After our two heatwaves over 80 degrees, I knew most of the flowers would be past, but I enjoy being able to see the foliage and form of the plants without mooning over the flowers. I almost always love the flowers, but they are only present a few weeks out of the year for each species, though careful selection can provide a garden with rhody flowers from as early as December or January to as late as July or August. But what do the plants look like when they aren't in bloom? Do they have attractive leaves, bark, or growth habits? The leaves, especially, of so many hybrids are blase at best, and their growth habits may not be much better. Luckily some of the more recent hybrids, perhaps most notably those involving Rhododendron yakushimanum, are truly attractive plants 365 days of the year. So much more potential exists in the other species to produce plants with multi-season interest. Today I'm going to be showing a slightly different side of rhododendrons from what most people are familiar with, along with some choice companion plants growing in the garden that I just can't help but to share. The focus here is definitely on foliage, but I've never been much for extremes so a few flowers might sneak in to moderate the fabulous foliage.
Since I simply could not whittle down the number of pictures I took into one post, I'm turning this into another series. First stop, the Rutherford Conservatory, a 5,000 square-foot facility which opened in 2010. This conservatory houses vireya rhododendrons along with a few other tender rhododendrons such as species in subsections Maddenia and Edgeworthia. Also growing in the conservatory are tree ferns, orchids, a schefflera with IMMENSE leaves, and other fascinating tropical plants. There is something in bloom in the conservatory virtually every day of the year.
To save myself some typing, I've abbreviated Rhododendron as "R" in scientific names. Scientific names of non-rhododendrons are spelled out completely.
|Pyrrosia shearei sits just outside the conservatory in a large container. Ok, I need this.|
|Part of the conservatory. So lush and green!|
|One of my favorite vireyas, R. alborugosum, which I just recently purchased from Bovees. Aren't those leaves fantastic? I can't wait for mine to grow up!|
|Another favorite, R. rubineiflorum, has leaves only about a quarter of an inch long and relatively large flowers. This minute species is easier to grow than many of the other small, alpine species.|
|R. rubineiflorum creeps slowly over the ground and also sends longer stems running under the loose moss and detritus on the ground.|
|R. rugosum, similar to alborugosum except that the leaf margins are rolled under (revolute) and the flowers are pink to red (as opposed to white and fragrant in R. alborugosum).|
|I couldn't see the tag for this one, but isn't that golden new growth simply glorious?|
|R. fleuryi, a tender species in subsection Maddenia, has some of the most fantastically peeling bark in the genus. It looks like a fine form of Acer griseum.|
|The leaves of R. pudorinum have a metallic sheen like coins.|
|Cheerful yellow vireya flowers.|
|R. edgeworthii grows without fear of frost in the conservatory, though there are hardy forms growing in the garden outside.|
|R. edgeworthii again. Oh, that new growth!|
|If memory serves (since I didn't take a photo of the label) this is R. nuttallii, subsection Maddenia, whose fragrant flowers are some of the largest in the genus. Sadly only hardy to 15-20F.|
|This little fern caught my attention because it resembles strongly a plant my undergraduate adviser had and was trying to identify. I'll have to contact the RSF to see if they know what it is.|
|The conservatory is currently hosting the Hilltop Artists Glass Exhibit. Some of the pieces were interesting, but personally I was more interested in the plants.|
|Plants like this huge schefflera!|
|My hand for comparison. That leaflet is about 2 feet long!|
|One of my favorite plants in the conservatory is this Gaultheria pseudonotabilis. I love the fuzzy red hairs and zig-zag new growth! Only hardy to about 15F, but I'm more than willing to accommodate it indoors over the winter.|
|Another of my favorites, foliage-wise. I couldn't find the label for it, but next time I visit I'll ask someone what it is.|
|Probably my favorite plant in the conservatory is this R. himantodes. Long, thin leaves have a metallic sheen and small brown scales dotting the surface at all stages as they mature from an old gold, through shades of green, to a deep blue-green.|
|If the RSF ever offers this gorgeous vireya in their seed or plant catalogs you can bet I'll be buying it!|