The Lord of the Mansion:
Rhododendron 'Loder's White'
"And oh, to think the sun can shine,
The birds can sing, the flowers can bloom,
And she, whose soul was all divine,
Be darkly mouldering in the tomb."
We've a shrub in our humble peasants' garden that is a little piece of a West Sussex baronette's ritzy-ditzy gardened estate. It's a hybrid created by Sir Edmund Loder.
A series of hybrids with "Loderi" in the title (Loderi King George, Loderi Pretty Polly & so on) have a shared heritage derived mainly from R. fortunei pollinated by R. griffithianum, but the name-variation 'Loder's White' instead of "Loderi" for this one particular hybrid is intentional, established as it was from Catawba stock.
Sir Edmund founded Leonardslee woodland gardens on a vast property he purchased in 1899. He took his ideas for landscaping & plant arrangements from famous landscape paintings.
Nestled in a beautiful valley with a string of pools that had been fashioned a century earlier for water power, Sir Edmund took advantage of the naturally acidic soils to begin his collection of rhododendrons, camelias, & magnolias. He also imported a herd of wallabies whose descendants still live semi-wild at Leonardslee Gardens.
Leonardslee near Horsham is open for public strolls & viewing & by all reports is more than worth the journey. I wonder, if I ever manage to travel so far, will they let me pet a wallaby?
Some of the rhodies on the estate are over a century old. The gardens are still owned by the Loder family, whose members became something of a rhododendron dynasty. Sir Giles Loder, grandson of the baronette, was active in the Royal Horticultural Society's Rhododendron Group for many years, until his death in 1999 at the age of 84.
Of the several Loder hybrids, Loder's White is one of the easiest to grow & happily is also one of the most beautiful. In 1931 it received the Award of Garden Merit given by the Royal Horticultural Society of England for ideal garden plants that have proven themselves over a period of time.
It originated as a cross between R. cawtabiense 'Album Elegans' x R. griffithianum pollinated by another old hybrid, 'White Pearl' (R. griffithianum x R. maximum). Greer dismisses a widely repeated assertion that one of the parents was R. arboreum 'Album' x R. griffithianum & is confident that the Cawtaba Hybrid heritage is correct.
Plants of the Cawtaba lineage, also known as Iron Clads, are among the hardiest rhododendrons, hence Loder's White tolerates more sun exposure than do the main body of Loderi hybrids, besides having a leafier appearance & being the most disease-resistant of Sir Edmond's creations.
It develops fat & tall candelabrum buds which in late April are so pink that one would assume the bloom would open pink. Instead, early in May -- often precisely on May Day -- it reveals enormous faintly fragrant shimmering white blossoms with pink around the edges, & a hint of yellow in the throat.
The pink-edged blooms fade to almost entirely white by mid-May, & by the last day of May are beginning to turn brown & are about ready to dead-head. But counting the colorful candalabrum buds, that's a full six or even seven weeks of spectacular blossom, besides such overall good appearance for the evergreen shrub year-round.
An April close-up on the present page, of one of the pink buds, shows how flowery & gorgeous Loderi's White is even when "only" in bud. If you jump to the Sun-tolerant Rhododendrons Page, you will see a pretty darned good portrait of a bud & a bloom side-by-side, taken late in April (2002) when it was half buds & half flowers.
The buds, brighter even than the open blooms, make it virtually one of the longest-blooming of rhodies, having two or three weeks of extravagant buds plus two weeks of enormous blooms. The two full-bloom pictures on the present page were taken mid-May (2003).
The shrub despite a tidy upright stance tends even so to sprawl wider than it is tall. Ours is wider viewed from the front, narrower viewed from the side. It resides happily between a large chokecherry tree & a young hornbeam.
For more photographs of this shrub, go to the:
'Loder's White' Page of the Rhododendron Gallery
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