This section is from the book "The Gardener V2", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
A delightful surprise awaited me on calling to see this noble plant in flower in the secluded little glass-garden of Mr M'Kelvie, Osborne Terrace, Edinburgh. I had not seen Rhododendron Aucklandii before, and only knew it from report to be one of the foremost of the Himalayan species. There are some who dispute this one being the true Aucklandii; however, I have sent you a flower and leaf, in the hope that you, Mr Editor, may be able to solve the question.
The plant referred to was bought by Mr M'Kelvie some years ago, a seedling without name, and he had it planted out into a border in one of his vineries. Since then it has grown apace, and is now a sturdy tree of 5 feet high by 3 wide. It has borne seven clusters of blossoms this spring, and has attracted numerous visitors to admire its beauty since its flowers opened. The single blossoms average 4 inches in diameter, and are of the softest and purest white, texture solid and silky. The base of the interior is dimly marked star-shape in white, the points of which disappear into a zone of delicate green suffused with canary yellow. Its cup at top is divided into five deep rounded segments, that to some extent overlap each other at the point where they unite. The opening is much expanded, but suddenly contracts at the base of the segments, and gradually tapers to a point beneath. The flower is perfection after its kind, so far as form is concerned. These adding to its other property - namely, its delightful fragrance - constitute R. Aucklandii one of Nature's choicest gifts.
Anent habit, I think it must be less favourably spoken of, being, irregular in its mode of growth, resembling in this more a Nerium than a Rhododendron. The shoots are produced long and straight, without much conformity to order. The foliage is handsome, of the deepest glossy green, thickly freckled with minute specks of brown, pretty regularly disposed over the entire upper surface, while beneath they are a green of pale delicate hue, prominently overspread by the veins; in outline the leaves are linear-lanceolate.
Besides this Rhododendron, Mr M'Kelvie and his gardener, Mr Finlay, have many other plants they have reason to be proud of in the extensive glass structures here. A goodly list of the very cream of Rhododendrons are fostered and cared for, among which we noticed half-a-dozen good plants of Falconerii; about the same number of Dalhousiana - splendid plants loaded with equally splendid flowers; the beautiful R. Javancum, showing its deep yellow pips among the rest; Edgeworthii, another noted white fragrant sort, and others too numerous to mention. Of Camellias, there is a long list planted out in excellent health. Of Ferns, a few Todeas are the most conspicuous in size, health, and number. The Vines in two or three houses are pictures of health, and promise fine fruit. Some of the Peach-houses also promise fair for fruit.
Amaryllis seem to be a favourite family here, and they are both select and well grown. There are at this time about two dozen sorts in bloom, some of them scented, others exceedingly fine in quality of bloom. A. K.
[The specimen referred to was magnificent, and is truthfully described by our correspondent; but at present we will not undertake to settle the dispute. - Ed].