spotting; it has a compact growth habit, reaching 5' in 10 years; hardy to -15˚F, a Leach hybrid.

'April Rose': Lepidote ([ minus var. minus Carolinianum Group x mucronulatum 'Cornell Pink'] x [ dauricum album x dauricum ]) Beautiful double pink blooms grace this free flowering rhododendron; the abundant, funnel-shaped flowers have a slight fragrance; an early bloomer that is very attractive both winter and summer; the leaves are held 2-3 years, turning a reddish bronze in autumn; plant has a broadly upright habit, growing to 3' in 10 years; a Mehlquist hybrid, hardy to -25F.

'Golden Lights': Deciduous Azalea ( R. atlanticum hybrid x red Exbury hybrid) Very fragrant frilled flowers of light orange-yellow, suffused with reddish orange; the almost 3 flowers glow and perfume the garden; mildew-resistant and hardy to -40F; grows to 36 x 42 in 6 years; introduced in 1987 as part of the Northern Lights series developed by the University of Minnesota.

'Girard's Hot Shot': Evergreen Azalea ('El Capitan' x 'Aladdin') Low growing, with a broad and spreading habit; 24 x 30 in 8 years; 3 dark red-orange to scarlet flowers with wavy lobes cover the plant; a midseason bloomer, hardy to -15°F; medium green foliage turns to brilliant orange-red in the fall; a Girard hybrid.

R. 'Bravo!' R. 'April Rose'
Elepidote: 'Bravo!'
Photo by Leonard Miller
Lepidote: 'April Rose'
Photo by Harold Greer
R. 'Golden Lights' R. 'Girard's Hot Shot'
Deciduous Azalea: 'Golden Lights'
Photo courtesy of Plant Name Registrar
Evergreen Azalea: 'Girard's Hot Shot'
Photo courtesy of Plant Name Registrar

'Point Defiance': Elepidote ('Anna' x 'Marinus Koster') A midseason bloomer with large succulent flowers, pink picotee edges lightening to white in the center; attractive dark green foliage; a vigorous, well-branching plant, growing to 6' in 10 years, hardy to -5F, one of Halfdam Lem's Walloper group; a plant to remember.

'Wee Bee': Lepidote ( campylogynum 'Patricia' x keiskei 'Yaku Fairy') Small dense foliage completely covers the mounded plant; yellowish-pink buds open to flowers with red lobes shading to pink in the throat; early mid-season bloom; a well branched dwarf growing to 1' in 10 years, this slow-growing plant will become twice as wide as tall, with fall foliage in bronzy-red tones; excellent for the rock garden; hardy to 5°F; This choice and praiseworthy plant is a Berg hybrid and won an Award of Excellence from the ARS in 1989.

'Washington State Centennial' Deciduous Azalea ([ occidentale x cumberlandense ] x 'Santiam') Selected by the Washington State Centennial Commission to honor 100 years of statehood; an upright grower, with very shiny, mildew resistant, foliage; growing to 5' in 10 years; good fall color of red to yellow; deeply ruffled flowers in a ball shaped truss; the delightfully fragrant flowers open a light orange yellow, softening to white with a glowing blotch of vivid yellow on upper petal; hardy to -10°F, Mossman hybrid.

'Silver Sword': Evergreen Azalea (sport of 'Girard's Rose') A year round delight with its variegated foliage, this midseason bloomer will brighten any shady corner. Rose purple 2 blooms with frilly waved lobes and darker veins radiating from the corolla; of medium height, reaching 3-6' in 10 years; the yew green leaves with white edges take on a red tinge in the fall; hardy to 0°F.

R. 'Point Defiance' R. 'Wee Bee'
Elepidote: 'Point Defiance'
Photo by Don Wallace
Lepidote: 'Wee Bee'
Photo by Harold Greer
R. 'Washington State Centennial' R. 'Silver Sword'
Deciduous Azalea: 'Washington State Centennial'
Photo by Harold Greer
Evergreen Azalea: 'Silver Sword'
Photo by Harold Greer

Southwestern Region
'Pink Pearl': Elepidote ('George Hardy' x 'Broughtonii') This is the standard for pink rhododendrons and has been extensively used in hybridizing. A strong growing plant with a casual, somewhat open, growth habit; the deep pink buds open to large trusses of soft pink flowers, paler at base; hardy to -5°F, grows to 6' in 10 years. This Waterer hybrid is the winner of a number of awards in England over more than a half century: Award of Merit 1897; First Class Certificate 1900; Award of Garden Merit 1952.

'Mi Amor': Lepidote ( lindleyi x nuttallii ) Rather tropical looking, this is a large plant, growing to six feet in 10 years; huge fragrant white trumpet-shaped flowers with a yellow throat, often 6 across, are its crowning glory, yet the enormous buds are a show in themselves; a midseason bloomer, hardy to 15°F; the deeply veined leaves are dark green above, gray-green below; the plant has an open, rather straggly habit; it is a time-tested rhododendron for this area; hybridized by Frances and Maurie Sumner, received the English Award of Merit in 1975.

R. atlanticum : Deciduous Azalea A delicate, airy beauty known as the Coastal azalea; native to eastern United States coastal plains from Pennsylvania to Georgia; a midseason bloomer with sparkling white flowers, often with a pink blush; very fragrant; a multi-stemmed plant that flowers before or with its bright bluish-green leaves; hardy to -15°F, reaching 3-4' in 10 years; stoloniferous and will develop into large colonies in light sandy soil; easily propagated by division, root and stem cuttings; this ease of propagation is carried over to hybrid offspring; certainly one of the most charming native azaleas.

'Hexe' Evergreen Azalea ('Amoenum' x 'Duc de Nassau') Strong purplish-red, hose-in-hose flower about 1 across; a dense, mounding plant with small, glossy dark green leaves; a midseason bloomer growing to 4 feet in ten years, hardy to 5°F, a Forster hybrid.

R. 'Pink Pearl' R. 'Mi Amor'
Elepidote: 'Pink Pearl'
Photo by Eleanor Philp
Lepidote: 'Mi Amor'
Photo by Don Wallace
R. atlanticum R. 'Hexe'
Deciduous Azalea: R. atlanticum
Photo by Don Hyatt
Evergreen Azalea: 'Hexe'
Photo by Harold Greer

'Marshall Pierce Madison': (['Triumphans' x R. javanicum ] x R. leucogigas ) Large, glowing deep coral-pink fragrant trusses on a sturdy and upright plant; 14-16 wavy-edged flowers per domed truss; bold foliage with leaves up to 8 long; shrub-like, growing to 3' x 3' in 7 years; a tender plant that needs perfect drainage; blooms November-January; Sullivan Hybrid; part of the "super-nova" group of R. leucogigas hybrids; medium to tall, slow growing bushes with sturdy branches and huge, richly scented flowers.

R. 'Marshall Pierce Madison'
Vireya: 'Marshall Pierce Madison'
Photo by Mitch Mitchell