griersonianum x griffithianum
"Wrought in Vulcan's happiest mood."
'Vulcan,' introduced in 1938, is an evergreen elipidote Rhododendron developed by English plantsman Anthony Waterer of Waterer & Crisp. Rhododendron griersonianum was pollinated with a R. griffithianum hybrid named 'Mars.' (A cultivar called 'Vulcan's Flame' reverses the cross, in that 'Mars' was pollinated by the wild R. griersonianum. Both named varieties look pretty much identical).
Of 'Vulcan's' two parents, the original wild R. griersonianum is a red-flowering rhody from western China & northeast Burma. It is a parent of a great many Ironclad standard large-leaf evergreen rhododendrons, including 'Anna Rose Whitney' & the semi-dwarf 'Hill's Bright Red.'
The white-flowering Himalayan species R. griffithianum is another exceedingly important hybrid parent in the development of standard Ironclads. It played a part in the heritage of Ironclads as varied as 'Loder's White' & the bright red 'The Honorable Jean Marie de Montague.'
'Vulcan's' fiery to brick-red trusses occur May or June. Because several different clones are sold as 'Vulcan,' there is some variation between shrubs from different sources, but in general the trumpets are pure read inside & out, including the stamens.
A vigorous yet slow-growing shrub, its ten-year mounding height is five to seven feet. It likes filtered sunlight & some protection from winter winds.
Two specimens in a friend's gardens that I've helped to landscape have locations perfect for their disposition. One is in the bright shade of a Western Cedar getting some direct afternoon sun. It's shown in the first photo. The other is protected near the house, with a lot of afternoon sun. It's shown in the second photo, with the green weeping Japanese maple Acer palmatum 'Viridus' shown immediately behind it.
This shrub was named for the Roman blacksmith-god, for the flowers' color evokes the fire wherein the divine smithy forged weapons for his fellow Olympians. In Ancient Rome, Vulcan had a flower cult about which little is today known, but on the festival of Flamen Volcanalis at the first of May, the high priest of Vulcan payed homage to Flora the Goddess of Flowers. This survives in the neo-pagan rituals of the Beltane or May Day "Fire Festival" that underwent its first modern revival in Scotland. It is thus so amazingly apropos that the rhododendron 'Vulcan' is a May bloomer.
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