Plants to celebrate garden’s centenary in the Great Pavilion
Rare rhododendrons bred at Exbury Gardens will be on show at RHS Chelsea for the first time.
They will appear on the Millais Nurseries exhibit in the Great Pavilion, marking the centenary of the Hampshire gardens and a joint conservation project to safeguard rare Exbury hybrids.
The banker Lionel de Rothschild created the gardens in 1919, spending 20 years developing the 200-acre woodland paradise.
More than 1,000 hybrids have been raised at Exbury and the horticultural team has been working with Millais Nurseries to conserve some of the rarer and more highly threatened rhododendrons.
Rhododendron and azalea experts
Millais Nurseries in Surrey grows one of the widest ranges of rhododendrons and azaleas in the world.
The RHS Chelsea exhibit will aim to evoke the spirit of Exbury with rhododendrons, a miniature working railway and ticket office.
Both Lionel de Rothschild and his great grand-daughter, Marie-Louise Agius have won Gold Medals at RHS Chelsea.
Millais Nurseries has gained four consecutive Gold Medals in recent years.
New rhododendron varieties at RHS Chelsea
Millais Nurseries is launching several new varieties, many of which have been bred at Exbury Gardens. Others have been selected from Scotland, Germany and the USA.
Rhododendron Beverley Lear: (H5) Purple buds open to light purplish pink bell-shaped flowers in a flat-topped truss, with a few dark red spots, deeper on the outside. Late May to mid-June, slightly scented. Height 150-175cm in 10 years. Raised by Edmund de Rothschild around 1970, and named in 1996 for the gardens consultant working at Exbury Gardens.
Rhododendron Douggie Betteridge: (H5) Pink in bud, opening to soft pink funnel-shaped flowers, flushed with shades of pale cream on the inside, deeper pink on the outside. May flowering. Named for the long-serving head gardener who died in 2018. Height 125-150cm in 10 years. Raised by Edmund de Rothschild, pre-1970. Awarded RHS Award of Merit 1986.
Rhododendron Happy Dendron: (H5) Cerise pink and purple in bud, opening to a white centre and prominent speckled green eye, and feathering to strong mauvey pink edges with deep pink stamens. Late May flowering. An exclusive new variety bred by Holger Hachmann in Germany, launched in the UK for the first time. Height 125-150cm in 10 years.
Rhododendron Jessica de Rothschild: (H5) The flowers open a light greenish yellow, flushed yellowish pink at the edges, with a glowing deeper yellow centre. The flowers sit in a neatly rounded truss above a compact plant with good foliage, perfect for the smaller garden. It grows to 100-125cm in 10 years. Although bred by Edmund de Rothschild in 1966, it was not registered with the RHS until 1996, and Millais Nurseries are the first nursery to propagate it.
Rhododendron Marcus Agius: (H5) Strong yellowish pink in bud, opening to pale yellow flowers flushed pink, with small deep red blotch at the base. Mid to late May. A new variety from Exbury, with a loose habit. Height 150-175cm in 10 years. Bred by Edmund de Rothschild in 2004.
Rhododendron Olivia: (H5) Deep pink in bud opening to white with a creamy yellow centre and yellow speckles. Height 125-150cm in 10 years. A new variety raised by azalea breeder George Hyde. Named as part of a collection with Shakespearean names.
Rhododendron Queen Bee: (H5) Rosy-pink in bud, opening to pinky white bell-shaped flowers in April. A wonderful foliage plant with lovely fawn indumentum in June-July, turning brown underneath and silvery on top. Height 50-75cm in 10 years. Hardy to -22°C and a hybrid from American expert Warren Berg that he raised in 1974, and named in 1995. Rarely available in the UK.
Rhododendron Silbervelours: (H5) Rounded trusses of pale pink, fading to cream with yellow-green spotting in a truss of 14-16. Late April-May. A wonderful foliage plant with beautiful silvery white new growth for most of the season, with yellowy thick woolly indumentum on the undersides all summer. Raised by German breeder Hans Hachmann. Height 100-125cm in 10 years.
Rhododendron ungernii Rachael Foster: (H5) Pale pink bell-shaped flowers in a domed truss, flushed purplish pink towards wavy edged lobes. Late flowering July to August, so best in light dappled shade. Dense dark green foliage with fawn indumentum. Height 125-150cm in 10 years. Bred by Edmund de Rothschild in 2005, and named after his head gardener.
Rhododendron Wine and Roses: (H5) Distinctive dark wine-red foliage, especially on new leaves and on their undersides. Bright pink flowers, fading to pale pink, in an open-topped truss. Very free flowering in April. Raised by Kenneth Cox, Glendoick Gardens in Scotland. Height 100-125cm in 10 years.