Rhododendron 'Anna Rose Whitney,'
a classic Iron Clad
"There are always flowers
for those who want to see them."
A little girl riding by on her bicycle stopped to say hello as I was gardening near the 'Anna Rose Whitney.' With a deep sigh this wonderful child said of the rhododendron, "Oh! You have such beautiful roses!"
Ms. Whitney blooms in June. The first photo is in late May of the first truss to start opening its trumpets, a little ahead of the rest of the buds. Through most of May the enormous buds are green & shaped like onion-domes. Then at the tail-end of the month these begin to show pink in the cracks. Then with stunning force, for two weeks in June, as shown in the last photo, the shrub is just thick with enormous flowers.
This elipodite hybrid originated as the Yunnan China native Rhododendron griersonianum pollinated by an early Iron Clad cultivar called 'Countess of Derby.' The Countess in turn was a hybrid of two hybrids ('Pink Pearl' which was 'George Hardy' crossed with R. broughtonii, pollinated by 'Cynthia' which was R. catawbiense x griffithianum).
Being one of the Catawba Hybrids makes it an "Iron Clad," the name given a cluster of long-proven garden rhodies that tend to be both heat resistant for sun tolerance, & cold-hardy for cooler winters, in addition to having always been hybridized for color & size of blooms. From among the same seedlings two "sister" cultivars were developed, 'Lucky Strike' & 'Van.' 'Anna Rose Whitney' was in turned used in the development of further hybrids.
It was developed by William Whitney & Theodore Van Veen, Sr., right here in the Pacific Northwest, & was named for William Whitney's mom. It has become one of the most popular of the varieties bred in my part of the world, for since its introduction in 1954 it has made its way into temperate gardens worldwide.
A fast-growing rhodie compared to most, it can reach eight feet tall & six wide in ten years, so it needs "stretching" space & shouldn't be too crowded. Trusses hold up to twenty brilliantly rose-colored funnel-flowers with faint freckles on the upper petal inside each funnel. The individual trumpets can be five inches big, so in all, this adds up to one of the largest flower trusses, eight to eleven inches wide.
We wanted to add a rhody to a roadside garden, so it had to be an Ironclad. Anna Rose Whitney is not quite the most sun-tolerant of Iron Clads, but it's close. It does get a little sun protection from the large shrub beside it, a Dawn Viburnum, plus I planted broom cultivars nearby which ought to grow large swiftly enough to lend some protection from winds.
I had prepared myself for the possibility that I would have to move Anna Rose Whitney to another area if the specimen struggled in that rather exposed area, but so far it has been doing dandy, already tested with a record-breaking heatwave. When we started that particular roadside garden it was pretty harsh soil & awfully weather-exposed, but as more things were planted, & as the soil has been turned & enriched, it has really begun to be an extension of the primary gardens. The array of plants is getting substantial enough they can protect one another from over-sunning & high winds.
For more photographs of this shrub, go to the:
'Anna Rose Whitney' Page of the Rhododendron Gallery
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