Rhododendron Heaven

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I had a chance last week to view the glories of the David G. Leach Rhododendron Research Station of Holden Forests and Gardens near Madison, Ohio. This is an appointment-only aspect of Holden and even that was curtailed this year as their traditional Memorial Day open houses had to be put on hold.


Leach Rhododendron Station at Holden
The Leach Rhododendron Research Station at Holden Forests and Gardens


Rhododendron blossom
This rhododendron has flare


Rhododendron blossom
Rhododendron 'Burma' at the Leach Gardens


Stewartia tree
Trees tower overhead at the Leach Station. Here is Stewartia pseudocamellia 'Ballet'


Stephen Krebs is the director of the station and I met with the Collections Manager Conner Ryan for a wonderful walk through the over 2000 rhododendrons on this woodland garden site. Fabulous foliage, beautiful blossoms including elaborate “flares” on the petals, oranges to deep reds to whites and pinks and different colors on the various flower parts. Not to mention huge trees overhead casting shade, magnolias, Japanese maples, the coarse bark of black locust. Quite the scene.  Put on your calendar to get a spot for the open houses next Memorial Day timeframe, coronavirus-willing.


Rhododendron flower
Rhododendron at the Leach Station last week


Rhododendron at Leach Station
A Rhododendron with flare


Rhododendron about to pop out at the Leach Station.  What colors.


Rhododendron flower
Lovely blossoms with a nice circlet of stamens and strawberry-like flare


Rhododendron flower
Glorious Rhododendron


This visit was the icing on the cake for me as I think about a Rhododendron talk I was supposed to give this April and which is now postponed until next April (hopefully).  The genus Rhododendron, a member of the Ericaceae family, includes what we call azaleas and rhododendrons and is a favorite for many, with over 1000 species around the world (with countless more cultivars) of typically acid-loving, good drainage-loving plants.


Cucumbertree magnolia
Cucumbertree magnolia at Leach Rhododendron Research Station


Cucumbertree magnolia
Conner Ryan illustrates the size of that cucumbertree magnolia


My wife and I saw incredible Himalayan and Mediterranean rhododendrons in botanic gardens in Scotland last fall and I have an incredible Rhododendron ‘English Roseum’ specimen right outside my office window in Wooster at the OSU-Wooster campus, though in this year of campus distancing hardly anyone sees its typical late-May to early-June floral display. OSU’s Secrest Arboretum is open in Wooster, and now is the time to enjoy rhododendrons and azaleas and many other lovely late spring-blooming plants.


Rhododendron sinogrande leaf
The size of Rhododendron sinogrande at the Crarae Botanic Garden in the Scottish Highlands


Rhododendron sinogrande
Hands over feet those Rhododendron sinogrande leaves are grand


Rhododendron falconeri
Rhododendron falconeri from the Himalayas at Crarae in Scotland


Rhododendron luteum
Rhododendron luteum,  a Mediterranean species at Crarae. A loch in the distance.


Mad Honey Rhododendron sign at Crarae Gardens
The Mad Honey Story of Rhododendron luteum  


Rhododendron at OSU Wooster
Rhododendron 'English Roseum' outside my 2nd story window at OSU-Wooster


rhododendron in Scotland
If you thought the last rhododendron was big, check out this one from Logan Botanic Garden at the southwest corner of the Rhinns of Galloway in Scotland. Laura Chatfield is diminutive, but not that diminutive: this rhododendron is huge!