Rhododendron • シャクナゲ • 石楠花 • shakunage
Edited 3/26/14, to add this description and research written by Corinne K:
Rhododendron ‘Brocade’ or R. ‘Bow Bells’ • Rhododendron
‘Brocade’ is a hybrid of Rhododendron williamsianum, which is native to high elevations in central Sichuan. It and a related R. williamsianum hybrid, ‘Bow Bells,’ were developed in England in 1934 by Lionel de Rothschild, and registered in 1958. They have beautiful heart-shaped foliage that emerges copper, then ages to green. Their April flowers are bell-shaped, and held in loose clusters, with a much more natural look than the huge flower trusses of most hybrids. With their compact, dome-shaped habit (about 3 ft. tall in 10 years) and elegant beauty, they make excellent plants for small urban gardens.
Many additional hybrids have been developed over the years, varying somewhat in growth rate and flower color, and many continue to be available, including ‘Bow Bells.’ Hybridizing has been done to develop plants that are easier to propagate, more cold-hardy, and more profuse-flowering than their parent.
The Washington Park Arboretum planted both hybrids, and there has been disagreement about whether the Japanese Garden hybrid is ‘Brocade’ or ‘Bow Bells.’ The flower of the former has peachy-pink flowers with ruffled edges, and was recorded by the hybridizer as an azaleodendron (a bi-generic hybrid of an azalea and a rhododendron). There is disagreement about the accuracy of this because it doesn’t display azaleodendron characteristics. ‘Bow Bells,’ on the other hand, has pale pink flowers with less ruffled edges, and was recorded as a hybrid of 2 rhododendrons. The Japanese Garden plant looks like the latter, rather than ‘Brocade.’
The Area C hybrid was acquired in 1958. Two years later, in 1960, ten similar plants, without tags or recorded names, were transplanted from the Arboretum’s Magnolia Area to the Japanese Garden. They were planted in the mountain area, near the pagoda and waterfall. Look for the plants in that area with heart-shaped leaves. They’re obviously williamsianum hybrids, although their exact names aren’t known. CK
Here is link to r. brocade pics and description from Hirsutum (contributor-based rhodie database on line).
And here on early flowering rhodies in PNW from Ed Hume Seeds: Pacific In the Northwest one of the most popular garden shrubs is the rhododendron. One of the greatest advantages of this shrub is that it is evergreen and many varieties flower at varying times of the year. In fact, by proper selection of varieties it’s possible to have continual flowering for up to six months or more. In this article we’ll discuss a few of the early flowering varieties. […]
I think one of the most important factors in selecting any plant, but particularly rhododendrons, is to select varieties that have attractive foliage. The plants are in bloom for only about three or four weeks, so the rest of the year you are looking at foliage. So good leaf color and pleasing textures are important considerations when choosing rhododendrons. […]