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## 2002

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Rhododendrons colours:





Rhododendron George's Delight - a nice flower with a mix of colours - yellow, pink and orange.

Rhododendron 'Double Winner' a strigilosum hybrid with hairy leaves and stems - has bright red flowers

Rhododendrons colours:





photo page thousands of photos               other topics        rhododendron photo review


My (ex)-gardens 'Park der Gärten' Germany ASA Convention 2003 Flowershow ARS Dutch Rhodo. Society
Kalmia latifolia "Indian Summer" in Maine wildflowers Costa Blanca Bernhard Knorr rhodo's Hans Hachmann Rhodo's Joe Klimavic azaleas
'Saltarello' x 'Malaga'



een kruising met 'Whitney's Tigerlily'

           Articles, here below - of which I wrote 5 and Mr. Schmalscheidt 1 - were written for several magazines in the last 10 years. The first directly below is:

Some of my best, written in the summer issue 1999 of the 'Journal', the quarterly magazine of the American Rhododendron Society, the ARS.
The Story of hybridization of decideous azaleas in Western Europe. Written by Mr. Walter Schmalscheidt from Germany for a Chinese encyclopedia. Translated by me. 2004
Evergreen azaleas in Western Europe  I wrote this article also for this Chinese encyclopedia. 2004
In Search of Evergreen Azaleas in Germany An article in the June issue of the AZALEAN, the quarterly magazine of the American Azalea Society, the ASA. 1994
The origin and children of ’Kermesina’   This article was written for the March issue of the obove mentioned AZALEAN. 1994
The availabillity of Evergreen Azaleas in Western Europe  Also written for the AZALEAN, for the June issue 1993.

Some of my best

        Do you know something more interesting and fascinating than hybridizing Rhododendrons and Azaleas?

If so, please, don’t tell  me. One disease is enough. And that’s what it is for me; and if a doctor wants  to cure me of it, please don’t come to me - it might be contagious .Hybridizing is
something very tricky. It’s a mix of imagination and emotion; tragedy and enjoyment; it demands so muchenergy, time and space. May be someone with a small garden should not pay attention; just admire nice gardens and plants of those ‘fools’, who let themselves  be captured by this “hybridizing fever”.

 Nevertheless - let me tell you how this started with me, and about some of the results. May be you like them as I do. They are my children, and please don’t tell me that you don’t like them.

About 20 years ago we lived not too far from Rotterdam in a big house with  a small garden. A heather garden was planted and  here I tried to hybridize heathers. But after a few years we could hardly walk on the paths and terrace, because we had pots with seedlings all over. So, it was about time to move (on).

In 1982 we moved to Hattem, to a house near large woods, with a garden of about 2 acres. I thought it would be large enough for the next 20 years, but no way……..In the first 2 to 3 years I layed out a fine heather garden again around large shrubs of rhododendons, which were at least 50 years old. Seeing the beauty of these rhododendrons I bought more and more ‘new’ plants and after 5 years I had more rhodo’s than heathers in my garden. Well, gardening starts with reading books and visiting other gardens. So I did.

My first efforts to create new Rhodies didn’t mean too much. I simply took seed capsules from ‘Cunningham’s White’ or some ponticum- or catawbiense hybrids. I just needed to know the best system to collect seeds, the time of sowing, the seed-soil, how to grow the young seedlings etc.

The first real hybrids came from collected seeds in 1984\85 from crosses between ‘Cunningham’s White’, ‘Cosmopolitan’, ‘Nova Zembla’, ‘Sappho’, ‘Furnival’s Daughter’ and more of these old wellknown hybrids. I discovered that crossing with ‘Cunningham’s.White’ gives many nice looking plants.

This brought me to the question of what objectives I have and what I and other  hybridizers want for results. My first goal is a beautiful plant with nice leaves. Once I visited  one of our nurserist- ARS members, who has hundreds of hybrids and species in those long rows on long fields, typical for the region of Boskoop. We walked among all these plants and I asked him to point out  nice looking plants without flowers. Well, he needed quite some time to pick out really good looking plants. Without flowers many plants don’t look very nice and we have to look at them 11 months not flowering and hardly 1 month with flowers.

Of course my second goal is to get beautiful flowers, long lasting, not fading, cold hardy bright yellows, like so many hybridizers.

Unfortunately  a kind of tragedy happened.  I prepared  new beds for all the hundreds of selected seedlings from the crosses, mentioned above, and planted them carefully  in rows , labelling them at the beginning of each row. Then I had a very busy time for school (I am a teacher of German) and could not take care of the plants. After a couple of weeks I  found out that blackbirds had taken out all the labels, so I could not exactly identify my hybrids any more. Therefore I call these hybrids my “Blackbird-hybrids”. As far as I could remember I made new labels, but with a big query mark.

 One of these “Blackbird-hybrids” drew my attention. It looked so nice!  Thick dark green concave leaves, glowing as if they are made of leather. Wow! Compact growing. Would this plant meet my goals? What flowers this plant would ever get, I took cuttings and found out that the rootability is very high.

In 1992 I attended an ARS Convention for the first time, held on Long Island and I enjoyed this “New World” of  rhododendrons very much. Before I left home I  saw the first flower buds of the plant  coming out and I was a bit disappointed - the colour  was just red-purple.

Coming back from the USA my first steps were through my garden  to see what my plants had done; well, the red-purple beginning had develloped into a  nice flower with red edges, white inside and a dark red-purple blotch. If I will introduce this plant I will honour a woman in who’s house I stayed during the Convention in Tacoma - ‘Helen Martin’. Parentage? The mother must be ‘Cunn. White’, but the father? Probably ‘Cosmopolitan’.                        Blotches are my favourites.  One other of these blackbird hybrids is a cross between ‘Sappho’ and ‘Cunn. White’. As you can clearly see by the purple-red blotch and the flowers, which are about 4 inch wide. And not so leggy as the father ‘Sappho’. May be I will call it “Snowprint”.

And, again, one of those blackbird plants, it must be a cross with ‘Furn. Daughter’, is quite typical;  a nice plant with purple buds, opening to pink-purple flowers which have seperate petals! I showed slides for some American chapters and everybody told me that this is quite rare in elepidote rhododendrons. I might call it ‘Split Up’. I guess only for people who are looking for something special.

 Meanwhile in spring 1997 we moved to our  present house with a garden of about 7 acres. And now at the end of 1998 we planted already about 2 acres. Today I have space enough, but time……….

 Of course I also crossed with R. yakushimanum. Trying to get fine yellow compact and hardy  plants with yellow flowers. I used  the FCC  form and crossed with ‘Goldkrone’ and ‘Graf Lennert’ from Hans Hachmann. The offspring was okay, but never really bright dark yellow as I wanted. This year the Research Station in Boskoop released  2 plants from the same cross: ‘Centennial Gold’ and  ‘Millennium Gold’. I hope the latter will not cause any problems…………..

 Another cross with yak  ‘Blue Bell’ x yak FCC had some nice results. Some with pure white flowers with a prominent yellow blotch. But also one with pink edged white flowers with a yellow blotch. ‘Dear Paula’; indeed, called after Paula Cash, where I stayed some days.

 What could we do better in hybridizing than to use the best hybrids of others. What plants could I better use than the best from Hans Hachmann, who introcuced such marvellous new hybrids. So I crossed some of his hybrids with another plant from German origine, mentioned in the lustrous book from Mr. Schmalscheidt: ”Rhododendron- und Azaleenzuchtung in Deutschland”. I mean the hybrid ‘Rotgold’ (int. ‘Redgold’) from another German hybridizer Mr. Nagel. It’s a hybrid with a lot of yellow in it. (‘Koster’s Cream’ x R. wardii) x (R. discolor hybrid x R. dichroanthum ssp. scyphocalyx).  So I made the cross ‘Melidioso’ (Hachmann hybrid) x ‘Rotgold’ with some nice results. In case of introducing I will call one of it ‘King Lion’. And another one ‘Rotgold’ x ‘Amaretto” (also from Hans Hachmann)  ‘Big Smile’. The first time that I saw the latter in flower, I indeed had a big smile. As so many times seeing  a new hybrid flowering. And all the “small smiles” I throw on the compost heap, which is growing very fast.

 What about  hybridizing for double flowers? At the “Hybridizers Roundtable” on the Convention 1994 in Ashville I asked  August Kehr, what would happen if I would cross with ‘Queen Anne’s’. For instance with ‘Elisabeth’? The answer was that I would get red doubles as results. Well, so said, so done,  most of the results are double, but white or pink

What could I tell and show you more? Well, it would be summing up a lot of hybrids, which I have to test  in the coming years. May be you will hear more from me next years. As a kind of continuing story.

 Writing this it’s  wintertime and for me; it is like a tunnel. A tunnel to spring and  crossing time. Far ahead of me I see a small light,  the light  that takes so long to reach. Through  the cold, rain and snow.

Oh, I forgot what hybridizing also is - patience. That’s what I lack most. So, I try to get twice growth on my seedlings  2 years long. Bringing them in and out of my greenhouse. Many of these seedlings  make flower buds in the second year and will flower in the third.

I will end my story with following comment. In the spring issue of the JOURNAL 1997 I read a very informative and sparkling article about hybridizers from the West Coast, Washington.

Wouldn’t it  be an interesting idea to set up a hybriders-news-group on the Internet? It would be so nice to get in touch with hybridizers from all over the world. I think that I am one of the very few hybridizers in Holland, may be the only one.

For me hybridizing is the best thing about rhododendrons. Let’s enjoy it together.                           top                           

The Story of hybridization of decideous azaleas in Western Europe.


In the year 1792 the R. luteum Sweet, syn. Azalea pontica L., R. flavum G. Don, was introduced to England. This was the basis for the start of hybridisation of the Azalea pontica hybrids, the eldest azalea group anyway. The by far largest part of these hybrids came from Belgium. Here a baker from Gent , Mr. P. Mortier, hybridised at the beginning of the 19th century, as an amateur, the from America introduced species R. calendulaceum (introduction around 1800) and R. periclymenoides, syn. R. nudiflorum (introduction 1734) with each other. The hybrids, originated from these crosses, were 1831 named by Sweet as R. Mortieri. Then, around 1825 he hybridised his Mortieri-hybrids with the new yellow R. pontica.  Further he also used R. viscosum for his crosses. In 1834 Mr. Mortier sold his whole collection to the hybridiser Mr. Louis Verschaffelt, who lived in Roygem, not far from Gent in Belgium. He continued his hybridising work and introduced many still known hybrids like ‘Cardinal’, ‘Grandeur Triomphante’, ‘Guillaume II’, ‘Heureuse Surprise’, ‘Jenny Lind’ and ‘Prince Henri des Pays-Bas’. In a few decades there was an overwhelming number of new introductions, so that 1850 more than 500 (!) different hybrids were known. Not only Mr. Verschaffelt, but also Frans van Cassel and Louis van Houtte started their hybridising for new varieties. So, in 1849 Mr. Van Houtte bought from Mr. Verschaffelt  25 Mortier hybrids and obtained 12 different hybrids from the widow of Louis Hellebuyck.  Today of these 12 hybrids still exist: ‘Dominico Scassi’, ‘Francois de Taye’, ‘Louis Aime van Houtte’, ‘Louis Hellebuyck’, ‘Mina van Houtte’, ‘Rose de Flandre’ and ‘Sang de Gentbrugge’, which were introduced by Mr. Van Houtte.

        He also hybridised, and of his new introductions we can find some in collections and gardens of  plant lovers: ‘Madame Gustave Guilmot’, ‘Quadricolor’, ‘Roi des Belges’, ‘Rose Marie’, ‘Van Houtte Flore Pleno’ and ‘Wilhelmine’.
The Azalea pontica hybrids are also known as ‘Gent Hybrids’, or as ‘Hardy Gent Azaleas’. They are quite fast growing, very floriferous and completely cold hardy.  With age they will grow to about 2 – 3 meters (7-10 feet). Their flowers are relatively small, but distinguish by a rich play of colours and vivid fall colours of the leaves.  
     The so called Rustica hybrids were also originated in Belgium. In 1888 they were exhibited for the first time  by Charles Vuylsteke on a flower show  “Genter Floralien” in Gent, and came into trade around 1890. Mr. Vuylsteke obtained them from the hybridiser Mr. Louis de Smet, who died in 1887. Now it is generally accepted, that these Rustica Hybrids come from crosses between double flowering Gent Hybrids with R,. japonicum (=Azalea mollis). Their distinguishing mark are double flowers. They are completely hardy too, are easily forcable and the flowers appear before the leaves.  
        Louis van Houtte was also engaged with the selection and hybridising of Azalea mollis hybrids. In 1861 he obtained from von Siebold’s nurseries in Leiden, Holland a number of seedlings and launched in 1873 20 new hybrids, which he had selected and named, so among others ‘Alphonse Lavallée’, ‘Chevalier de Reali’, ‘Comte de Gomer’, ‘Consul Pecher’, ‘Isabelle van Houtte’ etc. R. japonicum, called before Azalea mollis, has probably been introduced to Europe only1861 by Mr. Von Siebold. Other sources tell, that the introduction already took place in 1830. The mollis Hybrids arose out of crosses between R. japonicum (=Azalea mollis) x R. molle(=Azalea sinensis). Further  we count to this group the so called Mollis-Sinensis Hybrids, which also are named as the R. kosterianum Hybrids.                   
     These were first brought upon the market by the Dutch nursery M. Koster & Sons. They originated by hybridising selected lines of R. japonicum with R. molle. It’s about seedlings with big flowers of very uniform colour, and they are sold  by nurseries as Mollis x Sinensis seedlings (=Kosterianum seedlings) in the colours yellow, orange yellow, orange, rose\pink and red. Dutch nurseries had  very much  part in hybridising the Mollis Hybrids. They too bought seedlings from von Siebold and continued to work with them. In 1890 the nursery M. Koster & Sons obtained from the Belgian Mr. Fred. De Coninck his whole collection of seedlings. He started first hybridising between R. japonicum and R. molle. Out of these hybrids M. Koster and Sons selected 8 seedlings and brought them 1892 on the market. Later on Mr. Koster & Sons improved the collection and brought out their own novelties, which are well known today: ‘Koster’s Briliant Red’, ‘Adriaan Koster’, ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Mrs. Peter Koster’.  
     Many other Dutch firms took part in hybridising, like Ottolander & Hooftman, P. van Noordt & Sons, Van Noordt and Oosthoek & Co. The latter introduced the orange red ‘Dr. M. Oosthoek’. More nurseries who hybridised Mollis Hybrids were among others Gebr. Kersbergen, L.J. Entx, K. Wezelenburg & Son, Felix & Dijkhuis, Kromhout & Co and H. den Ouden & Son. At the nursery of M. Koster & Sons not only Mollis Hybrids were bred, but also a number of Azalea R.occidentalis hybrids by crossing Azalea R.occidentale with Azalea mollis, which were shown for  the first time in 1901. They are ‘Delicatissima’, ‘Exquisita’, ‘Graciosa’, ‘Irene Koster’ and ‘Superba’. They are all large growing to around 8 feet (2.5 m) and have large fragrant flowers.  
     Before 1896 P.M. Koster of the firm Koster & Co in Boskoop, hybridised the Azalea pontica Hybrid ‘Hollandia’ by crossing R. japonicum with R. luteum. ‘Hollandia’ is one of the earliest flowering Pontica Hybrids with quite large flowers (in section 6.5 cm) which is still available today. Another group of varieties\hybrids, namely the Azalea viscosa hybrids are also bred in the Netherlands. In 1938 B.B.C. Felix of the firm Felix & Dijkhuis crossed R. viscosum with Mollis Azaleas, i.e. also with ‘Koster’s Brilliant Red’. Around 1966 the following new hybrids were introduced by Felix & Dijkhuis: ‘Antilope’, ‘Chanel’, ‘Pink Mimosa’, ‘Réplique’, ‘Rêve d’Amour’ and ‘Soir de Paris’. The ‘Plant Research Station’ in Boskoop obtained from the nursery Felix & Dijkhuis a number of cross seedlings and out of them the varieties ‘Arpège’  and ‘Rosata’ were selected and brought on the market. Some years later the Research station brought  out some new own hybrids: ‘Carat’, ‘Diorama’ and ‘Jolie Madame’. They are all distinguished by the late flowering time, from the end of May  till beginning of June, and fragrant flowers.  

        In England the breeding of deciduous Azaleas started already very early. Before 1842 ‘Altaclarense’ was introduced  by Lord Carvanon in Highclere. The hybridiser was J.R. Gowen, who crossed A. viscose with A. sinensis. We should not mix it  up with another still known hybrid with the same name ‘Altaclarense’, parentage Azalea sinensis x unknown Gent Azalea, flower colour light yellow with a darker blotch; this one got a F.C.C in 1862 when it was exhibited  for the first time by Mr. Lee in Hammersmith. Before 1847 the Gent Hybrid “Standishi’ came out; a hybrid of J. Standish, Firm Standish & Noble. Also the Gent Hybrid ‘Unique’, still cultivated,  originated there before 1850.  
When Standish & Noble separated in 1854\55, Charles Noble took over the nursery in Windlesham in the nearby Sunningdale, therefore the name “Sunningdale Nurseries”. Further Gent Hybrids, which the Sunningdale Nurseries brought out, are’Altaclarense Sunbeam’ (1895), ‘Lealia’ (before 1898, ‘Nosegay’ (1847)  and ‘Queen of England’ (1854).

        Harry White, who was the manager of the Sunningdale Nurseries from 1898 on, hybridised  also several  Gent Hybrids, such as: ‘Ariel’, ‘Chieftain’, ‘Crimson King’, Mrs. Harry White’ and ‘Sessostris’.

        ‘Nancy Waterer’ came out before 1869 and F. Street thinks that it probably is a cross between R. molle and R. calendulaceum. The hybridiser of it was Anthony Waterer senior  who started around 1850 to improve the Gent Azaleas with his partner Robert Godfrey. For this goal Gent Azaleas were crossed with Azalea sinensis. A. Waterer senior with his son  Anthony senior, owners of the Knap Hill Nursery in Knap Hill, Woking, County Surrey, and their successors continuously went on with hybridisation work. As plants to cross with they used i.e. R. arborescens, R. calendulaceum, R. occidentale, R. speciosum and probably also R. periclymenoides, R. luteum and R. japonicum. The results of this complex and difficult hybridisation are the Knap Hill Azaleas, which were introduced by far the most of them only after the second World War in 1945. The Knap Hill Azaleas are distinguished by a large scale of positive characteristics, such as for instance floriferous ness, large flowers,  large colour spectrum, toughness and perseverance\vitality, also in adverse soil conditions, striking fall colours, full cold hardiness and relatively easy to propagate by cuttings, and recently by tissue culture. Below some important Knap Hill varieties: ‘Golden Eagle’, ‘Homebush’, ‘Persil’, ‘Pink Delight’, ‘Satan’, ‘Sylphides’ and ‘Toucan’.   
     Lionel de Rotschild, the owner of the Exbury Gardens, startet 1922 with the hybridisation of Knap Hill Azaleas, which became well known as the Exbury Azaleas. Widespread varieties of this group are i.e. ‘Berryrose’, ‘Cecile’, ‘Fireball’, ‘Golden Sunset’, ‘Hotspur Orange’, ‘Royal Command’ and  ‘Silver Slipper’.   
     More hybridisers  in England are also the nursery W.C. Slocock, Edmund de Rotschild, Francis Hanger, John Waterer, Sons & Crisp Ltd. In Bagshot, Mr. Findley, headgardener of the Great Windsor Park, Michael Haworth-Booth, M.C. Pratt in Pulborough, the nursery Hillier & Sons in Winchester as also Millais Nurseries in Churt, Farnham in County Surrey.  

        Also in France a long range of deciduous Azalea hybrids came out. In the catalogue of nursery Moser & Fils for the year 1894 we can find a number of 27 own hybrids, which got probably all  out of culture now, for instance ‘Baron Nathaniel de Rotschild’, Comtesse H. de Choiseul’, ‘Georges Claretíe’, ‘Lieutenant Bartet’ and more. Further we find in this catalogue 8 Rustica hybrids, all own hybrids, and these too likely don’t exist any more. Just a few Azalea pontica Hybrids of Moser & Fils exist today, like ‘Madame Moser’ (around 1900) and ‘Souvenir du President Carnot’ (before 1909). Before 1902 nursery Croux  & Fils on the river Seine, introduced some Azalea mollis Hybrids. Quihou brought out  the Azalea pontica Hybrid ‘Fritz Quihou’, which still exists. However, the best known French Azalea pontica Hybrid, and most wide spread, is ‘Coccinea Speciosa’, hybridised before 1832. It’s hybridiser was Lísha Sénéclause. The same hybridiser introduced also the ‘look-alike’, the A. Pontica Hybrid ‘Gloria Mundi’ (before 1832), which is still present in collections and sometimes available at nurseries.  

        In Germany it was Mr. Jacob Rinz from Frankfurt am Main, who started his hybridising work  for deciduous azaleas with double flowers in the 19th century. Around 1834 he crossed with Azalea pontica Flore Albo Pleno. Already 1853 Rinz had named about 12 varieties, such as ‘Chromatella’ and ‘Graf von Meran’. In his catalogue for the year 1855 the Belgian Ambroise Verschaffelt offered the following double flowering azaleas, which came from Mr. Rinz. These are Azalea pontica Hybrids: ‘Arethusa’, ‘Bartholo Lazzari’, ‘Chromatella’, ‘Dr. Streiter’, ‘Graf von Meran’, ‘Heroine’, ‘Leibnitz’, ‘Maja’, ‘Narcissiflora’, ‘Ophirie’, and ‘Rosetta’. Also from Mr. Rinz are: ‘Heroine Plena’ and ‘Rose de Hollande’.  
In 1900the nursery H.A. Hesse in Weener on the river Ems introduced the Azalea pontica Hybrid ‘Goldlack’, which still exists.

        The by far most productive and inventive German hybridiser of today is certainly Mr. Hans Hachmann from Barmstedt in Holstein. From 1976 till today he brought out more than 30 Knap Hill varieties. Some of them are good improvements compared with the existing assortment, like ‘Csardas’, ‘Feuerwerk’, ‘Goldpracht’, ‘Goldtopas’, ‘Hachmann’s Satomi’, ‘Parkfeuer’, ‘Schneegold’ and many others. In addition he hybridised several Viscosum Hybrids.

        Carl Fleischmann from Wiesmoor in Ostfriesland, who died in 1972, created altogether 12 Knap Hill hybrids. Dietrich G. Hobbie in Linswege introduced 3 Knap Hill varieties, and the nursery Joh. Bruns in Bad Zwischenhahn 6 Knap Hill novelties. Besides there is a number of hybridisers in Germany, who also brought out one or more Knap Hill Azaleas.  

Translation by Mr. Tijs Huisman – November 2002 – The Netherlands.  


How to write the names of named groups of azaleas and hybrids??  
I looked of course in the thick azalea book of Mr. Gred Galle “Azaleas” revised and enlarged edition. This is quite confusing. He is not always consequent. I think these are the rules: A named group is written in big chracters\letters. Also the word Hybrid.  Just the indication, not meaning a specific group is written small: azalea, or hybrid. The indications for rhododendron or azalea species are written  in sloping script; for instance: Azalea pontica                                      


Mr. Tijs Huisman, The Netherlands  

        We just could wait for it, that after and with the exploration of the far East by Europeans, there would also follow a ‘flood’ of plants to Europe. Robert Fortune and Kingdom Ward are just 2 names of the many plant finders.  
So, let’s see some historic facts and  what happens next. We should however consider that nomenclature is a bit difficult, because names changed sometimes.

        In 1680 R. indicum was brought to Holland by the Dutch, but got lost. In 1833 there was a reintroduction to England under different names like A. laterita or A, macrantha. And to make it more difficult the R. simsii from China was imported to England under the name A. indica.  
In the first half of the 19th century foreign ships brought more azaleas to Europe. Old azaleas from Japanese gardens were introduced under westernised names such as ‘Indica Alba’ and ‘Phoeniceum’. These early introduced azaleas were all called the Indian Azaleas. After introduction to England they also came to the continent and than the popular breeding of the indoor azaleas began. Especially in Belgium millions are still grown and sold worldwide.

        The Kurume Hybrids are originally the result of hybridisation in Japan,  some varieties came to England around 1850, but the most of them were imported by Mr. Wilson to the USA in 1918 and came later to Europe. But in Holland and Germany they were not so hardy.

        In 1690 Mr. Engelbert Kaempfer, a merchant from Holland introduced this species and other Japanese plants to Holland. R. kaempferi, called after him was imported again by Prof. Sargent  to the USA in 1892, and then to England. After that to Europe, and here it proved to be hardy, and many hybridisers started to cross with it. The last thing I will mention is that the R. yedoense var. poukhanense from Korea is very hardy and so much used for hybridisation in the USA and in Europe. The seeds were imported first by Mr. J.Jack in 1905 to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston.

        It would lead too far to follow the import from Japan and China precisely; so we will follow how the hybridisation in Europe went on. I found out that hybridisation actually and mainly was done in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, especially in the second half of last century. Not too much by British and not at all by French and Danish hybridisers. I asked many experts and looked on the internet, but no information.

        In Belgium the first Japanese azaleas were imported between 1901 and 1911 by Mr. Albert van Hecke. It were ‘Amoenum’, ‘Hatsugiri’, ‘Hinodegiri’ en ‘Yodogawa’. These plants were brought by Dutch merchants of bulbs. In those years of 1920 till 1975 many Belgium hybridisers did it as amateurs. On a flower show ‘Floralien’ in Gent some plants out of Wilson’s Fifty (imported from Japan in 1918 by Mr. Wislon)  were introduced: ‘Azuma-kagami’, ‘Kirin’ and ‘Kure-no-yuki’. Especially ‘Kirin’  grew very well and got popular. As a sort of ‘victory tour’. The whole fam. Van Hecke, Albert and later André and René hybridised and introduced fine new hybrids, like ‘Blauwe Donau’, ‘Excelsior’ and ‘Madame Albert van Hecke’, still popular plants.

        Mr. O.F. Wuyts, inspector for plant protection also hybridised as amateur. During 1944 till 1947 he showed his hybrids, but many names got lost since. From 1960  brought into trade. ‘Conny’,  ‘Hong Kong’, ‘Imperator’ are some of his best.

        Dr. ir. Heursel, today’s one of the best experts on Japanese azaleas, hybridised mostly with R. simsii, with one hardy new cultivar ‘Gilbert Mullie’.  
Of course, not mentioned now, there are so many indoor azaleas from Belgium origin. Very popular and fine plants because of the two-coloured and double flowers.

        In the United Kingdom Lionel de Rotchild, famous for his deciduous Exbury Azaleas, also hybridised for evergreen azaleas and used mostly R. kaempferi. ‘Leo’ and ‘Eddy’are some of his varieties. Other hybridisers were Haworth-Booth, Stevenson, A. George and Hydon Nurseries. But as far as I can oversee it,  no hybrids from them are in trade. (?)

        Recently the Cox family in Scotland,  well known because of their books about Rhododendrons and owners of the ‘Glendoick Gardens in Perth, hybridised and introduced new and very fine hybrids,: ‘Panda’, ‘Racoon’, ‘Squirrel’ and ‘Wombat’. Also  new varieties as licensed plants: ‘Glendoick Crimson’, ‘Glendoick Dream’ and  ‘Glendoick Garnet’.

        Hybridisers in the Netherlands introduced especially in the first half of last century many fine and well bought new varieties. Cold hardiness is very important in the Netherlands and Germany. Last 6 winters were very mild, but we can’t count on it for the future. Zone’s 7a and 6a\b require hardy and tough plants. Many hybridisers are from the famous region around Boskoop,  and the Research Station for Plants there played an important role.

        So hardy varieties like ‘Amoenum’ and ‘Mucronatum’ and species like R. kaempferi, R. kiusianum, R. yedoense var. poukhanense were used. Most nursery-men  like H. den Ouden and Sons, Felix & Dijkhuis, P. Koster, C.B. van Nes & Sons and A. Vuykv and others introduced superb  hardy azaleas: ‘Adonis’, ‘Ageeth’, ‘Alice’, ‘Anna Maria’, ‘Arabesk’, ‘Beethoven’,  (many composer’s names are from A. Vuyk van Nes), ‘Chopin’, ‘Favorite’, ‘Helena’, ‘Jeanette’, ‘Joseph Haydn’, ‘Mahler’ and many more.

        Another variety is ‘Noordtiana’ introduced by the firm P. van Noordt & sons in 1897. A seedling from seeds out of a capsule on plants, imported from Japan. The reason that I mention this particular plant is, that it is very cold hardy and therefore many hybridisers used it for hardiness.

        At the Agricultural University in Wageningen material of ‘Vuyk’s Scarlet’ got a radiation treatment and at last ‘Aleida’ was introduced. More experimental work was done by radiating flower buds on ‘Silvester’. Mutations were ‘Odilia’ and ‘Stefan’.

        Recently I just know, that hybridising has become quite a rare thing here in the Netherlands. I guess I am one of the very few who spends time and space for it. Some new hybrids are coming.

        Thanks to many hybridisers in Germany we can enjoy now numerous exciting and cold hardy new hybrids. Remember names as Hans Hachmann,  Georg and his son Werner Arends, Carl Fleischmann, Walter Nagel, Urban Schumacher and others. Also from the former DDR there are fine new introductions; from the Pilnitzer Research Station, which does not exist anymore, Gerhard Mittendorf, and from Bernhard Knorr.

Let’s follow these names for their contributions:

        One of the first hybridisers with Japanese azaleas was Georg Arends. His goal was to get very floriferous and hardy new hybrids, that could withstand the cold German winters.  So he used ‘Hinodegiti’, ‘Hatsugiri’, ‘Benegiri’ R. kaempferi and ‘Noordtania’ to cross with. His first crosses were not very successful, but F2 crosses looked better. Then the WW1 came, and in this period the plants\seedlings were not taken care of and many died. After the war the best, toughest and hardiest ones were selected and brought into trade. In 1926 they were showed on one of these enormous plant exhibitions in Dresden in eastern Germany. Many people were very enthusiastic about these new azaleas. They were mostly named for rivers in the ‘Sauerland’ in Germany, where he lived. Like ‘Agger’, ‘Diemel’,  ‘Eder’, ‘Neye’, ‘Sorpe’ etc.

        Another hybrid from unknown origin ‘Multiflorum’ was very hardy and often used in further hybridisations. For instance by his son Werner, who introduced nice new and hardy hybrids between 1950 and 1960. He called them all with Japanese names like ‘Fumiko’, or ‘Hiroko’; and every name had a second name like ‘Geisha dark pink’, or ‘Geisha orange\red’. These names should not be confused with the Glen Dale hybrid ‘Geisha’.

        One of the hybridisers who used this ‘Multiflorum’ was Carl Fleischmann in northern Germany. He crossed it with a hardy form of R. kiusianum and tested them during some very cold winters. The results are all named as ‘Diamant’- azaleas, like ‘Diamant pink’, or ‘Diamant rose’ etc. Very popular in Holland and Germany.

Urban Schumacher who worked at the nursery of Georg Arends, introduced some new hybrids like ‘Georg Arends’ and ‘Sirikit’.

        The Pilnitzer azaleas  were hybridised at the Pilnitz Plant Research Station not far from Dresden. Hybridiser was Mr. Werner Dähnhardt, who used hardy own clones and some kiusianum hybrids. Results: ‘Falkenstein’, with very small leaves, ‘Königstein’, ‘Lilienstein’, ‘Rauschenstein’ etc. named for some rocky mountains east of Dresden.

        Also from Dresden are some fine hybrids from Mr. Bernhard Knorr. He was the leader of the Dresden Plant Research Station and hybridised at home, which was forbidden to do. He used hybrids from Georg Arends and the hybrid ‘Van Noordt’. He called them ‘Dretonia’ with the suffix for the colour, such as: ‘Dretonia pink’, ‘Dretonia lilac’ etc. Plus some other introductions: ‘Fairy Bells’, Kamenz’, ‘Meissen’, and more, using R. yedoense var. poukhanense and ‘Multiflora.

        Gerhard Mittendorf, also from the former DDR hybridised for hardy evergreens, which should not loose too many leaves in strong winters. So he used ‘Noordtiana’, R. kaempferi and R. yedoense var. poukhanense. With as result introductions like ‘Luzi’, ‘Mizi’, ‘Popzi’, ‘Rotfuchs’ and others.

        I could go on like this, but will concentrate now on one hybridiser,  Mr. Hans Hachmann from Barmstedt in northern Germany, who is famous for his work on hybridising Rhododendrons, introducing tens of splendid new plants, and also deciduous and Japanese azaleas. The latter he calls all R. obtusum, because we can’t trace them back to the original plants.

        And he goes on with it, like recently introducing ‘Schneeperle’, double white and very hardy, ‘Schneeglanz’, ‘Peppina’, purple with darker blotch, just to mention some of his last introductions.  And who does not know his ‘Canzonetta’ with bronze leaves in winter, ‘Estrella’,  ‘Fridoline’, and may be the most beautiful ‘Maruschka’ with glowing bronze leaves in winter and early spring. And many more – widespread and grown in Europe and abroad: ‘Allotria’, ‘Estrella’, ‘Gabriele’, ‘Gislinde’, ‘Rubinetta’, ‘Schneeglanz’, etc.

        And his latest new introductions, of which some are very fine new ones, many with double flowers, and often license plants:  ‘Babuschka’, ‘Eisprinzessin’, ‘Rosinetta’, ‘Kirstin’, ‘Melina’, ‘Purpurkissen’, etc.

        Also in Czechia some hybridisers of evergreen azaleas brought out several good hardy compact hybrids, working in Pruhonice, near Prag. Especially Mr. B. Kavka from 1939 on, but also J. Jelinek,  M. Opatma, J. Dvorak and others used i.e. R. obtusum var. amoenum (that’s how they called it) and R. yedoense var. poukhanense to cross with. Introductions are – and some of them widespread - :’Blanice’, ‘Doubrava’, ‘Labe’, ‘Ledikanense’, ‘Morava’, ‘Oslava’, etc. Many of them are extreme winter hardy.

        The last data I could find are that a certain Mr. H. Frey from Switzerland, used open pollinated seed of R. yedoense, and his hybrids, like ‘Bernina’, ‘Gotthard’, ‘Jura’, ‘Matterhorn’, are introduced by nursery Esveld in Boskoop, the Netherlands.  

November 2002.                                                                                                                                                                                    top


In Search of Evergreen Azaleas in Germany

Every year I make at least one trip to Northern Germany; alone or with another rhodoholic or with a group of members of our Dutch Chapter of the ARS. This we did last spring.

But last fall, during my autumn vacation, I made about the same trip for 3 days with my wife. This time especially looking for evergreen azaleas. I hoped to find some more nurseries where evergreen azaleas would be grown and maybe some new introductions unknown to me. Therefore we visited a region somewhat north of the region that we usually visit – between the Netherlands and the city of Oldenburg. This area is called “das Ammerland”. North if it is a typical nursery village called Wiesmoor. I read that there should be many nurseries there. It was here that Carl Fleischmann created his famous ‘Diamant’ azaleas – beautiful, compact and hardy evergreens. But now it is almost 25 years later and I expected something more.

However,  the more we looked for something interesting, the less we found. We visited many nurseries, but the choice  of evergreen azaleas was very limited. Everywhere the well known hybrids: ‘Multiflorum’; ‘Kermesina’ (also Alba and Rosé), etc., and even at the nursery of Horst Fleischmann (the son of Carl) only the ‘Diamant’ series. Rather disappointing.

But we are not easily discouraged. In the very worthwhile book of Walter Schmalscheidt (1) I read about a certain Mr. Buchtmann, in Varel, who has found in his seedlings of crosses with ‘Multiflorum’, a very slow growing azalea with nice small red flowers. Never give up!! So we drove about 15 miles east to the city Varel, close to a bay of the North Sea. His wife Renate, also the name of the small azalea, opened the door and was very surprised to see us from Holland. We explained the goal of our visit and that we were anxious to see this nice baby. Hans Georg himself gave us a tour through his large garden, showing his large collection of hollies (he has probably the largest collection in Europe), but no azalea ‘Renate Buchtmann’. So we got impatient to see the little girl. Well, behind the greenhouse, there it was. Really small. Even Hans Georg apologized for its smallness. A bad looking baby, even ugly and disfigured. “Normal” people would call us crazy to go to so much trouble for one ‘stupid’ plant.  Well, must I explain it to you? I guess you know this disease. To cheer us op, the real Renate offered us coffee with a whole plate of home-made cream-filled puffs. Probably new friends….who calls this a worthless trip??

What to do next? Meanwhile we were on our way to another nursery “Vorwerk Garten Center” in Rastede. I think that many evergreen azaleas were sold out, because the choice was very limited too…well, guess….’Multiflorum’;  ‘Kermesina’ and the ‘Diamant’ series. I tried to speak to the owner, but could not find him. We left and drove to our hotel in Westerstede. We were tired and badly wanted a nice meal, hot shower and a warm bed.

Next day we went again to our “always visit nurseries” Hobbie – Wieting – Böhlje – Dürre – Robenek. To make stis story not too long, at the Wieting nursery I met his son-in-law Uwe Genzel. Some years we exchange plants, and so we did again. I told him about my increasing love for evergreen azaleas. He brought us in his nursery car to an area a bit outside of his nursery, where long rows of azaleas were planted. He dug out some of the fine introductions of Hans Hachmann. Suddenly we stood face-in-face with evergreen azaleas, completely unknown to me. This trip would not be worthless! Strange names: ‘Dretonia’ dunkellila – dunkelrot – dunkelrosa – lellila – lellrosa etc. “Fairy Bells’; ‘Kamenz’; ‘Lilac’; ‘Lobau’; ‘Lucky Chance’; ‘Charm of Flower’; ‘Meissen’; ‘Riesa’; ‘Wispering’; ‘Zittau’; ‘Pink Jam’; and ‘Bautzen’. Some names reminded me of Eastern Germany – the former DDR. Kamenz, Meissen. Zittau, and Bautzen; we were in some of these cities last summer with friends from eastern Germany, when we stayed at a camping site in Dresden. So I asked Uwe Genzel where these azaleas came from. A certain Mr. Bernhard Knorr from Dresden, was the answer. What a shame that  I did not know him before, because we surely would have visited him when we were there!!

No problem – I looked him up the members roster of the German Rhododendron Society – and wrote him a detailed letter. We have a saying in Holland: you have no, but you can get yes. Since then we have written each other long letters and he promised to visit us as soon as possible. I will tell now about his activities in the former DDR and now.

He and his wife Karin worked as research workers at a so called VEG (=VolksEigenes Gut) Saatzucht Baumschulen. Translation is not so easy, because Germans always liked complicated names for offices – state or military. So they both worked at an experimental research station of the state. And what sounds real weird: it was forbidden to hybridise privately; it was only allowed to be done at this station. So he had to hide his hybridisation form his bossed. He did it by giving his own hybrids English names; so they thought that they were real plants from abroad.  There was very little money to import plants from the USA, so he imported mostly seeds, or got seeds from Mr. Schwind in Atlanta. He did import some evergreen azaleas from America, but most did not grow in the cold climate of eastern Germany. In 1980 he was dismissed as a leader of this station, because he did not want to “confess” the communist regime. He and his wife are idealists and their love for plants goes beyond a stupid state system. That is something to think about; they had no easy life!! And yet made the standard for what people should do.

In my last letter I asked him to send he some photos or even slides, if he had made any. Awaiting this, I can tell you the following things about his hybrids.  
Many of his hybrids come from the same cross ‘Haruko’ x ‘Noordtiana’. First he calls them ‘Dretonia’ and the colour added. Dretonia is an abbreviation for Dresden Tolkewitz (= a district of Dresden). They are all hose-in-hose and hardy to very hardy.

‘Haruko’ is one of the introductions of Werner Arends, a son of Georg Arends, who was the first in hybridising evergreen azaleas in Germany. Werner developed his hybrids between 1959 and 1960 and called them ‘Geisha’. Like ‘Geisha red’ or-pink,-dark pink etc. (Not to be confused with the Glenn Dale hybrid ‘Geisha’) This ‘Haruko’ was one of this crosses – formerly ‘Geisha’ dark lavender, nr. 3.

Other hybrids of Mr. Knorr are form the cross R. poukhanense x “multiflorum’ seedlings or f2 crosses. His hybrids must be hardy, because it can be very cold in that region. Last summer I was there and visited the old an famous nursery of Seidel. The present owner of it is Mr. Schröder; he told me that his wife is the last descendant of the Seidel family. I walked through large fields and park full of thousands of rhododendrons and evergreen azaleas in port on his sales area. In the strong winters here in Europe , 1984\85 it has frozen -34 degrees C (=-29 F). That is very cold indeed.

Last summer I also visited the Rhododendron Park in Dresden-Wachwitz, with many rhododendrons from Seidel and also some Pilnitzer Azaleas. We saw the beautiful castle of Pilnitz on the bank of the river Elbe, and tried to find the research station, where these azaleas were released, but it was closed and it does not exist any more. These azaleas are indicated as R. kiusianum hybrids and got their names from rocky mountains in the ‘Elbsandsteingebirge’: ‘Königstein’; ‘Lilienstein’; ‘Rauschenstein’; ‘Schrammstein’; ‘Weesenstein’; ‘Wildenstein’; ‘Falkenstein’; ‘Rotstein’; ‘Winterstein’ and ‘Zirkelstein’. I have seen many of these hybrids, not in flower, and they look very pretty, but some people from western Germany doubt if they are real hardy. I will ask Mr. Knorr to send me somes cuttings and try them in my garden. If I have the space!! Always too little!! My biggest problem! And my wife keeps telling me: “It’s your own fault, you want too much”. I bow my head, she is right…what can I do? By the way, we visited this flat rocky mountain “Königstein”, rising from the Elbe valley. The whole flat top is a large – about 15 acres – area with an impressive old castle and connecting buildings, with a very nice view of the valley and other flat rocky mountains around. Worthwhile to see!!

Back to my story. After Wieting we visited the old nursery of Böhlje in Westerstede, one of the oldest nurseries in Germany since 1845. Mr. Gerhard Diedrich welcomed us and told us that nursery business did not do well last season. People hardly buy plants in the fall, most in spring and not as much as desired. Economic recession?

We walked through his large nursery and saw a large area with evergreen azaleas; the well known….you know now…. But also many other hybrids. Especially plants from Hans Hachmann and introductions from Georg Arends; I mentioned him already. He hybridised before the First World War and made his crosses with ‘Hinodegiri’; ‘Hatsugiri’; ‘Benegiri’ and ‘Macrantha’, R. kaempferi and the R. ledifolia of Noordtania. The first results were not very good or hardy, so he made back-crosses with them and he planted these hybrids in his nursery. Then the First World War came and the plants were nor taken care of and many were destroyed in some severe winters. Just the very best survived.

        He introduced many of them for the first time in one of the big spring shows for garden plants in Dresden in 1925 or 1926. To give you an impression of how enormous these shows in Dresden were, some notes on an international garden exposition in the exposition city palace in 1907(!): total indoor area 15,900 square meters; 250,000 visitors; number of exhibitors  was 925. Production numbers of plants from the Dresden area: 750,000 azaleas; 150,000-200,000 camellias; 50,000-60,000 rhododendrons. The Jubilee exposition in 1926 was even much bigger. On this occasion Mr. Arends presented his new introductions and this caused a real sensation. They were introduced under numbers and most of them got their names in 1950; names of rivers in a region in Germany called “Bergisches Land”, such as ‘Agger’; ‘Bever’; ‘Bigge’; ‘Diemel’; ‘Eder’; ‘Ennepe’; Glor’; ‘Kerspe’ and many others. They are hardy to at least –10 F, have single flowers and are mostly in the colours pink, red, lavender or in between.

Mr. Böhlje had a nice collection of these plants, but my station wagon was chock-full with plants from Wieting and Mr. Robenek. So, I could not buy any more and as you know, that is a hard decision . Even my wife was surrounded with plants.

About Hans Robenek; I met him four years ago and saw his creations of rhododendrons, deciduous azaleas, etc. For those who love them more than the evergreens: in 1968 he made a cross between R. bakeri  (=R. cumberlandense) and a dark red Knap Hill hybrid. One if the seedlings he called ‘Liebesglut’, a very compact and slow growing plant with glowing clear red flowers with a small orange blotch. I got one grafted plant of it and will give a special place in my garden.

We also visited Mr. Friedrich Wilhelm Dürre, who has been married with the daughter of Dietrich G. Hobbie, Elisabeth. You know the R. repens group hybrid [R. forrestii, ed] ‘Elisasbeth Hobbie’? He worked with Mr. Robenek a long time at the Hobbie Nursery and they did the hybridising for many years. When Mr. Dürre sees me, he always calls me Mr. Vuursteenberg, because some years ago I introduced to him a different form of Vaccinium vitis-idea with pink flowers and ruffled leaves. My name is hard to pronounce, so he calls me after the street where I live. He even did something with evergreen azaleas, but they are difficult plants here because of the early and late spring frosts. That’s what I heard from some other nurserymen. Bark split I winters without snow and loss of most of the leaves. But I would say that in the last 10 to 20 years we had a good number of new and better introductions from Hans Hachmann and others and as I hope from Mr. Knorr, whom I wish a lot of success on the introductions of his new hybrids.

I will save you from the rest of this story, which is not interesting enough to write about. There are more hybridisers of evergreen azaleas in Germany. For instance, Mr. Walter Nagel from Bretten, further south in Germany. I will soon write him a letter and ask him about his activities.

Some day I will write another (continuing?)  story. Just wait and see. As far as I am concerned, this would be the nicest thing to do – travelling around the world, looking for and at plants – rhododendrons and azaleas. Germany is not far away for me. I would like to do the same through the West and East coast of the USA. My dream. Some dreams come true…like the dream perhaps of some of you to be in Europe.  


1.      Walter Schmalscheidt: “Rhododendron- und Azaleenzüchtung in Deutschland”. Verlag Heinz Hansmann, Rinteln, Germany
Epilogue of the editor:
Tijs Huisman lives in the Netherlands and teaches German language. He has been growing and hybridising heathers and rhododendrons for 15 years. He is President of the Dutch Chapter of the ARS; member of the Dutch Heather Society, the German Rhododendron Society and the Azalea Society of America. He is also an occasional contributor to the AZALEAN.


  The origin and children of ’Kermesina’  

Just by accident (?) I turned over the leaves of my “Azalea Bible“ – as I call the book by Fred C. Galle.(1) On page 180 I read about ’Kermesina’: “Old variety in Boskoop, parentage unknown, strong purplish red; very hardy. Also listed as a R. Kiusianum“.

Who am I to doubt what Mr. Galle writes? But this made me curious, and I looked it up in the beautiful book of Mr. Schmalscheidt. (2) He tells something different, as I will describe below.

’Kermesina’ is probably a hybrid of Georg Arends. Mr. Ernst Stöckmann, who owns a nursery in Bad Zwischenahn-Rostrup in Germany told the following  story:

About 1955 he bought a collection of evergreen azaleas from a garden architect, Mr. Herman Brumund in Oldenburg, who had laid out some beautiful gardens. He had also a garden area in Blohenfelde, a part of Oldenburg. This Mr. Brumund  had worked as a garden help at the nursery of Mr. Arends and had taken these azaleas from his nursery. He called them ’Kermesina rosea’. When he got older (he died rather young) he asked Mr. Stöckmann to take over these about 100 Kermesina’s. And if this Mr. Stöckmann tells the truth, this must be the right story. Nevertheless it is still uncertain, what the parents of this azalea are.

After the introduction of ‘Kermesina’, many hybridisers made crosses with it as father or mother. Hans Hachmann for instance has had some fine results:

‘Granada’ = ‘Rubinstern’ x (‘Red Pimpernel’ x ‘Kermesina’)  
‘Gabriele’ = ‘Muttertag’ x ‘Kermesina’  
‘Rosalind’ = ‘Kermesina’ x ‘Jeanette’  
‘Schneeglanz’ = ditto; how is it possible? ‘Rosalind’ clear pink, ‘Schneeglanz’ pure  
white with a small yellow blotch.  
’Rubinetta’ = same cross as ‘Gabriele’  
‘Schneewittchen’ = ‘Kermesina’ x ‘John Cairns’

      Also Mr. Urban Schumacher made the cross ‘Kermesina’ x ‘Muttertag’. The result : ‘Ruhrfeuer’, a clear red flowering low growing plant.

      The last cross that I know of is from Mr. Heinrich Meyer in Uchte:                                 
‘Patricia  Barmold’ =  ‘Kermesina’ x ‘Blue Danube’.

          ‘Kermesina’ has also produced some sports. In 1972 the nurseryman August Wemken found on the plant a sport with pink flowers, but now with a white edge, and called it ‘Kermesina Rosé’. On this sport he found in 1978 a pure white sport and he called this descendant ‘Kermesina Alba’.

The last note that I found is ‘Diamant Weiss’. This hybrid does not belong to the other ‘Diamant’ plants, which are form Mr. Carl Fleischmann. This ‘Diamant weiss’ is a cross between ‘Kermesina’ and R. prinophyllum (R. roseum). And made by Mr. Stöckmann.

      All of these ‘Kermesina’ plants are rather compact, hardy to at least –10F and have flowers between 4 and 5 cm. Flowering time is late to very late.  


        1.  Galle, Fred C. Azaleas,  Timber Press, 1985, Portland Oregon, USA

2.      Walter Schmalscheidt, Rhododendron- und Azaleenzüchtung in Deutschland, Verlag Heinz Hansmann, Rinteln, Germany.                top



            For many years I have been growing evergreen azaleas in my garden. Each year I have bought some new cultivars in Holland and especially in Germany. They just fit into my garden of about 2 acres, full of conifers, and Ericaceae like heathers, Rhododendrons, Pernettia, Cassiope, Vaccinium and Gaultheria. I have always liked the evergreen azaleas (in Holland we call them all Japanese Azaleas) but I never was really excited about them. Most of them are red, pink, purplish or white; some hose-in-hose. Now I have about 40 different forms, which are growing well in the sandy soil, mixed with peat, leaf mould and shredded pine needles. So far, so good.  
          Last year I attended the National Convention of the ARS on Long Island. Before the convention I stayed several days in the Boston area, and I bought Fred Galle’s book. On Long Island I visited some beautiful gardens and Roslyn Nursery; this opened my eyes for the real greatness and beauty of evergreen azaleas: forms and flowers (large) which I had never sen before. I looked in Galle’s book and admired the ‘scrumtastic’ and ‘supernificent’ flowers (as Harold Greer would say it.)  
          I asked myself and you now: why are those beautiful flowers not in Holland or Germany? Must we miss these fine plants now and in the future? Has nobody tried to import them from the USA – and why not? Is our climate so different from the places where the grow in the USA?

            Before I will try to find answers myself, I will indicate which “European azaleas are available here. I will first start with the azaleas which I have in my garden:  

‘Allotria’                          ‘Arabesk’                     ‘Amoenum’                  ‘Adonis’                       
‘Blaauw’s Pink’              ‘Corbella’                     ‘Diamant Rosa’           ‘Diamant Purpur’  
‘Else’                              ‘Gabriele’                     ‘Georg Arends’           ‘Gorbella’  
‘Hino Crimson’               ‘Kermesina’                ‘Kermesina Rosé’        ‘Maike’  
‘Mme. Van Hecke’        ‘Multiflora’                    ‘Nordlicht’                     ‘Rosa’  
‘Rosalind’                       ‘Rubinetta’                   ‘Santa Maria’               ‘Thiery’  
‘Vuyk’s Scarlet’ 

             As far as I know, nearly all of these azaleas are of European origin. At first I thought that ‘Herbert’ for instance was of European origin, but now I know that it is a Gable hybrid. I studied a lot of catalogues here and I can mention the following cultivars, which are available here in Western Europe, and which are popular and ‘good-doers’ here (in addition to what I have):  

‘Anne Frank’               ‘Blanice’                       ‘Blue Danube’            ‘Brunella’  
‘Canzonetta’                Diamant series           ‘Labe’                          ‘Lilienstein’  
‘Lister’                           ‘Luzi’                           ‘Maruschka’                ‘Mysik’  
‘Rosebud’                    ‘Royal Pink’                ‘Rubinstern’                 ‘Sazava’  
‘Schneeglanz’             ‘Schneewittchen’        ‘Estrella’                       ‘Fridoline’  
‘Granada’                    ‘Oslava’                       ‘Otava’                          ‘Rokoko’  
‘Signalglühen’             ‘Tornella’                     ‘Vitava’ 

          These cultivars are from the catalogue of Hans Hachmann in Germany; most of them are hybrids from him or from  Kavka-Arends-Jelinek. They are hardy to very hardy.  
In addition, the following are from other German nurseries: Wieting-Böhlje-Hesse-Vorwerk:  

‘Agger’                        ‘Aladdin’                      ‘Alice’                          ‘Beethoven’  
‘Daphne’                     ‘Ennepe’                     ‘Favorite’                    ‘Fedora’  
‘Frau Dekens’            ‘Hatsugiri’                    ‘Hatsugiri Rosa’         ‘Hinocrimson’  
‘Hinodegiri’                 ‘Hinomayo’                  ‘John Cairns’             ‘Kathleen’  
‘Kermesina Alba’       ‘Lysande’                     ‘Maxwell’                    ‘Muttertag’  
‘Omurasaki’                ‘Orange Beauty’          ‘Orion’                        ‘Patricia Barmold’  
‘Schubert’                   ‘Silvester’                       ‘Sophie Scholl’         ‘Vuyk’s Rosyred’  

In addition also available in Holland:  
‘Florida’                      ‘Gilbert Mullier’            ‘Rosebud’                   ‘Toreador’  

  In addition from some French nurseries:  

‘Abbot’                          ‘Addy Werry’               ‘Apotheose’                ‘Betty’  
‘Buccaneer’                 ‘Chelsoni’                    ‘Christina’                    ‘Christmas Cheer’  
‘Coral Bells’                  ‘Dorothy Hayden’        ‘Early Beni’                 ‘Esmeralda’  
‘Fêtes de Meres’         ‘General Larsen’         ‘General Wavell’        ‘Greenway’  
‘Gumpo’                       ‘Huka’                           ‘Benigasa’                  ‘Indica roseaflora’  
‘Johanna’                     ‘J.S. Bach’                   ‘Kirin’                            ‘Koran Yuki’  
‘Lady Louise’               ‘Leo’                             ‘Macrantha Rosea’     ‘Macrostemon’  
‘Mikado’                        ‘Mme. Pericat’             ‘Mulcho’                       ‘Orange Favorite’  
‘Philinte’                       ‘Queen Wilhelmina’     ‘Red Pimpernel’          ‘Red Wing’  
‘Rex’                             ‘Robin Hill Frosty’         ‘Rosa Belton’              ‘Rosa King’  
‘Roseaflora’                 ‘Sakata Red’                 ‘Satrap’                        ‘Scout’  
‘Shiko’                          ‘Snow’                           ‘Susannah Hill’           ‘Yamanini’  
‘Ward’s Ruby’             ‘White lady’                    ‘White Moon’  

            According to the book of Dr. ir. Jozef Heursel “Japanese Azalea’s” are available ( I mention some of them, otherwise this list would be too long):  

‘Ageeth’                      ‘Agger’                        ‘Anny’                         ‘Arcadia’  
‘Bever’                        ‘Bigge’                         ‘Brazier’                      ‘Brilliant Blue’  
‘Campfire’                   ‘Casablanca tetra’     ‘Chippewa’                 ‘Diemel’  
‘Éclair’                         ‘Eder’                          ‘Excelsior’                   ‘Fiener’  
‘Fumiko’                     ‘Goblin’                       ‘Hong Kong’               ‘Imperator’
‘James Gable’           ‘Lavenda’                   ‘Lily Marleen’              ‘Lorna’  
‘Mahler’                      ‘Mercator’                   ‘Mini’                            ‘Morgenzon’  
‘Noordtania’                ‘Oberon’                     ‘Perfection’                  ‘Polar Bear’
‘Purple Splendor’      ‘Sibelius’                     ‘Surprise’                     ‘Sylvia’  
‘Violetta’                     ‘Willy’                            ‘Wipper’ 

              I realize that these lists are not complete, but they give you an idea, of what is available in Western Europe. Beginning next year we will have a common market here, so anyone can buy plants in other countries without border controls and inspections. Just that easy!!

Let me return to the questions that I asked before. As you can read in the lists, we have here in Europe some evergreen azaleas that have been imported by someone sometime. I did not even mention them all. A very strange thing is that, for instance, an evergreen like ‘Double Beauty’ came originally from Holland (Van Nes), and is not or hardly available here. Some years ago I imported evergreen azaleas from Harold Greer like ‘Rinpu’, ‘Anna Kehr’, ‘Double Beauty’, ‘Late Love’ and ‘Polypetalum’. I propagated them and showed them to some Dutch and German nurserymen. They did not know them, but like them very much.  Asked them if they had the book by Fred Galle or other books; they did not. On my question if they would be willing to import the best forms from the USA, many replied: ”Well, what they have in America is not better than what we have here”. Strange!!  
          Last October I visited the Hobbie Park and nursery and I showed the leader of the nursery Mr. Tönjes, some fine evergreen azaleas from the USA; he wanted the plants very badly and would like to be in touch with me in the coming years. I told him about my trip to the USA and how many beautiful evergreen azaleas were there. “You can do that”, he said,  “but we have no time and opportunity to go, because we are too busy in our nursery”. So, I think, maybe it depends on amateurs like me.  
            Are these answers to my questions?  
Mrs. Sabine Bossdorf writes in a long but very clarifying and interesting article (I translate):

            “The American hybridisation of new Japanese Azaleas should be recognized. Hundreds of new cultivars arose in the USA, but they did not break through in Europe, because they have different growing conditions here (anders-artige Standortverhältnisse)”.  
About  the Gable and Glenn Dale hybrids she writes that many of them are in private gardens or arboretums and need to be tested. But as far as I know, many of them are in trade and cold-hardy enough for the climate in Holland.  
         About the Satsukis she writes, that they need long warm summers to harden off before the winter kills the new branches.  
          Some comments of Peter Cox in ‘The Smaller Rhododendrons’: the Back Acres azaleas ate too tender for Scotland probably to +10F; none of the Gable hybrids are 100% hardy; in Pennsylvania the summers are hotter. Only a few of the Glen Dale hybrids are really satisfactory in Scotland. Few if any of the Satsuki hybrids are likely to be winter hardy in any area with cool summers”. As far as I understand what I have read, especially the indicum and Satsuki azaleas need hot summers; they then develop a winter hardiness of –5F. Following cool summers they are hardy only to +5F.

            I guess there are three conditions which restrict the availablility of evergreen azaleas in Western Europe:

  1. the climate
  2. taste of the public
  3. the willingness of the nurserymen.       
    The climate

            What aspect is really decisive for the welfare of evergreen azaleas? The winter of 1991 was rather mild, and the following spring was very mild with temperatures in April about 70 F. And suddenly in night it dropped to 15F and killed even some normally hardy plants. So, not only a factor is how low the temperatures are, but also (and often most important) is how the weather was before the cold wave!! Sometimes we have here in Holland a really severe winter, but if winter does not come too quickly, we have no problems. Except in 1984; we had a mild December, the winter came slowly, but in February it was very cold for three weeks, with a very strong eastern wind and plenty of sunlight. The plants did not die because of the low temperatures, but they dried out because of the wind and the sun!!  
         Our winter temperatures seldom drop below 0F; so the plants from zone 5 to 7a should be in principle hardy enough; that goes for Belgium and Northern France as well. In most parts of Germany it can be much colder and so the plants should be hardy to at least for zone 6b. Other aspects are, of course, how long and warm the summers are and the rainfall. Last summer in Holland was really long and warm with temperatures between 70 and 95F andit was rather dry. So it would have been a good year for Satsuki’s and indicum hybrids!! Our average yearly rainfall is about 800 mm. So not too dry or too wet.  

2. Taste of the public.  

            In Holland evergreen azaleas are not as popular as the other rhododendrons. Every week I get a magazine about nursery business with advertisements and reports about what is selling best etc. Seldom do I read about evergreen azaleas. Why is that?
I have to guess now. As far as I can “feel” it, most garden people just think that evergreen azaleas are just indoor plants and not suitable for the garden; not hardy enough. Besides most evergreen azaleas that are offered here are very similar in colour and shape. No bi-colours, no large flowers, no dwarfs or creeping plants, except last year’s introductions of nakaharai hybrids. I try to convince others, even members of our ARS Chapter, that these plants are real good-doers for our gardens and hardy enough for our winters. If they would see a Satsuki hybrid with white flowers and red dots and stripes, they would hesitate to buy it. Here is a real challenge!!  

The willingness of the nurserymen.  

            In my opinion many nurserymen in Holland and Germany are prejudiced against new introductions except their own. They don’t want to take the risks to introduce to the public new forms with large flowers, because they think they will be destroyed by the weather; they hesitate to introduce bi-coloured forms or dwarf cultivars. They doubt if the plants are hardy enough, etc. They are just too conservative! When I speak with them, they answer that they have a fine collection and it would cause too much of a problem to introduce new forms. In short: they want security.

            Let me give some examples:

‘Margaret Douglas’ – hardy 6b; beautiful large flowers, flowering not too early – fine. No spring frost damage. And why not in Europe?? I don’t know why.
‘Boldface’: the same story. Should have been here for a long time!
‘Nassau’: Late, low, bi coloured flowers. I love it!
         Yes, this article is a little bit tedious. I have no problems admitting it. Maybe I am a person with a message; but also with a strong will to achieve a goal. I like to make other people enthusiastic;  in this case about “our” marvellous evergreen azaleas. And if I can do anything to promote them, I will!

Request to readers  

            For several years I have been importing evergreen azaleas, to try them in my garden in Holland to see if they will grow satisfactorily in our climate. Therefore I am now asking if any ASA member is willing to exchange un-rooted cuttings of evergreen azaleas? I will ask some nurserymen personally, but I hope that some members with a large and fine collection could do so.
         In the first list in the article I mention the evergreen azaleas which I have in my garden, but I could try to get plants and cuttings of the plants from Germany to exchange. I can arrange a phytosanitary  certificate for the USA. I need one for Holland; just send them as private exchange.

What am I looking for? Some conditions are:
1.      Hardy to at least 7a, but better is 6a  and 6b, or lower.
2.      Dwarf to medium plants with more or less large flowers/bicolour/with beautiful spots or just rare plants.
3.      Satsuki hybrids, which are hardy enough for our climate.
4.      Double-flowering forms and any evergreen azalea which you think is a real beauty; also any with         variegated leaves.
5.      If necessary, I would be willing to pay all of your costs.
6.      Further details will be arranged in our written contacts. Everyone who writes to gets an answer; maybe we can exchange seeds as well in the coming years.

Note added May 1993:

I wrote this article in December last year, and after writing it I spoke to some nurserymen about it. I heard that Mr. Van Gelderen of Esveld Nurseries had bought at an auction a collection of evergreen azaleas. Among them were a number of Satsuki azaleas. This gives me hope that we are moving ahead in this matter. Anyway I believe, that there should be more connections on plant issues between Europe and the USA – to share the best things that are available on our continents.


Dr. ir. Josef Heursel: Japanse Azalea’s, Zomer & Keuning; ed. Holland.  

 S. Bossdorf: Die Entwicklung und Charakterisierung der Hybridgruppen bei den Japanischen Azaleen. Jahrbuch 1985; Deutsche Rhododendron Gesellschaft; Bremen, Germany.

Fred C. Galle: Azaleas, revised and enlarged edition; Timber Press, Oregon, USA

Peter Cox: The smaller Rhododendrons; Timber Press.

Walter Schmalscheidt: Rhododendron- und Azaleenzüchtung in Deutschland; Verlag Heinz Hansmann, Rinteln, Germany. 

Böhlje, Westerstede, Germany
Hachmann, Barmstedt, Germany
Wieting, Westerstede, Germany
Vorwerk, Rastede, Germany  
Hesse, Weener, Germany  
De Jong, Boskoop, Holland  
Round Pond Nurseries, Chobham, GB
Millais Nurseries, Farnham, GB
Transplant Nursery, Georgia, USA
Greer Gardens, Oregon, USA
Hall Rhododendrons, Oregon, USA
Whitney Gardens, Washington, USA
Pepinières de Kerisnel, Saint-pol-de-Leon, France.

Tijs Huisman teaches German language. He has been growing and hybridising heathers and rhododendrons for 15 years. He is president of the Dutch chapter of the ARS; member of the Dutch Heather Society and the German Rhododendron Society.  

Note 2002:  
If someone reads my suggestions for exchanging cuttings or seeds, you can contact me through

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