Sometimes a plant will bloom out of season, it might be that there is an unexpected warm spell which causes the buds to open. Other times blooming may be irregular and over a long time with no real pinnacle of flowering. Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ is often a combination of sporadic blooming in December and then breaking out in a frosty shimmery pink through mid to late January. This year the shimmering icy pink blossoms are making their appearance a little early.
I alway notice a few blooms when I am in Sidney in late December and this helps me remember the name of the plant. The name ‘Christmas Cheer’ interestingly refers to it’s one time use for forcing at Christmas time in bouquets and other indoor decoration during the Victorian era.
Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ is a hybrid of unknown age although it is thought to originate in the 1830s’. It parentage is also partly unknown as well. What is known is that R. causaicum is one parent and was introduced into cultivation in 1803. Rhododendron causaicum is a plant which comes from Caucasus in north eastern Turkey and the surrounding area. It is a plant that has long been in cultivation and has been used extensively in development of old and new hybrids. One plant which may be considered a twin to ‘Christmas Cheer’ is R. ‘Rosa Mundi’ which is said to be slightly more compact and bloom one week later.
R. ‘Christmas Cheer’ is restrained in all it’s parts. The leaves are mid green and have a pleasing narrow elliptical shape . the plant itself is densely branched so there are generally no unsightly gaps to see through. The flowers are delicate in color and size with slightly wavy edges. They are not in the least damaged by frosts and seem to stand up well to the monsoon rains by drooping or discoloring.
Rhododendron ’Christmas Cheer’ and ‘Rosa Mundi’ are some of the hardiest Rhododendrons. they are tolerant of temperatures as low as -20c(-10f) so these are good plants for colder areas in which Rhododendrons can be grown. As with all broadleaved evergreens location is important to bright the best out in your plant. They appreciate being protected from cold drying winds that can occur during winter months. They like to be located in part to full shade. They are said to be more drought tolerant than other Rhodies’ and that may explain why some are located in more water challenged positions than others. They like rich well drained soil which has extra compost added to retain moisture during the dry summer months.
Rhododendron ‘Christmas Cheer’ and ‘Rosa Mundi’ are fairly common here, you will often see them in parks here.They are popular being that they are slow growing and generally attain only 1.2m(4ft) in 10 years which makes them suitable for smaller gardens and yards. At maximum they will grow to 2m(6ft) high and wide. They work nicely in shady shrub or perennial borders at a mid depth. They also are included as a winter feature or specimen. They light up areas in these dark days which does bring cheer to us all.
More about ‘Christmas Cheer’ Rhododendrons and their relatives:
American Rhododendron Society page: http://www.rhododendron.org/descriptionH_new.asp?ID=455
Description of Rosa Mundi (Rosamundi) Rhododendron: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/rhros.htm
Rhododendron caucasicum: http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=120&taxon_id=242442794
Until we meet again later…