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Leonardslee Rhododendrons 1926

By J.G. Millais Compton's Brow 1926, From Rhododendrons Society Notes Vol 3 1925-1931

In this short article I propose to give a brief account of the successful hybrid Rhododendrons raised by the late Sir Edmund Loder during his lifetime, at Leonardslee in Sussex. When Sir Edmund first purchased the estate from his wife’s father, Mr. Hubbard, he, with a love for all natural objects, such as birds, mammals, and plants, saw its suitability as a home for flowering shrubs. After a study of Sir Joseph Hooker’s monograph on Rhododendrons he went to India in 1879 and there enjoyed the sight of the great species in their own home. Meanwhile, Luscombe had done much to improve hybrids from Indian species, and Mangles a great deal more, and with this incentive Sir E. Loder soon got together a representative collection of all the best species and hybrids on which to work his own experiments in hybridisation. At first like most amateurs he made many mistakes in choosing to mate either undesirable parents, such as those with ponticum strain, which are always inclined to throw back to magenta, or in crossing species such as Rh. falconeri or Rh. edgworthii with other species far removed in character or habit.

He found by experience as others have since done that the greatest successes were those obtained by mating species or hybrids that were near one another in specific character and habit. Sir Edmund was always ready to admit that even then a great hybrid was somewhat in the nature of a fluke, but that success was more or less certain in the case where a dominant species, such as Rh. griffithianunm, Rh. thomsonii, Rh. fortunei, Rh. barbatum, or Rh. caucasicum, was used in conjunction with another species closely allied such as those of a similar series or with a vigorous hybrid that did not contain a strain of an undesirable species. He found, too, that certain hybrids, which were in themselves apparently good, often had a tendency in the second or third generation to throw up some bad strain which in the plant itself was hidden, and which only appeared as the result of hybridisation.

Some species were always a mystery to him. Rh. campylocarpum for instance. With this lovely yellow Rhododendron he made numerous hybrids, but with the exception of the cross with Rh. griffithianum, when he achieved a hybrid exactly similar to Mr. Smith’s Rh. Penjerrick, he had little success. One or two of his crosses were just fair, such as some examples of Rh. campylocarpum X Rh. thomsonii; but without doubt his best in this line is Th. arboreum var. album and Rh. campylocarpum, certainly one of the best hybrid Rhododendrons we posses. Other breeders, such as the Dutchmen, M. Koster & sons, have done much better than Sir E. Loder with this fine species, although they have not used the species with the care or perseverance of Sir E. Loder.

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