Rhododendron, Azalea & Adventure

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 by

Rhododendron, Azalea & Adventure

It’s a great time to view the blooms in our Rhododendron & Azalea Dell.  We began the Dell in the spring of 2005 and currently have 60 species and cultivars.  The peak blooming time is in May and June, but several of the Azalea cultivars we’ve selected bloom in July, August, and even into September.  In addition to their beauty, many of the Azaleas have a pleasing fragrance.

Rhododendron & Azalea are members of the Rhododendron genus and grow in moist areas throughout much of the world (there are no indigenous species in South America or Africa).  The Himalayas have the highest diversity of cultivars, and many cultivars found in the Western World come from this region.  From the early 1800’s through Today, adventurers have been traveling to the Himalayas to collect and document its diverse botanic life.

One of these brave botanists was Francis Kingdon Ward, born in 1885 in England.  Ward was a botanist, explorer, plant collector and author.  He went on 25 expeditions in his lifetime and lived through many adventures.  According to Wikipedia, he survived at east five life threatening accidents on his expeditions: he was impaled on a bamboo spike, he fell from a cliff (stopped by a tree growing from the cliff), he was lost for two days without food, his tent was crushed by a tree in a storm, and he was close to the epicenter of an earthquake which registered 9.6 on the Richter scale during an expedition in Assam.  Among his plant collections were the first viable seeds of Rhododendron wardii, a yellow flowered species.  This species has been used to create other cultivars.  With the knowledge gained on his expiditions, he authored Rhododendrons in 1949.  Ward died April, 8 1958.

Other Interesting Facts:

How do you tell Azaleas from Rhododendrons?  Rhododendrons, or “Rhodies” typically have evergreen leaves. Azaleas have deciduous leaves (losing their leaves in the fall).

There are currently over 28,000 cultivars, but over 10,000 of the cultivars were created by botanists.

Sources: Klehm Arboretum & Wikipedia.

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