JARS v61n1 - Rhododendron of the Year Awards, 2007

Rhododendron of the Year Awards, 2007
Ray Smith
ARS Plant Awards Committee Co-chair
Glenwood, Maryland

The ARS Plant Awards Committee has selected the Rhododendron of the Year awards for 2007. Because of climate differences, the committee selected plants for seven 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
'Scintillation' : Elepidote (parentage unknown). A strong growing plant with large stems, providing strength to support the beautiful pastel pink flowers; blooms midseason; superb glossy dark green foliage has a heavy waxy texture and curls interestingly; grows to 5' in ten years; hardy to -15 F; a Dexter hybrid, received the ARS Superior Plant Award (Northeast) in 1991.

'Windbeam' : Lepidote ('Conestoga' hybrid). A very hardy (-25 F), early midseason bloomer, flowers opening white tinged pale apricot, aging to white flushed light purplish pink, growing to 4' in ten years with small aromatic foliage; a Nearing hybrid, received the ARS Award of Excellence in 1973.

R. vaseyi : Deciduous Azalea. Named for George S. Vasey who discovered it in 1878; uncommon in the wild and found only in the mountains of western North Carolina; has an open and upright growth habit, displaying openly bell-shaped, deeply lobed flowers in clusters of 4-8; the 1-2" flowers range from white to rose or deep pink, with red or green spots, and appear before the foliage; wavy-edged, hairless leaves, dark green with paler underside, early midseason bloomer, grows to 5' in 10 years and hardy to -15 F.

'Madame Butterfly' : Evergreen Azalea ('Fedora' X R. mucronatum ). Single 2" white flowers flushed with lavender, with spotting on the upper petals; a midseason bloomer, hardy to -15 F; grows to 5' with a spreading habit; a Deerfield Nursery hybrid.

R. 'Scintillation' R. 'Windbeam'
Elepidote: 'Scintillation'
Photo by Margaret Taylor
Lepidote: 'Windbeam'
Photo by Eleanor Philp
R. vaseyi R. 'Madame Butterfly'
Deciduous Azalea: R. vaseyi
Photo by Margaret Taylor
Evergreen Azalea: 'Madame Butterfly'
Photo by Leon Swell

Mid Atlantic Region
'Caroline' : Elepidote (possibly a R. decorum hybrid). A late midseason bloomer, delightful orchid pink flowers with a light fragrance; honeydew green leaves with an interesting twist; growing to 6' in 10 years, hardy to -15 F; a disease-resistant Joe Gable hybrid, named for his daughter.

'Olga Mezitt' : Lepidote ( R. minus , compact selection X pink-flowered R. dauricum ). In spring, the plant is transformed by small tight balls of clear pink covering every limb; blooms early midseason, a little later than the PJM Group, often avoiding that late frost; bright light green summer leaves turn to mahogany in the winter; an upright grower, reaching 5-6' in ten years; hardy to -15 F; sun tolerant - especially valuable in gardens without much shade; a Mezitt hybrid.

Deciduous azalea: no selection.

'Fairfax' : Evergreen Azalea ('Polar Sea' X 'Debonaire'). A broad and mounding 2-3' plant with large, deeply ruffled, white flowers with a purplish-pink border; late midseason bloomer; excellent dark green foliage; hardy to -15 F; a George Ring hybrid.

R. 'Caroline' R. 'Olga Mezitt'
Elepidote: 'Caroline'
Photo by Harold Greer
Lepidote: 'Olga Mezitt'
Photo by Jeff Hooper
R. 'Fairfax'
Evergreen Azalea: 'Fairfax'
Photo by Steve Henning

Southeastern Region
'Janet Blair' : Elepidote (parentage unknown). A vigorous and good-looking plant having frilled, light pink flowers with a distinctive green flare on upper petal; cold hardy (-15 F) and heat tolerant; has a mounding habit and grows to 6' in ten years; an excellent parent plant; a Leach introduction of a Dexter hybrid, formerly known as 'John Wister.'

Lepidote: no selection.

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.

'Herbert' : Evergreen Azalea ( R. yedoense var. poukhanense X 'Hexe'). Frilled 1-2" hose-in-hose, orchid purple flowers with a darker blotch; a spreading plant of low to medium height; early to midseason bloomer, hardy to -10F; a Gable hybrid.

R. 'Janet Blair'
Elepidote: 'Janet Blair'
Photo by Courtland White
R. atlanticum R. 'Herbert'
Deciduous Azalea: R. atlanticum
Photo by Margaret Taylor

Evergreen Azalea: 'Herbert'
Photo by Harold Greer

Great Lakes Region
'Calsap' : Elepidote ('Catalgla' X 'Sappho'). Lavender buds open to form conical trusses of white with a striking burgundy blotch; late midseason bloomer; densely covered in smooth, oblong-shaped, emerald green foliage; grows to 4' in ten years, being more wide than tall at maturity; hardy to -25F, Michener hybrid.

'Milestone' : Lepidote (a compact form of R. minus X R. dauricum Sempervirens Group). Small frilled flowers of vivid purplish red on an early midseason bloomer; small leaves are glossy green with rusty green scales below and clothe a plant of dense and rounded growth habit; outstanding orange red fall foliage; grows to 3' in ten years and hardy to -15 F; a Mezitt hybrid.

'Cecile' : Deciduous Azalea (parentage unknown). Large deep pink buds open to clear pink flowers decorated with a yellow flare, appearing salmon pink at a distance; vigorous upright grower (to 6') with a nice habit; always recommended as one of the finest Exburys.

'Bixby' : Evergreen Azalea [('Vuyk's Rosyred' or 'Vuyk's Scarlet' X R. yedoense var. poukhanense ) X unknown]. Flowers of vibrant red brilliantly cover a compact, low spreading plant with a semi-evergreen habit; deep green summer foliage turns mahogany red in fall; a midseason bloomer, hardy to -20 F; dense, slow growing cultivar that puts on an outstanding show; perfect for small spaces; a Mezitt hybrid.

R. 'Calsap' R. 'Milestone'
Elepidote: 'Calsap'
Photo by Steve Henning
Lepidote: 'Milestone'
Photo by John & Sally Perkins
R. 'Cecile' R. 'Bixby'
Deciduous Azalea: 'Cecile'
Photo by Jim Willhite
Evergreen Azalea: 'Bixby'
Photo by John & Sally Perkins

South Central Region
'Peppermint Twist' : Elepidote ( R. hyperythrum X 'Princess Elizabeth'). Red buds open to funnel-shaped rose pink flowers with red flecks; a white circle in the throat increases in size as the bloom ages; early bloomer; glossy deep green foliage on a vigorous yet compact plant, rounded and well-branching; grows to 5' in ten years; heat and cold (-15 F) tolerant; a Thornton hybrid.

'Mary Fleming' : Lepidote [( R. racemosum X R. keiskei ) X R. keiskei ]. A most interesting plant and flower; blooms early midseason; has bisque yellow flowers with streaks of salmon-pink throughout; forms a dense, finely branched, compact plant growing to 3' in ten years; attractive foliage with good winter color, shading bronze; hardy to -15 F, a Nearing hybrid; 1973 ARS Award of Excellence.

'Mount Saint Helens' : Deciduous Azalea ('Cecile' X unnamed hybrid). Large ball-shaped trusses erupt from rose-colored buds; pink flowers have upper petals with large yellow-orange flares gradually deepening to bright red-orange, giving the flower a tri-color appearance; the 2 1/2" flowers are widely funnel-shaped, with wavy lobes; moderate yellowish-green leaves turn a beautiful orange-yellow in the fall; hardy to -25 F; an upright plant growing to 6' that is both showy and fragrant; a Girard hybrid.

'Purple Splendor' : Evergreen Azalea ( R. yedoense var. poukhanense X 'Hexe'). A classic plant with a spreading habit, growing in an upright manner with good vigor; a Gable hybrid hardy to -5 F; frilly, hose-in-hose, royal purple blooms smother the plant; a much requested cultivar that still remains the best "purple" for the garden. (Not to be confused with the rhododendron 'Purple Splendour'.)

R. 'Peppermint Twist' R. 'Mary Fleming'
Elepidote: 'Peppermint Twist'
Photo by Harold Greer
Lepidote: 'Mary Fleming'
Photo by June Bouchard
R. 'Mount Saint Helens' R. 'Purple Splendor'
Deciduous Azalea: 'Mount Saint Helens'
Photo by Harold Greer
Evergreen Azalea: 'Purple Splendor'
Photo by Buck Clagett

'Nancy Evans' : Elepidote ('Hotei' X 'Lem's Cameo'). A free-flowering visual delight, with orange-red buds opening to ball-shaped amber yellow blooms; large calyx gives an almost hose-in-hose effect; flowers at a young age; a midseason bloomer with good foliage and a compact, well-branching, rounded habit; growing to 3' in ten years; hardy to 5F; a Brockenbrough hybrid.

'Blaney's Blue' : Lepidote ( R. augustinii 'Towercourt' X 'Blue Diamond'). A vigorous grower and prolific flowerer that is a great improvement on the smaller "blue" rhododendrons; produces masses of misty blue flowers almost electric in color which seem to float in a sea of green; foliage is dense and attractive, green in summer, with a bronze tone in winter; has a rounded growth habit, growing to 4-5' in ten years; an early mid-season bloomer, hardy to -5F; a Blaney hybrid that propagates well and buds young.

'Cecile' : Deciduous Azalea (parentage unknown). Large deep pink buds open to clear pink flowers decorated with a yellow flare, appearing salmon pink at a distance; vigorous upright grower (to 6') with a nice habit; always recommended as one of the finest Exburys.

'Mitsuki' : Evergreen Azalea (open pollinated Satsuki azalea). Openly funnel-shaped white flowers with numerous irregular streaks of light purple; an early bloomer; elliptic dull green leaves with up-curved margins; has a dense habit, growing to about 1' x 1' in five years; grown by Higashi Nursery from seed obtained from Hiroshima, Japan.

R. 'Nancy Evans' R. 'Blaney's Blue'
Elepidote: 'Nancy Evans'
Photo by Jason Jones
Lepidote: 'Blaney's Blue'
Photo by Denis McKiver
R. 'Cecile' R. 'Mitsuki'
Deciduous Azalea: 'Cecile'
Photo by Jim Whillhite
Evergreen Azalea: 'Mitsuki'
Photo by Harold Greer

Southwestern Region
'Taurus' : Elepidote ('The Honourable Jean Marie de Montague' X R. strigillosum ). Impressively displays globular trusses of glowing red, bell-shaped flowers with black speckling on the upper petal; blooms early midseason; the deep green leaves are held for three years, giving a richly clothed appearance; adorned with prominent and showy deep red buds in winter; a vigorous plant, upright and spreading, growing to 6' in ten years; hardy to -5 F; a Mossman hybrid.

'Else Frye' : Lepidote ( R. ciliicalyx hybrid). An early bloomer with fragrant white flowers kissed with a flush of pink, becoming sunburst yellow in the throat; the leathery, glossy foliage is deeply veined; growing to 4' in ten years; hardy to 15 F, a Bowman hybrid.

'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 mildew resistant, midseason bloomer, hardy in zones 5a-8a; one of the best and most reliable deciduous hybrids.

'Alaska' : Evergreen Azalea (parentage unknown.) Single to semi-double white flowers, 2" across, with a yellow-green blotch in throat; a sun-tolerant, late mid-season bloomer, hardy in zones 8-9 (to 20F); grows to about 5' in ten years, with a rounded growth habit; has shown resistance to Phytopthora root rot; a Rutherford hybrid developed by Bobbink and Atkins Nursery.

R. 'Taurus' R. 'Else Frye'
Elepidote: 'Taurus'
Photo by Doug Irish-Hosler
Lepidote: 'Else Frye'
Photo by Dick Jones
R. 'Gibraltar' R. 'Alaska'
Deciduous Azalea: R. 'Gibraltar'
Photo by Harold Greer
Evergreen Azalea: 'Alaska'
Photo by Leon Swell

'Cape Cod Cranberry' : ( R. konori x R. viriosum ) Bush or basket type with a spreading habit; strong red, funnel-shaped, 2" flowers of heavy substance held in flat trusses of 5-8 flowers; very fragrant; blooms continuously with 3-4 trusses in flower at any time; yellow-green leaves of variable shapes held for 3 years; grew to 2' x 3' in 15 years from seed; plant and bud hardy to 32F.

R. 'Cape Cod Cranberry'
Vireya: 'Cape Cod Cranberry'
Photo courtesy of Bovees Nursery