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Gardener's Question Time

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  • Gardener's Question Time

    Hi All,

    "Well, I think the answer lies in the soil"—Arthur Fallowfield.

    Rhododendron hirsutum was the first rhododendron to be classified and named. It was discovered in the 16th century by a Flemish botanist, Charles l'Ecluse, who later became called Clusius.

    Over the years many hybrids have been catalogued, including—

    'Jack the Ripper', 1937, Aberconway, Lord, Bodnant, Tal-y-Cafn, Wales
    'Jack the Ripper Group', 1937, Aberconway, Lord, Bodnant, Tal-y-Cafn, Wales.


    Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.

  • #2
    Hi Simon,

    Those with a vivid imagination might consider this to be Aberconway's sly tribute to Montague Druitt.

    Being a good Latinist, Aberconway would know that the word rhododendron comes from the Latin/Greek Oleander, which in turn brings to mind Leander from Greek mythology (O Leander! they cried), the amorous youth who tragically drowned in the Hellespont during one of his nightly swims across the river.

    Living in Blackheath, Druitt would have needed to cross the river at night, and, of course, he famously drowned in that same body of water.

    Now, damn it, where did I set my opium pipe?



    • #3
      Oleander derives from the French oléandre, a possible corruption of "lorandrum", which itself was a vulgar corruption of "rhododendron" (OED). So, if anything, oleander derives from rhododendron (Greek "rhodos" + "dendron" = "rose tree"), not vice versa. Does that make any difference?

      I don't have an opium pipe, but I think I need one. Please pass yours across when you've finished, Roger.
      Kind regards, Sam Flynn

      "Suche Nullen" (Nietzsche, Götzendämmerung, 1888)


      • #4
        What happened in 1937?


        • #5
          Lord Aberconway got two rhododendrons to cross-pollinate.
          Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.


          • #6
            Hi Gareth. I worded my post poorly, but I think we might both be correct. The way I understand it, rhododendron comes from the Greek "rose tree," which at least one botanist claims may have been the oleander. Then, somewhat serendipitously, once the word rhododendron became popular in the 16th Century, it was corrupted into oleander by the way you (and the OED) describe. Thus, in a meandering way, it all worked out. I think.

            I will leave it to Simon to decide if the clever cross-pollinator Lord Aberconway meant that a drowned Leander was lurking within the foliage of the blood red Jack the Ripper. I suspect I know the answer.


            • #7
              From Hellespont


              You have slightly misspelt my name.

              Yours truly

              Rhoda Dendron