Rhododendron racemosum

This species would be an excellent choice for a gardener growing rhododendrons for the first time. It is not only one of the prettiest of the smaller rhododendrons, but it is exceptionally hardy, an evergreen shrub up to 5 feet (1.5 m) in height, but usually less. The funnel-shaped flowers are pale pink, though varying in the depth of colour, and grow in clusters along the branches, not at the tips, so that the whole plant is massed with bloom in spring. The admirable French missionary, Pere Delavay, was the first collector, sending seeds to Paris in 1889 from west China, where it grows in high mountains, usually as undergrowth in woodland.

There is a dwarf form with cerise pink flowers for the rock garden called ‘For-rest’s Dwarf, which George Forrest. Collecting in 1921, described as ‘the finest form I have yet seen’.

Most beautiful is ‘Hydon Dawn’, with frilled flowers in pure pink and creamy down on the young leaves.

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