Ever since I read the book Tales of the Rose Tree by Jane Brown and learned that the earliest rhododendrons, brought to
Then on May 1, when I was leaving the
A few days later, I was celebrating an impromptu May ceremony with some friends, tossing wreaths into the lagoons at the end of the Arboretum, when I saw another white rhododendron, right next to the gatehouse that leads into Broadmoor. I pointed it out and we went over to smell it. Again, that intoxicating fragrance, a lot like honeysuckle. We stuck our noses deep into the blossoms to inhale the scent and when we raised our heads, there were smudges of pollen on our noses and sticky pistils. The flower had lured us, hapless pollinators, to spread its seed around. A perfect ending for May Day.
The photograph above is not either of the bushes described but it may be the same cultivar. This is Polar Bear and it’s a fragrant rhododendron offered for sale by Banwy Valley Nursery in the
The Berkeley Horticultural Nursery has a wonderful list of fragrant rhododendron cultivars.
I was especially fascinated by the distinctions made in describing their scents. Bill Massey is very fragrant with cinnamon/chocolate overtones. Fragrantissimum smells of honeysuckle and nutmeg. And Fragrantissimum Improved has “an almost tropical fragrance with nuances of jasmine and cloves.” McNabbi smells like nutmeg and Mi Amor has hints of musk and tarragon. Paul Molinari has the scent of wild honeysuckle (I have a feeling this is the cultivar I enjoyed) while Scott’s Valentine smells like jasmine. It’s enough to make me run out and buy some rhododendrons for my garden.
One thing this flower project is doing for me is making me fall in love with flowers I always disdained (like the bergenia and the big showy, scentless rhodies).