VIU Milner Gardens and Woodland

Rhododendron Revival Research January 2023

Happy New Year to the Rhododendron Society members from Nanaimo, Cowichan Valley, and Mount Arrowsmith along with members of Milner Gardens & Woodland!

I hope that everyone had a restful holiday season filled with laughter, snow, and holiday treats. I also hope your gardens, no doubt full of curled-up rhododendron leaves, fared ok with all the snow and cold!  I am happy to be back to update you all on how our research is going in the Rhododendron Revival Project through Vancouver Island University in partnership with the Nanaimo Rhododendron Society (NRS) and Milner Gardens & Woodland.

As a recap, our research is focused on figuring out which rhododendron hybrids can be successfully propagated and in this round of cuttings, Denise (Horticulture Coordinator at Milner Gardens) chose R. ‘Beauty of Littleworth’, R. ‘Blue Peter’, and R. ‘Dr.Stocker’. These were chosen because of available plant material and consumer demand, not to mention they are beautiful additions to any garden and hard to find in your typical garden center!

As you may know, we are drawing on the American Rhododendron Society’s (ARS) body of research for propagating rhododendrons to guide our care for the cuttings at the Paine Centre. According to the ARS, hybrids are typically easy to propagate but we won’t know for sure until we can pull up the cuttings in the new year to get a closer look. So far, our cuttings have been faring well besides a few casualties which are not uncommon at this stage in the propagating process. I am also seeing some buds flushing, and while this is not necessarily a sign of good callousing or rooting, it is exciting in an otherwise slow time for watching rhododendron cuttings!

Environmental conditions have been set according to the ARS guidelines and include 21℃ bottom heat temperature, ambient heat to heat at 15℃ and cool at 20℃, and a, eight-second pulse of water from the mister each hour to keep up humidity within the mist tent. These consistent environmental conditions are critical to the health and survival of these cuttings and are monitored weekly by me and the greenhouse staff to ensure we stay on track and have some nicely rooted-out cuttings come the spring.

R. 'Blue Peter' Week 50

R. 'Dr. Stocker' Week 50

R. 'Beauty of Littleworth' Week 50

As for the next in-person update, I will see you at the Nanaimo Rhododendron Society’s monthly meeting on January 12, 2023 for my monthly presentation to share the progress of our Rhododendron Revival Research.

Thanks for reading and happy garden planning for 2023!

For more information, go to:

   Greig Rhododendron Species Garden (GRSG) at Milner Gardens & Woodland

   VIU Horticulture Technican Foundation Certificate Program

   Nanaimo Rhododendron Society (NRS)

   Mount Arrowsmith Rhododendron Society (MARS)

   Cowichan Valley Rhododendron Society

   Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association (VIMGA)