JARS v60n4 - Let's Talk Hybridizing: The Courtenay Five

Let's Talk Hybridizing: The Courtenay Five
Harry Wright
Courtenay, British Columbia

One of the most pleasing and rewarding sights in the garden is to see a plant, a one-of-a-kind plant in which you have had a small part in its creation. Your neighbour doesn't have it and your friends don't and in time people come asking for your plant.
Most of my life has been spent close to a garden, usually a flower garden and most of them small, except for the last twenty-five years where I have had the opportunity to enjoy a larger garden.
In the '90s I became interested in hybridizing and years before that I realized that the genus Rhododendron would be the backbone of any garden of mine. In creating new varieties we should have goals. Mine were to try to improve on the yellows and extend the blooming season.
Our garden is called "Haida Gold Gardens." Rhododendron 'Haida Gold' is a good yellow, with good parents, R. wardii x Goldfort Group, and is hardier than rated. This toughness probably comes from 'Goldfort', which is hardy to 15F (-26C).
So I crossed 'Haida Gold' with 'Golden Star', a later bloomer, and the product of this cross was 'Courtenay Queen' and 'Courtenay Princess', sister seedlings. They are both fragrant, which is derived from R. fortunei , which is in their family tree. 'Courtenay Queen' blooms in May and 'Courtenay Princess' in late April.

R. 'Courtenay Queen' R. 'Courtenay Princess'
'Courtenay Queen'
Photo by Harry Wright
'Courtenay Princess'
Photo by Harry Wright
R. 'Courtenay Lady'
'Courtenay Lady'
Photo by Harry Wright

'Courtenay Lady' is a cross of 'Ladybird' x 'Enchanted Evening'. It blooms in June.
'Courtenay Duke' is a cross between 'Monsieur Guillemot' and 'Gomer Waterer' and is a mid-May bloomer. 'Courtenay King' was a plant I bought in the '70s for its R. auriculatum parentage. After waiting for nearly ten years for it to bloom it told me it wasn't a R. auriculatum but a R. auriculatum cross and a plant that impressed me with its new foliage enclosed in beautiful red bracts, and being a July bloomer it fit into my plan. It is a large plant, thus the name 'Courtenay King'.
These five rhododendrons are referred to as "The Courtenay Five." They were participants in the city Municipal elections, 2003, and 'Courtenay Lady was selected as the People's Choice for the city's official plant.

Courtenay Five
Courtenay Five.
Photo by Harry Wright

Harry Wright is ARS District 1 Director.