"The earth laughs in flowers."
-e. e. cummings
This sun-loving dwarf rhododendron hybrid was named 'Brickdust' after the coloration of its ruffled dusty-rose flowers. The flowers, frilled around the edge of each trumpet, are in full splendor before mid-April
It's not really the color of bricks, though. In Aprils of 2002 & 2003, its blooms were somewhere between coral & the color of salmon berries, & this rich color is captured in the first photo.
But in 2004, it produced more & larger trusses than in previous years, but all the blooms were a lighter pink, as shown in the second photo.
Its puffy-pillow buds are fully colored in early April well before opening, as shown in the third photo on this page.
An evergreen with dense leaf growth, it is hardy to zero degrees F., & grows to three feet height in ten years. We planted it in winter 2002, when it was only about 18 inches tall & a bit over two feet wide; & despite rhodies' notorious slow growth, this one had a burst of spring leafing that extended it to a full three feet wide & 20 iunches high.
In winter when such surrounding deciduous trees as the rohani beech & nearby shrubs are leafless, 'Brickdust' receives considerable sunlight. But in summer it gets only moderate sunlight. It would not have liked a lot of shade, even though on the hottest summery days it will fold its leaves as a sign of distress. It hates droughtiness & in summer needs to be watered quite often.
The shrub in total tends naturally to remain roundly mounded without needing to be pruned for its even shape, but pruning shortly after its flowering time will assure a heavier bloom the following year. New growth was so unexpectedly vigorous that Granny Artemis did have to prune it away from the path.
Spring leaf growth is a ruddy mix of red & yellow-green, a trait inherited from R. williamsianum. The unusually colored new leaves start off curled, completely hiding the edges, folded in such a manner as to look like "arrowheads," as can be seen in the last of April photo, below.
Starting out with arrow-folded leaves is a trick of tender young growth, to keep leaf-chomping insects from being able to reach the edges. Anything that climbs up on the leaf looking for a meal slips right off the curled edges. As these soft young ruddy leaves harden, they turn a bright shiny green, then unfold into their nearly round shape.
The pollinator for this plant's mother R. williamsianum was a hybrid called 'Dido.' This means that the paternal grandparents (R. dichroanthum ssp dichroanthum x R. decorum) provided Brickdust with the coral to salmon-pink coloration of the flowers on R. dichroanthum & the densely leafed appearance of R. decorum.
Our first year with this shrub, it blossomed only over about half the limbs, having expended so much energy putting out new limbs & leaves.
Just such a burst of limb growth often happens if a rhododendron is newly planted in particularly rich loamy soil & fertilized. This burst of growth provided for the very mixed appearance, a combination of fresh ruddy arrowhead leaves, older round green leaves, & pretty frilly flowers throughout April & into May.
'Brickdust' was developed right here in the Pacific Northwest, grown by Dr. Rudolph Henny in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Dr. Henny created on the order of seventy-five hybrids in twenty-four years, several of which remain in production.
Henny was a kindly, soft-spoken gentleman, the first editor of the Bulletin of the American Rhododendron Society, & there is a semi-double rose-red Exbury azalea named for him. In 1963 the AMS awarded him the society's Gold Medal, though alas it was done posthumously.
His creation 'Brickdust' was introduced to gardening in 1959. It is only in limited production, but being a local product turns up occasionally in our local nurseries. It is apparently still rare in the rest of the country.
For more photographs of this shrub, go to the:
'Brickdust' Page of the Rhododendron Gallery
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