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Rhododendron and
Azalea News

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Winter 2008  Vol. 11  No. 4
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Gene Paschall featured in Better Homes & Gardens magazine

Gene Paschall, a member of the Midwest Chapter, is featured in the March 2009 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. This is a must see article, with gorgeous pictures of his garden. A former research chemist, he wanted to find a growing mix specially tailored for rhododendrons: sand, topsoil, and mulch. For decades he has developed one of the most beautiful rhododendron gardens in the Northern Illinois area.

He has a number of secrets for being successful with having rhododendrons in your garden. Would like to share them as listed by B&H...but did not receive permission from the editor to include them in note. It is a good excuse for you to go and buy the magazine!

He shows pictures of eight "pretty picks" including 'Homebush', 'Golden Lights', 'Calsap', 'Gene's Own', 'Roseum Elegans', 'Tri Lights', 'Henry's Red', and 'Autumn Chiffon'. Once you read the article and see the photos, if you are a typical rhododendron lover, your next stop will be your favorite nursery.

Gene also gives the recipe for his ideal mix. Now, is the time to start thinking about Spring!

Do take a look! And, the editor has had the pleasure of seeing Gene's want to sit and mediate among his beautiful plants. A secret...he tells me if you want to come and take a look...he is happy to open the gate to his garden! That's a real invitation.


Four contributions to the landscape

I. Woodsworth of the Cowichan Valley Rhododendron Society writes in their October 2007 newsletter about making wise choices for your garden and how each contributes to the beauty of the landscape.

Shrubs are now known to make major contributions to the landscape for four important reasons.

First. They provide a gradation of height between tall landscape elements, such as trees or building, and low ones, such as flowers, lawn or ground covers mimicking the aesthetically pleasing canopies that exist in nature and allowing the eye to move easily about the landscaped space. Foundation plantings are frequently composed of various shrubs...either alone...or in combination with other plants.

Second. Plants which range in height from only a foot or so to as high as 20 feet can take the place of trees as the tallest plant elements.

Third. These plants are often used as hedges.

Fourth. Shrubs can be used as ground cover to stabilize a landscape slope susceptible to erosion. Such slopes might be difficult to mow even if the gardener could establish a lawn there...a groundcover of creeping phlox in various shades imitates a wild mountain meadow and needs no maintenance at all.

Many such areas can be effectively planted with one or more of the shrubs which spread by underground roots or have branches that spread across the ground...such as the red osier dogwood, weeping forsythia, creeping juniper, fragrant sumac, Japanese rose, memorial rose, and snowberries.


Rhododendron fortunei It seems appropriate that Robert keeping with his name...discovered this lovely species in 1855. It is a fragrant rhododendron...but unlike those sweetly scented, tender beauties lindleyi, nuttallii and maddenii, R. fortunei is quite hardy.
found in eastern China... Fortune's original collections were made in Chekiang Province, in eastern China, at about 3,000 feet. Other plant hunters found the species Anhwei, Kiangsi, and Hunan growing in woods and forests at 2,000-4,000 feet in elevation. Wilson noted that the species was common on other Chekiang mountains, particularly in the Lushan range of the neighboring province of Kiangsi, to the west (Davidian, 1989, Vol.2:196). The range of ssp. discolor is western Hupeh, Sichuan (Szechuan), and Anhwei.

leaves are handsome...

The leaves of R. foruntei are handsome, and show some variation. They are 3 to 7 inches long, 1.5 to 3 inches wide. A prominent and very attractive feature is the deep red of the midrib and petioles (leaf stalks); these create a ring of color around the dormant bud that seems to deepen and become more conspicuous in winter. The leaves of the Lu Shan form are typically a dull, olive green in color, and have rich red petioles.

flowers are in a loose truss...

The flowers of R. fortunei are borne in a loose truss of 5 to 12, and are shaped like wide bells...funnel-campanulate. They are pink to pale pinkish-lilac or rose...and, of course...fragrant. R. fortunei has been much used for hybridizing, particularly in North America, and especially in the East...where it is appreciated for its tolerance of summer heat and winter cold.

It is noteworthy that...according to Cox..."a particularly fine large flowered, sweet-scented clone was used as the seed parent of the original 'Loderi' grex" (1990, 170). The other parent in the 'Loderi' grex is griffithianum, a rather tender rhododendron from the lower elevations of the Himalayas.

many hybrids...

There are too many hybrids with R. fortunei to even think of listing here; some of the most popular plants have this rhododendron as a parent, and two great hybridizers, Rothschild and Dexter, made free use of it. Indeed, one of the most loved hybrids of all time in eastern North America is Dexter's 'Scintillation'.

- Whidbey Island Newsletter, April 2003



Companion plants for our rhododendron gardens

  Winter flowering shrubs in a garden can really help to lift your spirits on those dark, dreary, and often incessant rainy days from December to the end of February. Some of the very best winter flowering shrubs are the Hamamelis or witch hazel plants.

Hamaelis mollis...

  These plants start blooming after the leaves have dropped in the Fall and carry right through into March. Many of you may be familiar with Hamamelis mollis which is yellow in color. The flowers have four petals which are very small, short straps of color close to the stem. These flowers are remarkably weather hardy and withstand cold spells, even snow. They bounce back after mild frosts although long periods of exposure to frost can turn them to brown mush.

Many different varieties of hamamelis are available at your local garden center. The best time to shop for these plants is during the Winter months when the garden centers usually showcase what is in bloom. They will often have hamamelis plants in full bloom at the entrances to the sales area in order to attract customers. Who wouldn’t be tempted?

Hamamelis plants are not cheap. One has to pay a fairly high price compared to other plants...but they are worth it. Hamamelis are easy to grow and reward you each year with an excellent display of winter color. Small one-gallon plants can cost about $10-$14...while a two-gallon are about $20-$25. Plants have been field grown and recently dug can cost about $35 - 460, depending on size.

Hamamelis species come from North America (H. virginiana), from China (H. mollis) and from Japan (H. japonica). The Chinese and Japanese witch hazels are the parents of many hybrids that are available in the nursery trade today. Early settlers in America used the whippy stems of H. virginiana for water divining. Its power are considered to be derived from its similarities to our native Corylus, the hazelnut.

witch hazels..

  The witch hazels come in a variety of flower colors…ranging from the pale yellows ('Palida') through burnt ambers ('Jelena') to a deep red beauty (‘Diane’). Many varieties have a strong and pleasant fragrance. 'Arnold Promise' performs well in the garden, flowers heavily and its light yellow flowers are scented.

Witch hazels can be grown in most soils that are slightly acid or neutral. They should be grown in either full sun or light shade. They are a natural 'woodland' plant, can grow to around 4 m with age, and require very little attention by way of pruning. Witch hazels have gorgeous fall foliage color...ranging from yellow to orange...and even red depending on the variety.

- Garth Wedemire, Cowichan Valley Chapter newsletter, March 2005


Rhododendron trichocladum


Not one of the most spectacular of the species rhododendrons, R. trichocladum still has certain somewhat subtle attributes that make it attractive to a collector...that is apart from its relative rarity in garden settings...always a powerful incentive to a rhododendron "twitcher".

plant characteristics....

  This deciduous or semi-deciduous bush has both precocious flowers (i.e. flowers that come out before the new leaves expand) and a very long bloom time...often from April to July...with another small flush of blossoms in the Fall as the leaves turn yellow. This means that this somewhat lax and rounded shrub with bristly branchlets is almost never with a blossom or two during its entire growing season. The edges of the leaves are fringed with hairs and the new growth often an attractive bronzy color.

Although the blossom are small and located in terminal inflorescences of only 2 to 5 flowers, the more attractive color forms are a rich sulphur yellow...sometimes with green spotting in the throat...and funnel-campanulate in shape. It is interesting to note that the type species has only terminal inflorescences, and that the many forms discovered with both terminal and axillary blossoms are almost certainly natural hybrids between R. trichocladum and R. racemosum. The stigma of the flower is characteristically stout and sharply bent, almost at a right-angel.

plant comes from...


R. trichocladum has been collected many times, starting with Delavay in 1885 on the slopes of the Cangshan mountains in Yunnan. It is hardy and fairly vigorous...although not large, usually attaining only about 5 feet in height and one must assume it is only its lack of dramatic flair that prevents it from being more widely grown.

another member...  

Another member of subsection Tricoclada, R. lepidostylum, is a more frequent garden choice due to its flat-topped mounding habit and wonderfully blue-green glaucous new foliage, even though in this case the very similar flowers are often almost completely hidden by the emerging leaves.

Trichocladum does not seem to have been particularly attractive to hybridist either...even though the only cross notes in Salley & Greer, R. 'Chink' (R. keiskei x R. trichocladum) looks quite attractive.

- Brenda Macdonald

Words of wisdom by a wise man...  

God shall be my hope,
my stay, my guide,
and lantern to my feet.

- Shakespeare


American Rhododendron Society
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