Today’s entry was written by Douglas Justice, UBC Botanical Garden’s Curator of Collections. Douglas writes:
Rhododendron ‘Cornubia’ is one of the few hybrid rhododendrons cultivated in the UBC Botanical Garden collection. The parentage of this beautiful plant includes three Himalayan species, all of them superb in their own right and all of them cultivated in our collection. The cross is Rhododendron ‘Shilsonii’ (Rhododendron barbatum × Rhododendron thomsonii) × Rhododendron arboreum ‘Blood Red’. ‘Cornubia’ is not a common plant locally and is notoriously shy to flower, especially when winters are cold. Our specimen, which was a bit of a mystery plant for many years, is located in the David C. Lam Asian Garden where it is growing exceptionally well, and now blooming with some regularity.
The focus in the Asian Garden has always been on species rhododendrons, but for the past twenty or so years, our attention has increasingly shifted to the cultivation of plants of known provenance (i.e., from documented wild-collected seed). Hardly the place for a hybrid rhododendron, but ‘Cornubia’ had only flowered once or twice since it had been planted in the early 1990s, and until about ten years ago, when it was finally identified, it had an old label that identified it as Rhododendron fulgens, which it clearly was not. One of the problems with a large rhododendron collection (or any collection of plants for that matter) is that identifications need to be verified, labels applied, and records kept up to date. The process has to be repeated periodically, because, as everyone knows, plant names change, specimens are moved and labels are inevitably lost (or stolen). From a curatorial perspective, we know better than to be doctrinaire about the “purity” of our collections. It’s a beautiful plant. It’s correctly labeled, and growing well. We’ll keep it where it is.