Elke Büdenbender christens Rhododendron Novelty in Berlin

Elke Büdenbender and Jan-Dieter Bruns

First Lady christens Rhododendron in the garden of Bellevue Castle under the name "Merit"

On Thursday, 17 May 2018, Elke Büdenbender christened a new rhododendron in the park of Schloss Bellevue under the name 'Merit', her daughter with Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

This continues the long tradition of rhododendron baptisms, which began with the then Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker at the opening of the Federal Garden Show in Berlin on 26 April 1985. Since then, many prominent godparents have christened innovations from Bad Zwischenahn, including Marianne von Weizsäcker, Christiane Herzog, Christina Rau, Johannes Rau, Eva Luise Köhler and Daniela Schadt.

The Bruns nursery began breeding rhododendrons in the 1950s and operates a 25 hectare rhododendron park in Gristede, which is open to the public with more than 1,000 species and varieties in Ammerland in Lower Saxony.

The current novelty is a white-flowering variety with a dark spot, bred in 2000 from a German and English variety. The mother variety is Rhododendron'Mrs J. C. Williams' an English variety, which was created in 1938 at the Waterer nursery in England. She blooms white, with a distinct spotted pattern, which she has passed on to her offspring. The father variety is Rhododendron'Lüttges König'. The Hamburg garden architect Gustav Lübke bred this variety in the 1950s. It is a rhododendron wardii hybrid with cream white flower. Gustav Lüttge is also the father of the late, well-known actor Martin Lüttge.

The baptized variety'Merit' is characterised by glossy, dark green foliage, a compact, roundish growth and good cold hardiness. Due to its medium-sized growth form it is very well suited for smaller gardens, balconies and terraces and thrives throughout Germany due to its good winter hardiness.

Jörg Bensberg, District Administrator of the Ammerland district, emphasized the great importance of rhododendron cultivation and the tree nursery industry in Ammerland, with 300 businesses and 2,500 employees today.

Dr. Klaus von Krosigk, former Director of Horticulture at the Berlin State Heritage Office, explained how the rhododendrons from Oldenburg came to the Tiergarten in Berlin and have flourished there excellently for decades.

Jan-Dieter Bruns thanked Elke Büdenbender for the special rhododendron baptism:

"We are very proud that Elke Büdenbender has named a special rhododendron novelty with an extraordinary flower colour 'Merit', the joint daughter with Frank-Walter Steinmeier, here today in the park of Schloss Bellevue."