Rhododendron catawbiense portrait

Common names: Purple Laurel, Rose Bay, Catawba Rhododendron.

R. catawbiense grows in the wild in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia to Georgia and Alabama, occasionally eastward to near the coastal plain. They are evergreen shrubs or small trees. Leaves are thick, leathery, dark green above, pale green beneath, shaped oval or elliptic, 2" - 5" long.

Flowers held in an umbel-like cluster, colored rose-purple to lilac, rarely white, with olive-green spots on upper lobe, not fragrant. Flowers bloom in May and June. Calyx lobes broadly triangular or semicircular, less than 1/3" long. Corolla rotate to campanulate shape, up to 2 1/3" across. Ten stamens; filaments purple, anthers white. Purple style about as long as stamens.

Cold hardy to -25°F ( -32°C). Widely used by hybridizers to create cold-tolerant hybrid varieties.

R. catawbiense
Photo by Rhododendron Species Foundation (ac77-620)

Origin of Pumpkins

Pumpkins are believed to have originated in North America. Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico dating back to 5500 B.C.

The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word "peopon" which means "large melon". Peopon was changed by the French into "pompon". The English changed "pompon" to "pumpion". American colonists then changed "pumpion" to "pumpkin".

Native American Indians used pumpkin as a staple in their diets centuries before the pilgrims landed. Indians would roast long strips of pumpkin on the open fire and eat them. They also dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats.

When white settlers arrived, they saw the pumpkins grown by the Indians and pumpkin soon became a favorite food. Early settlers used them in a wide variety of recipes from stews and soups to desserts.

The origin of pumpkin pie is thought to have occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and then filled the pumpkin with milk, spices, and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in the hot ashes of a dying fire.

Award of Garden Merit for Deciduous Azaleas

In 2016 the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Award of Garden Merit (AGM), the Society's highest plant accolade, was given to the following deciduous azaleas:

R. 'Chelsea Reach': large, double blooms, pale yellowish white, flushed purplish pink on an upright growing plant.

R. 'Crosswater Red': deep true red flowers, upright plant habit, good fall foliage color.

R. 'Gena Mae' long-lasting, double light greenish yellow flowers with orange edges and center.

R. 'Golden Oriole': flowers brilliant yellow with a deep orange blotch.

R. 'Jock Brydon': scented, large blooms, white with speckled reddish orange blotch, upright plant habit.

R. 'Parkfeuer': large blooms, vivid reddish orange, shaded vivid red.

R. schlippenbachii: broad, pale to deep pink blooms, rarely white, on a tall, upright plant.

The RHS reconfirmed AGM's for the following deciduous azaleas:

'Arneson Gem', 'Coccineum Speciosum', 'Daviesii', 'Fireball', 'Gibraltar', 'Golden Eagle', 'Homebush', 'Irene Koster', 'Jolie Madame', 'Klondyke', 'Narcissiflorum', 'Persil', 'Satan', 'Silver Slipper', 'Soir de Paris', 'Sunte Nectarine', 'Whitethroat', R. arborescence and R. vaseyi

All of the azaleas awarded AGM's are hardy to -4° to -5°F (-15° to -20°C).

Calla or Ethiopian Lily

The Calla or Ethiopian Lily has long been grown as a florist flower, popular at weddings and funerals alike, and easily recognized by the elegant, white trumpet-like spathes. Originating in several parts of Africa, the hardiest species, Zantedeschia aethiopica, can be grown in the garden in rich humus soil in full sun, with ample summer water, and is hardy to Zone 4. Growing from tuberous rhizomes, the glossy, arrow-shaped leaves stand upright to 3 feet, and a long succession of large, white blooms from late spring through summer emerge among them. The "bloom" is actually a modified leaf or bract up to 10 inches long, and the true flower is merely the yellow spadice arising from its center.

Selections have been made for more compact forms, as in 'Little Gem' and 'Apple Court Babe', only 18 and 24 inches tall; an extra hardy, stout-growing type, 'Crowborough', and the unusual 'Green Goddess', with bright green and white handkerchief-like flowers.

There are now interesting colored forms available, but these should be grown as potted plants or lifted in fall, as they are not all hardy. The Golden Calla, Z. elliothiana, has 4-in. blooms in a color range from cream to yellow through orange to deep rust and crimson. Leaves are heart-shaped, often spotted white, and stand 2 to 3 ft. tall. The Pink Calla, Z. rehmannii, has more linear leaves and has 2 to 4-in. blooms from blush thru pink to deepest royal purple. Wow! These make excellent accent plants for patios or conservatories, or may be planted in borders and lifted for winter.

The rhizomes of all can be divided in fall for plants to share, or plant again about 4-in. deep. Be careful to provide good air circulation to avoid fungal diseases, especially in cooler weather, and use caution when handling. The sap can cause skin irritation and all parts of the plant are poisonous to eat. The blooms make excellent long-lasting cut flowers and have no fragrance to compete on the dinner table.

Seven Dwarfs Rhododendrons

In 1977 I purchased from a local nursery which was closing forty R. yakushimanum hybrids, 20 cm tall in pots at what seems now a ridiculous price of 40p each. These remained in pots until we moved to our present garden at Radlett in Hertfordshire in 1982 when they were planted out.

Among this collection were a group named the "Seven Dwarfs", created by Percy Wiseman, the well-known hybridizer at Waterers Nursery. In the ensuing years, these plants have grown considerably and are not so dwarf anymore! The following descriptions are of interest to those starting a rhododendron collection in their garden.

'Bashful'
Registered 1971. R. yakushimanum x 'Doncaster'. Pale pink with a brown blotch. A very hardy plant, needs little attention and goes a long time without watering. Now measures 1.6 meter in height by 2.5 meter width.

'Doc'
Registered 1972. Half yakushimanum and half unknown. Pink. Awarded the HC in 1978. This is a fine plant with magnificent blooms and superb compact habit. One of my favorites, blooming in late May. Now measures 1.5 meter in height by 2.3 meter width.

'Dopey'
Registered 1971. Only a quarter yakushimanum with much other blood in its veins; facetum, dichroanthum and griersonianum. From its appearance one would think it had no yakushimanum in it at all. A deep rich red. Award of Merit 1977, FCC 1979. A favorite at Glendoick, I have read. While this is a fine plant, it suffers badly from mildew here in the South East in our long dry summers. Now measures 1.5 meter in height by 2.5 meter width.

'Grumpy'
Half yakushimanum, half unknown. Award of Merit 1979. Peach fading to cream. This is the only true semi-dwarf plant of the group suitable for a rockery or border. It is prone to bark split caused by the late frosts after periods of warm weather here in Hertfordshire. It has fine foliage with brown indumentum, and has a superb hummock-shape with the excellent tight round yakushaimanum-type truss. Only two of the original four have survived. These now measure 1.0 meter in height by 2.5 meter width.

'Hoppy'
Registered 1972. Half yakushimanum and quarter 'Doncaster' and quarter unknown. Award of Merit 1977. The name 'Hoppy' was used rather than 'Happy' as Rothschild registered a rhododendron of this name in 1940. This is also one of my favorite in flower opening pale lavender, fading to pure white. A wonderful sight in a woodland setting. This is "The Giant" dwarf which, in time, will grow into a plant of some size. Now measure 2.5 meter in height by 3 meter width.

'Sleepy'
Registered 1971. Half yakushimanum, quarter unknown, quarter 'Doncaster'. Pale mauve, spotted brown. This is the runt of the litter which I found very difficult to grow. Despite all my efforts, the leaves always showed signs of cholorsis, and the plants lacked any vitality and slowly died one by one probably due to our very dry summers. One plant, which I gave to a friend locally, survived but in a stunted, miserable condition. I have not seen this plant for sale in the nursery trade for some years which I think speaks for itself.

'Sneezy'
Registered 1971. Half yakushimanum, quarter unknown, quarter 'Doncaster'. This is an easy vigorous plant which layers very readily, with good dark green foliage but is not to my taste as it is a rather garish red/pink which fades badly in sunlight and does not sit easily with the surrounding plants in my collection. If you do try it, I suggest placing it amongst white flowering varieties. Now measures 1.7 meter in height by 2.8 meter width.

Amongst the others in the original collection were: 'Venetian Chimes', 'Percy Wiseman', 'Golden Torch', and 'Chelsea Seventy'. The first three have proved to be excellent garden plants, very hardy, keeping their semi-miniature stature. They are beautifully compact in habit, and will fit in every well with smaller garden schemes. 'Chelsea Seventy' while having a startling flower with strong dichroanthum influence has a leggy habit with not particularly inspiring foliage.

Rhododendron sargentianum

R. sargentianum, a dwarf rhododendron, was first introduced in 1903 by plant explorer Ernest Wilson who found it when he was hunting for plants in the mountains of western Szechwan, China. He found it a few other times growing in the same locality, in exposed areas, at elevations of nine to eleven thousand feet.

This is an ideal plant for a rock garden, or tucked into a little niche in your garden, because at maturity the plant is such a little gem. Plants grow to about 18 inches tall and about that wide; there may be some larger than that, but I've never seen one. They grow slowly but start blooming as small plants. Sometimes plants grown from cuttings will start blooming within two years. It is a twiggy compact plant with small aromatic leaves that are shiny green on top and densely covered with tiny rust colored or dark brown scales.

Typically this rhododendron species will bloom in April or early May. The flowers are small, narrowly tubular with spreading lobes that are held in little trusses of five to seven flowers. The flowers are either white, pale yellow, or lemon yellow. The yellow forms are in greatest demand, but many folks prefer the clones with white flowers.

R. sargentianum
Photo by Ken Cox

This is an alpine rhododendron and, like most alpine rhododendrons, it is absolutely essential that it is grown in a medium with good sharp drainage and in an open location. However, try to provide it with afternoon shade, as it doesn't seem to like the hot sun.

R. sargentianum is one of the finest dwarf rhododendrons you can have in your garden. In the spring it will cover itself with a profusion of flowers and when it is not in flower it is still an attractive little shrub. Don't forget that fragrant foliage! R. sargentianum does not look like a "typical" rhododendron and will be certain to add interest and variety to your garden.

 
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