Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Winter in the Rhododendron Species Garden, Part 2

The Rhododendron genus is incredibly diverse - as evidenced by the numerous specimens growing inside the three year-old conservatory at the Rhododendron Species Garden.  A meticulously controlled high-altitude tropical climate enables the cultivation of dozens of rhododendrons in the vireya subgenus that would not survive our Pacific Northwest winters.  Prayer flags stretch over the entrance making for an nice homage to the place where many of the plants growing inside were originally collected.


Entering the conservatory, I was fully captivated by hundreds of new species I had never seen before.  It also wasn't very warm either with the temperature set at perhaps 50 degrees F (10C).
 

The first thing to catch my eye (no surprise here) was a hardy-looking schefflera growing in a pot off to the right.  This could very well be Schefflera alpina but not entirely sure.

Schefflera alpina?
This next sight really blew me away.  Why do all the really cool plants have to be tropical?

Rhododendron tuba
On the other side of the path grow two very different rhododendrons side-by-side: one with golden metallic new growth (I'm not sure of the name of this one) and Rhododendron stenophyllum with glossy red-orange flowers that have a very appealing fake look.

Rhododendron stenophyllum on the left and a mystery rhododendron on the right

Up a little closer:

Rhododendron stenophyllum
Now this rhododenron is definitely good enough for me.  At least it would be if I could buy it.

Rhododendron goodenoughii
A nameless begonia.

 

I'm just throwing this in.  I have no idea what it is.


Schefflera macrophylla is unfortunately not quite hardy enough to grow outside reliably in the Pacific Northwest, but it is definitely on the borderline and when I eventually get my hands on I will most definitely be experimenting with it.

Schefflera macrophylla
  The conservatory comes complete with a river and a bridge over it.


 Try to guess which genus this plant is from: (hint: it's in the same family as rhododendron)
 

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Answer: If you guessed the blueberry family (Vaccinium), you're right!  Vaccinium kachinense is its name.  I'll save you the effort of scrolling back up and post it one more time:

Vaccinium kachinense

And finally, Rhododendron himantodes really bears little resemblence to any other rhododendron I'm familiar with.  Its flower buds are like minature magnolia seed pods.  I actually wouldn't mind if it didn't bloom and just stayed like that the whole time!

Rhododendron himantodes
I will be doing one more installment on the Rhododendron Species Garden soon showing off a few great plants that got to come home with me.

19 comments:

  1. Hey Justin! I think begonia is Begonia carolinifolia. (B. carolinifolia develops a "trunk" and it looks like a mini Schefflera when it matures.) The palm looking plant after I can't remember it's name of the one it might me. Starts with a c and has fuga in it some there. Loving the tropical Rhododendrons!

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    1. Oh god, this is why I shouldn't type half asleep and in the dark...

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    2. It came back to me! It looks like Curculigo. Possibly C. crassifolia? (Okay, so it did start with a c, but definitely no fuga in there...) Sorry for all the comments, just got too excited with all the cool plants!

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    3. Curculigo crassifolia definitely looks right on the money. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. The begonia is B. hemsleyana, a Chinese species with foliage very similar to that of B. caroliniifolia. Recently collected silver-spotted forms are becoming more common in cultivation, but in the wild the leaves are usually plain green as in your photo. This is a finicky species and I've had terrible luck with several different collections; it seems to be very intolerant of heat.

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    1. Good to know. Checking it out on Plant Lust it apparently can withstand a zone 7 winter but goes deciduous.

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  3. http://www.farreachesfarm.com/Curculigo-sp-JMc-p/p2113.htm

    Great tour! And when you do get your hands on a Schefflera macrophylla please let me know when and where asap.

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    1. I will do that but FYI I will probably buy out whoever is selling it :) And I just placed an order with Far Reaches Farm - how did I miss this Curculigo???

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  4. I presume all the rhododendrons you featured are tropical...sigh, they are all gorgeous! Just echo about the Curculigo, it could be crassifolia.

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    1. They all are tropical but they do like cool conditions so growing them in a pot most of the time outside is definitely a possibility.

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  5. Hey Justin, can you believe that I just found your blog? Awesome. Always great to find another geeky plant blogger. Now, to go explore more on your site. I added you to my blog roll, if that's OK.( I am pretty selective as to whom I add!).
    Cheers!

    Matt

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    1. Hi Matt - yes please make my blog more popular :)

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  6. Cool post, these tender Rhodos are stunning.
    Now if only they could manage to cross the vireyas with hardy types!!

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    1. Yea you would think that it should be possible but maybe they are too genetically different? Hmmm....

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    2. There is some evidence that Rhododendron kawakamii, a vireya from Taiwan, can be successfully crossed with non-vireyas, but oddly it does not successfully cross with other vireyas, so is it really a vireya? I forget where I read this. I think it was in The Vireya Vine newsletter, but I forget what issue. I have heard rumors of hobbyists making successful crosses between vireyas and other rhododendrons, but the only published successful crossing I know of so far was done in 1981 between R. retusum and R. periclymenoides by Professor Bruce Knox and Dr. Elizabeth Williams (no idea who they are). Only one seedling, 5 1/2 years later, bloomed. Most of the seedlings were albino and died from the lack of chlorophyll. Most of the ones that survived past that stage couldn't decide between being evergreen or deciduous and apparently also died. The successful seedling was backcrossed with pollen from both parents and R. laetum. I haven't read any further mentions of this study yet. Still reading through old issues. This information was published in the Vireya Vine, Issue 14, August 1987. I don't know why they chose to cross a vireya, a lepidote, with an azalea, an elepidote. The lepidote/elepidote incompatibility is one of the biggest breeding barriers in the genus. And if they did get even one seedling to bloom from THAT cross, why has no one tried to cross vireyas with other lepidotes?!.........um, yeah, I may have been doing some research into this topic prior to seeing this conversation (grinning sheepishly). All the old issues of the Vireya Vine are available on vireya.net along with The Vireya Venture, an Australian newsletter, for anyone bitten by the vireya bug. :)

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    3. Sorry that comment was so long! And thanks for the tour of the conservatory! Can't wait to see it in person...

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  7. I think it has been tried without success in the past. But these days, with the addition of a bit of scientific jiggery pokery and embryo rescue, maybe it'd possible.....

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