Here we are with another pale flower which seems to be the theme this week. This time it is a spectacular large-leaved rhododendron that was looking just about as good as it can up at Kilmacurragh near Wicklow last weekend. These large-leaved rhodos are a bit more demanding in their requirements than the common hybrids and need moisture and mild winter temperatures to thrive. Rhododendron falconeri is spectacular even without flowers. The large, deeply veined, glossy leaves are brown and felted underneath.
It is not a common garden plant but the specimen at Kilmacurragh is probably from the initial collections from Sikkim. According to Curtis’s Botanical Magazine from 1856:
‘R. falconeri has flowered this season for the first time in Europe; and in two places, – with Messrs. Standish and Noble, … Bagshott (Surrey) ... and with Mr. Fairie, of Mosely Hill, near Liverpool. It is one of three noble species of Sikkim… (the leaves of which) its discoverer (Joseph Dalton Hooker) compares to those of the rusty-leaved variety of Magnolia grandiflora, but the green is of a much deeper hue. It inhabits the summit of Tonglo Mountain, Eastern or Sikkim-Himalaya, at an elevation of 10,000 feet above the level of the sea; and as may be expected, we have found it stand the winter in the open air; but in a climate subject to dry, piercing east winds at the flowering season, it is in vain to expect blooms.’
In time this becomes a massive tree with large clusters of ten-petalled flowers in various shades of creamy yellow. The flowers are long lasting, often looking good for a month and is one of the later species to bloom.
9/10 – if only I had conditions it would tolerate
10/10 or 0/10
depending on if you can grow it!