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Rhododendron ´Loderi´ - How distinct are the different clones?

So, can one be definite in identification? I feel that I still cannot, but that certain patterns have emerged which can be used to group the clones, which I have shown in Table 1. At this point, a word of caution in that these observations were made in one place and in two seasons and that in different conditions, especially temperature, each clone might appear quite differently. Warmer conditions would quite possibly make the flowers open faster and so be smaller and fade faster. Also 2001 was an exceptionally late season, with the Loderis opening between 2 and 3 weeks later than usual.

So is ´King George´ the one that everyone should have, or is it just that that is the name everyone can remember? I incline to the latter view, although the ´King George´ were particularly floriferous in 2001. At 14 cm, it is of average size and is certainly not the largest, that honour going to ´Sir Edmund´ at 15cm. It is the purest white, having virtually no throat markings. The scent is outstanding just like all the others!

I have become particularly taken with ´Sir Edmund´, as it was heavily laden with large (14 - 15cm) flowers, and is very much the pinkest of the originals, with definite pink veins, and is the only one to really retain the colour and appear pink in the landscape. But it is still only a pale pink. ´Pink Diamond´ rivals it, though smaller and Sir Giles Loder thought it the darkest. The others that are reputedly pink, such as ´Pink Coral´, ´Pink Topaz´, ´Venus´ and ´Princess Marina´, are really only pink for a short period as they open. However, there are real pinks in the subsequent generations:- ´Georgette´ is a rich pink that fades only slowly in the semi-shade and ´Irene Stead´ from New Zealand is very similar.

´Sir Edmund´, ´Patience´ and ´Venus´ are also slightly different in that they open a few days later, and ´Gamechick´ seems to be regularly about a week later than most, so is of value.

Controversially, Bean tells us that the original plant of ´Venus´ was at Exbury, suggesting it is not one of the 1901 crossing. Neither is ´Princess Marina´, which is ´King George´ x ´Sir Edmund´; this clone is a distinctive shell pink with PALER edges. Another distinctive form is ´Dairymaid´, (as seen at Wisley) - the palest in bud, showing little or no pink colouring, and opening to milky white (Sir Giles thought it greenish)

There are several clones that are relatively little known but which are just as valuable. ´Spearmint´ has recently been re-discovered in the Coronation Garden, growing near ´Fairy Queen´. Millais mentions a clone called ´Queen Mary´, who was of course the wife of ´King George´, but this clone is long-since lost and forgotten at Leonardslee. ´Pretty Polly´ may well have also died out. Anyone ever seen either? ´Stag´s Head´ grows elsewhere and should soon return. ´Titan´ was raised by Reuthe´s Nursery at Sevenoaks in England and ´Olga´ (´Pink Diamond´ x ´King George´) by Brandt in the USA. ´Julie´ is well-known as the cream form, and is very different from the rest, but her origin remains rather a mystery, though Bean says she was raised at Lord Swathling´s Townhill Park, Hants from 2 Loderi parents. There are only two quite young plants that are probably of this clone at Leonardslee. As ´Julie´ lacks the characteristic purple leaf stalk (petiole) that Loderi inherits from Rh fortunei and the flowers are smaller and more tubular, one must question the given parentage. South Lodge has forms which seem slightly different, so are likely to be other, unnamed seedlings of this most distinguished of hybrids, and there seem to be such seedlings in many Sussex gardens, no doubt distributed from Leonardslee. Several were named from The High Beeches, (at that time owned by others of the Loder family) and these tend to be named after racehorses.

Sources

  • Loder, Sir Giles, Rhododendron Year Book, 1950
  • Bean, W.J., Trees and shrubs hardy in the British Isles
  • Millais, J.G., Rhododendron species and hybrids (1918)
  • Salley H. & Greer H. Rhododendron hybrids
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