Rhododendron x griffithianum
'Pink Walloper' aka 'Lem's Monarch'
"But bid him be careful of river banks, & beware how he plucks flowers, remembering that every bush he sees may be a goddess in disguise."
There are two small specimens of 'Pink Walloper' at a gardened estate where I do some landscaping. A "small" specimen is an amusing thing to ponder, because no part of this shrub is ever actually small.
It has leaves two or three times larger than other Ironclad rhododendrons, & a single trumpet-flower is wider than many another ironclad's entire truss. The stems & structure is also very thick to support the enormous trusses. Yet the ten-year size is only a little larger than so many standard rhododendrons with smaller components: six to ten feet tall, ten to twelve feet wide.
A photo is insufficient to capture the impact of one of these enormous trusses, as a photo can show the beauty of the color, pink with dark pink rim & fading to white deep in the throat, but the scale is lost. When looking at a photo of the flowers, bare in mind their additional enormity. The third photo below is of a single fallen trumpet, & it is so big you couldn't hide it behind a closed fist.
The northwest's legendary rhody collector & breeder Dr. Frank Mossman found this pumped-up rhody growing in the fields of another Northwest legend, Halfdan Lem of Seattle, & obtained the plant from Lem for further development, while Lem himself developed other giants from the seedling group.
'Pink Walloper' became part of a series of giant-flowering cultivars often called "the walloper group,' including 'Red Walloper,' 'Point Defiance,' & 'Gwen Bell.'
For years 'Lem's Monarch' (introduced in 1971, two years after Halfdan's death, & over a decade after 'Pink Walloper' was blooming in Halfdan's field) was considered yet another cultivar, or perhaps a sister-seedling for this group. But 'Pink Walloper' & 'Lem's Monarch' are today regarded as interchangeable names for a single clone.
It originated as a across between pink-flowering 'Anna' (named for Halfdan's wife) & red-flowering 'Marinus Koster' (named for its hybridizer from the generation preceding Halfdan's). Neither of those had the flowers of such steroidal size. Both were Rhododendron griffithianum hybrids.
A walloper has come to mean anything that is extravagant or amazing & large, as when remarking to someone with an impressively bruised eye, "Wow, that's one walloper of a shiner." A walloper is also someone who hits a baseball extremely hard, or is in any context a winner by a wide margin, though formerly a walloper or bruiser was someone who walloped or hit something or someone, whether the wife, family dog, or blacksmith's anvil.
Also a walloper is the opposite of a white lie; it's an extravagant lie, synonymous with "whopper." The term was also slang for "Dockworker," & given Halfdan's background as an Alaska fisherman, he likely knew that meaning well, & the name for all its meanings played into his famous sense of humor.
Halfdan was a big Norwegian, born in Nordfjord, Norway, & arrived in Seattle by way of Ketchikan, Alaska, where he had been a partner in a fishing & canning company. In 1933 he & his wife Anna moved to Seattle & began developing rhododendrons. Anna helped out & even named some of the creations, but the rhodies were mainly Halfdan's obsession. She watched him in the fields, an enormous fellow whom she kept well-fed, dashing amidst his shrubs with pollen on his fingers, pollenizing trusses like a madman.
Halfdan until his death in 1969 at the age of eighty-three was a central figure of the Rum Dum Club which met at various members' houses, or in each others' gardens. At these gatherings he was noted for his hard drinking & his laughter & humor. The membership of the Rum Dum Club was a who's-who of pioneer hybridizers in the Northwest, including Frank Mossman of Vancouver, Washington, who helped develop 'Pink Walloper' (see the "Western Flame" azalea page for more about Dr. Mossman).
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