Oh my, but we are besotted with the nuttallii rhododendrons which flower on even as November draws into December. We would rate these in the elite class as far as rhododendrons go. Not only are the heavy, waxy trumpets large and showy, they are also very fragrant. This one is planted on a bank which was a good decision because we can look down on it and the scent wafts up. Some of the others here are several metres above nose and eye level so the scent is a bit academic because they are best viewed from afar.
The foliage is large and heavily textured (bullate for the botanical or like heavy seersucker for those of a sewing disposition) and over time the main stems develop beautiful shiny, peeling bark in a cinnamon colour. These are large and open growing shrubs so do not fit the tight and tidy mould preferred by some.
‘Sino’ just means it is the Chinese form of the species, as opposed to R. nuttallii which is found in Tibet, North Burma and northern India. The Chinese form is bigger and showier and more sensitive to cold temperatures. These plants are rarely offered for sale though you can sometimes find some of the hybrids that have been bred from them.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.