Magazine article Sunset

Ironclad Rhodies Scoff at the Cold

Magazine article Sunset

Ironclad Rhodies Scoff at the Cold

Article excerpt

A hardy band of handsome rhododendrons for the inland Northwest

Rhododendron aficionados in cold parts of the Northwest owe much to the late Ernest H. Wilson, curator of Boston's Arnold Arboretum. From 1891 into the early 1900s, a string of brutally cold winters stung New England. As a plant explorer, Wilson carefully noted which rhododendrons survived the frigid weather. His findings helped the Northwest's frontier gardeners get off to a good start.

Today, this group of rhodies is known as the Ironclad hybrids, and they provide gardeners in Sunset climate zones 1 through 3 with a fine selection of cold-tolerant plants in a range of flower colors. Several varieties on Wilson's original list-including 'Catawbiense Album', `Purpureum Grandiflorum', and 'Roseum Elegans'-are still treasured by gardeners, but the ranks of Ironclad hybrids have grown extensively, thanks to breeders in the Northwest. Now, dozens of plants will survive prolonged exposure to temperatures below -20deg (see the list below right). …

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