Species Rhody

Rhododendron racemosum:
Racemed Evergreen
Botanical Rhododendron

He came to call me back from death
To the bright world above.
I hear him yet with trembling breath
Low calling, "O sweet love!
Come back! The earth is just as fair;
The flowers, the open skies are there;
Come back to life and love!"

by Francis William Bourdillon


This subalpine dwarf evergreen is from mountains of Yunnan, Szechwan & Guizhou provinces in China.

Quite different from other dwarf small-leaf rhodies from these areas, the leaves appear one at a time up & down the stems instead of in groups like every other rhododendron we have. Plus the tiny light-pink flowers occur in big round racemes instead of trusses.

It blooms late in March & early April. Tiny though each light pink flower is, they are so extremely numerous in the pseudo-raceme, that it makes a large impact.

Species RhodyThere are several strains of this species in cultivation, some which get fairly tall & leggy to five feet or taller, others that are very low-growing at only about one foot. Ours is the basic upright wild species & it could potentially become leggy if not pruned for compactness, though it comes from stocks that are expected to reach only two or three feet in ten years.

There are a couple of named clones or tissue-cultured plants, namely 'Rock Rose' with purer pink blooms, & 'Apricot Beauty' with yellow-orange blooms. Additionally it has been used in many hybrid programs. The best known of its hybrids is 'Ginny Gee,' recipient of the Superior Plant Award.

Ours is the normal pale pink & white flower. The Rhododendron Species Foundation from whose stocks it came says their strain is a slow-growing shrub to three feet, very upright & loosely limbed.

When we obtained it, one limb was already over two feet tall, though the other limbs were scant inches; it looks rather amusing with just one tall slightly twisting stem amidst several short ones, & I suspect it was started just from that longer limb.

If a location is chosen for it where a slender, upright & slightly leggy look is welcomed, it can be permitted to take exactly the form it desires, as compactness isn't a universal necessity. It can even begin to just a little resemble a phlox with its bundle of flowers most numerous at the top of each stem. Reddish stems lends it a bit of color even when not in flower.

Ours is in a lightly shaded morning-sun location by the Chokecherry Tree, with crocuses all about its feet. Its upright pose is just right for this spot.

Though the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden where we got it recommended part shade, Northwest rhody expert Harold Greer says to find it a sunny location. Greer likely has the better sense of it, as in the wild the species grows in open areas rather than as a subshrub. Then again, it is native to such elevations that it might become overheated in too much sun at sea-level. We went for a location sunny part of the day, but with considerable protection, & are expecting a lot from this little beauty.


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