Plant of the Month March 2017

Changing sides – beautiful rhododendron leaves get the season started!

A number of rhododendrons species and varieties bring surprises even before the start of the actual flowering season. The wild species Rhododendron tsariense, ‘Queen Bee’ was discovered by Warren Berg in the US in 1969 and lives up to its name. The flowers and leaves have a light honey fragrance. This slow growing selection stands out with its strong beige indumentum (covering of fine hairs) in June/July and combines the advantages of wild species Rh. degronianum, Yakushimanum and tsariense. It has a hardiness of up to -22°C. The typical soft pink to white bell-shaped flowers unleash their beauty with a pink tinge from mid April. This variety cuts a fine figure with in an exclusive garden or as a decorative container plant.  

Rhododendron 'Silberpfeil' (Silver Arrow) is also considered to be a true beauty that is never boring as it is a head-turner during its blooming period and even throughout the entire year. ‘Silberpfeil’ is a hybrid of Rhododendron smirnowii x Rhododendron rex from 1990 (Gerd Eiting). It was introduced to the market by the Bruns nursery in 2006. This Bruns hybrid has a particularly robust foliage with attractive foliation and also possesses ideal characteristics for planting alone or in a group. This variety is also excellent for the Scandinavian market thanks to its good hardiness.

Another interesting variety with wide, compact growth isRhododendron pachysanthum 'Silbervelours', across between Rh. Pachysanthum and Rh. yakushimanum. The extremely attractive leaves have dense “hair growth” on the top and are cinnamon-coloured on the bottom. An exciting play of colours with infinite possibilities when designing a garden! The bell-shaped flowers appear in late April to mid May. The buds are soft pink then turn more white with very fine green-yellow lines.

Rhododendrons with beautiful foliage are also actively being bred in the home country of garden culture: Rhododendron 'Hydon Velvet' is a hybrid of A.F. George, Hydon Nursery, Goldalming, Surrey, England (around 1968). Introduced to the market by A.F. George in 1985, registered by Hydon Nurseries in 2001. Rhododendron 'Hydon Velvet' is a hybrid of the two wild species Rhododendron yakushimanum x Rhododendron bureavii. The foliage is covered with light brown woolly hairs in the young stage and shines in a beautiful dark green on the upper surface of the leaves in autumn. Creamy white hairs can be found on the underside of the elongated leaves which later turn into a cinnamon brown. The flowers bloom from late May to mid June and are white, bell-shaped with red wine coloured lines on the upper petal. The flower bud has a soft pink tint.