Thursday, May 24, 2007

Rhododendron 'Dexter's Spice'

Rhododendron 'Dexter's Spice'

The Rhododendron Collection is really starting to bloom. I worked most of the day sprucing up the plants and planting some of the new ones (see list below). I loved the way the light played over the flowers and new growth during the day; it was an ever-changing show. I am adding a lot of compost to the beds and fertilizing. I also made a couple of tough choices with the chain saw. Especially in the area that the treetop came down and smashed everything. Besides crushing several Rhododendrons, it sheared a 25-foot Bloodgood Japanese Maple in half. The tree is actually on the mend, it just looks a little funny. A couple of large hybrid Rhodos had been knocked flat and I decided to cut those branches and add some new plants.

The existing Rhododendrons were not as bad as I thought when I made a closer inspection yesterday. There is going to be more flowers than I thought, but it isn’t going to be like a couple of years ago when I had 78 varieties bloom during the season. There aren’t too many rare varieties I think the strength of the collection is that there are so many common varieties planted on the same hillside in New Canaan. There are quite a few that I never knew the name of and couple that I have lost the name. I tagged a lot with embossed Aluminum tape so if you dig around you can find out what it is. I think a few were mismarked from the nursery, too. There is a good assortment of purple, white, pink flowers and especially red. I am not sure how I got so many reds over the years. There are a bunch of blushes, a few species and now two yellows.

I have had ‘Dexter’s Spice’ for 15 years now. I was a little worried about the hardiness rating (-5°F, -21°C) at first but it never suffers winter damage. I have to disagree with the height rating of 6 feet in 10 years, as this is a very vigorous plant. Everything about it is big. The flowers are huge and heavenly scented. It is probably the most fragrant in the collection. The big leaves are a kind of light green and seem to fight off the tip midge and leaf spot very well. It never looks shabby. I think this Rhododendron would be a welcome addition to any garden (except a really small one). The new growth is very interesting, too.

More on Charles Owen Dexter can be found here:
Heritage Museums and Gardens

That looks like a cool place I will have to check it out if I wander up to the Cape this summer.

Here is another Rhododendron that is just coming into bloom. The buds are a dark, dark red. It is reddest in the whole bunch. The flowers are a little small but the color more than makes up for that. I took quite a few pictures but it is difficult to get he camera to show the actual colors of the Rhododendrons.

I got the following information from:
American Rhododendron Society
A-Z Cultivar List

'Dexter's Spice'
White, Late Midseason, -5°F (-21°C), 6 feet (height in 10 years)
Parentage: Unknown

Red, Late Midseason, -10°F (-23°C), 6 feet
Parentage: Britannia x Dexter #202

New Plants (multiples of each):
Yellow, Late Midseason, -15°F (-26°C), 4 feet (height in 10 years)
Parentage: Hindustan x {[catawbiense, white x (fortunei ssp. discolor x Fabia Group)] x (Russell Harmon x Goldsworth Orange)} x Golden Gala

White, Late Midseason, -15°F (-26°C), 4 feet (height in 10 years)
Parentage: ponticum hybrid

'Edith Bosley'
Purple, Midseason, -15°F (-26°C), 5 feet (height in 10 years)
Parentage: Dexter Bosley #1035 x Lee's Dark Purple

'Nova Zembla'
Red, Midseason, -25°F (-32°C), 5 feet
Parentage: Parsons Grandiflorum x hardy red hybrid

'Purpureum Elegans'
Purple, Midseason, -25°F (-32°C), 5 feet
Parentage: catawbiense hybrid or selection

A couple of others that I can't remember or weren't in the data base.

Note: Bloom time and 10-year height information are approximate and can vary dependent on local climate and soil conditions.
Hardiness temperature is also an approximate guideline.

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