Vireya Rhododendron

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Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Guest on Wed Jun 22, 2011 5:23 pm

I did a search on the forum but couldnt find anything about Vireya Rhododendron (only 2 posts for Rhodo's!?!). Is anyone else growing one as a bonsai?

I have had this Vireya 'Pacific Showers'[(viriosum x macgregoriae) x christianae] for 8 yrs now & while it is a long way from bonsai or even potensai, maybe in another 50yrs. No matter what title given, she is my darling & I will persist in working with it till I succeed or die (or the tree does).

I did alot of research re pruning before i tackled it 6yrs ago and still lost some low branches, over the next 3yrs she was left to get some strength & growth back. Since then I have been experimenting with different timing & methods to achieve reduction of foliage as well as shoot length (with some success). 18mths ago I removed all of the current seasons shoots resulting in a good lot of backbudding that will eventually allow me to bring the foliage right back into the trunk. For now they need to grow on for another year or 2 before I shorten the branches back to them.

I would be really interested in anything anyone may be able to add regarding this species, as bonsai or in general.

Matt

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Russell Coker on Wed Jun 22, 2011 7:58 pm

Matt,

Back in the spring Glaucus gave a link about vireya rhododendrons in one of the satsuki threads. The link was to the Australian bonsai forum so you may already know about it.

Anyway, I don't ever recall there being ANY discussion about them here. I bought several small plants from an ebay seller in Hawaii a couple of years ago and they did really well for me until I left them out in the cold. Their growth was rather large and coarse, but I wondered if anyone had ever worked with smaller or dwarf forms - if there is such a thing.

I think they are interesting plants. The best bonsai material? Probably not, but I sure like seeing yours. I hope others will respond.

R

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Guest on Fri Jun 24, 2011 9:42 am

Hey Russell,

The link shared by Glaucus would be this one for the same tree Ausbonsai thread. With the long cold nights here at mo i have been researching a few of my oddities so thought i would post here to see if I could gleam any extra info....

While called tropical rhodo's many are from mountain regions & therefore more hardy than many tropicals but still need protecting if temps go into single digits (a shade roof is sufficient, even for light frosts of -1 or 2deg C). Looking on http://www.vireya.net/index.html quite a few Of the 300 odd species in the Vireya group could be more suitable as bonsai than this one and I plan to start tracking some down to add to my collection.

Matt




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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Russell Coker on Fri Jun 24, 2011 3:58 pm

Sorry to say, but I think you've gleaned all the info you're going to get here. Outside of Hawaii (guys, y'all out there somewhere?), these rhododendrons are still a real oddity in the USA. About the only place you'll find them is in a really good conservatory. I remember looking through a nursery's inventory and really liking some of what I saw. Pretty sure they were in Hawaii too. I keep hoping some of our SE Asian members will have something to share....

Anyway, my thoughts on cold hardiness were exactly as you stated. My small plants went into a greenhouse for the first couple of winters so I could get some size on them. They went through the first couple of frosts well in a protected spot, but the first real freeze took them out. One of these days I'll try them again. I had about 7 varieties, the whole situation really pisses me off! You know the old saying "Out of site, out of mind".

I was growing mine in a course orchid mix (chunky bark, charcoal, perlite), what do you use??

R

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  dorothy7774 on Fri Jun 24, 2011 4:18 pm

Some more info:

http://www.hilozoo.com/zoo_facts_plants_shrubs.php

Vireya; Tropical Rhododendron
Family: Rhododendron
Vireya are rhododendrons, semi-tropical rhododendrons. They grow mostly in the mountainous regions of Malaysia centered in and around the Equatorial zone including Indonesia, the Philippines, Borneo and Papua New Guinea. Of the 850 or so species that make up the genus Rhododendron, almost 300 are classified as vireya.

In their homelands, vireya can be found growing as epiphytes in the moss-encrusted lofts of tree branches, on rocks, or just growing as terrestrials, on the ground. They grow on the edges of forests and in open grasslands, seeking light. They are often the first plants to colonize areas where the original vegetation has been destroyed.

Vireya come in a variety of shapes and sizes ranging from dwarf mats at high altitudes to all sizes of shrubs, and even trees. Some have foliage that could be mistaken for pine needles; some have huge leaf blades a foot long with flowers to match. Their flowers are often fragrant and are the most colorful of all rhododendrons. Vibrant yellows and reds are common. Flower shapes vary from small, open cups to spidery clusters of long tubes.

On the Big Island, vireya hybrids exist in gardens from 4,000-foot elevation down to sea level. It helps to think of them as orchids, with similar needs such as drainage and good air circulation.

Vireya have very fine surface roots, as opposed to a tap root. The most important factor in planting is excellent drainage important. Vireya do not like soggy feet, as they can develop root rot. Raised beds or mound plantings work the best. Because vireya roots run close to the surface, they can heat up from the sun. Covering with several inches of coarse mulch will keep them cool.

Bright light helps to set buds as well as shortening stem internodes. Though vireya love light, dappled light is recommended especially during our peak summer heat. Planting vireya under hapu`u (tree ferns), or near other plantings will give some shade. This will help prevent leaf burn and faded out flowers. Though there are varieties that will take full sun, they do equally well under dappled light.

Pinching off new growth promotes more branching as will deheading the seedpods, which will put the energy back into new growth and bud development rather than into seed production. Fertilizing should be very light. Lacewing insects can be a problem leaving silver spots covering the leaves.

Vireya can be easily rooted from cuttings. Some vireya, depending on the variety, can take as long as a year to root, though the average time is closer to three months. Vireya can also be grown from seed. A single seed pod can contain as many as several hundred seeds. But it may take three to eight years, depending on the variety, before flowering begins, whereas from cuttings that time is cut in half.

In the past few years the number of vireya hybrids coming into the islands has greatly increased. One reason for this is the Hawai`i Chapter ARS. Last year more than 75 new varieties were brought in from Australia. Networking with others in California has also brought in new hybrids.

Information provided by Sherla Bertelmann and Richard Marques - owners of Pacific Island Nursery, a mail-order nursery located in Kea`au, specializing in vireya rhododendrons. They are members of the Hawai`i Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society. (See Credits & Links page).

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Russell Coker on Fri Jun 24, 2011 4:31 pm

Thanks Dorothy!

That's exactly the nursery I was talking about: http://www.pacificislandnursery.com

Anyone down your way messing with them, bonsai or otherwise????


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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Glaucus on Fri Jun 24, 2011 11:00 pm

One important step in doing vireya bonsai will be to figure out which of the 320+ species and which of the 600, or however many there are, hybrids are going to be the most suitable for bonsai.

Also, it doesn't seem to be possible to cross vireya with evergreen azaleas (or any other non-vireya rhodo for that matter).

Hybridizing vireya specifically for bonsai opens up a whole can of worms. There's like 320 x 319 = 70080 different F1 hybrids you can make. And that just scratches the surface.
It may actually be a better idea to make more tropical climate tolerant evergreen azalea and just use those rather than resorting to vireya because evergreens don't do well.


Matt, you are on very experimental ground. I mentioned them before but I know almost nothing about these plants. It may be better to style them 'meika' style instead of trying to make small size old looking trees out of them.

You can try getting into contact with vireya experts/enthusiasts. But they won't know anything bonsai-wise. I don't know if you want to start up more vireya bonsai projects. But at least they will know something about different species and hybrids.
There is going to be another person somewhere that tries to make a bonsai out of a vireya, because surely it would be odd if you were the only one. It would be a strange idea to think you are the only one.

I think I read somewhere that because they are tropical or subtropical, there might be a longlivity issue. But that person may have been you. Plant aging is a strange thing anyway. But obviously better backbudding and finer foliage and plant habit would help.

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Guest on Sat Jun 25, 2011 10:46 am

Dorothy,
Thanks for the link & extra information, its interesting to see that Australia is source for alot of new hybrids coming into Hawai'i & the rest of America via there... Even more interesting as I havent found much in the way of local info online.

Glaucus,
Thanks for your comments, it has given me much to ponder. I love experimental ground and over half of my collection is rare or nonexistant in bonsai culture (many are Australian natives, with some of those the first listed as being grown). Having said that, it would be odd.. very odd if i was the only one, there are many more growers not online or involved in clubs than are (including me for the first 20yrs of growing little trees).

I have not heard the term 'meika' & looked it up, I am still no wiser study I am the last to uphold 'rulebook' styling and from your comment it sounds like a good fit for me.

I acquired this tree quite by accident, I have a strong interest in australian natives & had my eye on a stunning lochiae but the nursery owner wouldnt sell it as it was his stock plant, it explained the lingnan feel, 30yrs of constantly taking cuttings, I offered him a considerable sum to try & convince him (no luck). On my way out this one screamed "Take me home" so I did Rolling Eyes

With regards hybridizing among Vireya , the number of species that have been used for this purpose is quite limited, only 58 from 300+. Partly due to the purpose of breeders (ie flowers over form) and partly due to their nature, many have been found sterile if trying to cross with any other species or outside of the individual subgroup. Of the main ones used for breeding the most common is viriosum & macgregoriae (2 of the 3 parents to my own) a complete list can be found here.

I am always looking for more species to add to my collection & if they come with the experiment tag attached I almost cant resist, amongst a few I have ordered recently I am most excited by this little one http://www.vireya.net/gallery-spC.htm#caespitosum not so much for bonsai but for itself, given its diminutive size at most it would only ever be mame or accent but will look great growing out of the rockwork in my sunken terrace.

I had never considered the longevity issue, but its one faced with quite a number of aust natives (eg Acacia & Grevillea), under bonsai conditions its been found to increase longevity considerably so that could come into the equation with Vireya as well.

Russell,
Go on... you know you want some more to play with again... lol!

Matt

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Glaucus on Sat Jun 25, 2011 1:24 pm

With 'meika' I meant the traditional way of styling azalea in Japan. It's not a bonsai word.

It's the kind of double S thin trunk style where you don't really bother with nebari, taper, etc but instead just have it so that it can flower a lot. Everything for the flowers.

Like this:


I mean maybe it's better with future vireya to not try too hard to make them do what they don't do well and just style it to enjoy the flowers.


You are right that not all species seem equally valuable. I just wanted to say how big the numbers get. If you can use just 58 and you have 4 grandparent species then you have 58 * 57 * 56 *55 = 10 182 480 different combinations. And in all 10 182 480 cases, the roughly 100 seed pods per flower will also be unique from each other.

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Russell Coker on Sat Jun 25, 2011 3:41 pm

MattA wrote:Russell, Go on... you know you want some more to play with again... lol!

That's the plan - at some point. One thing for sure is that I'm going to do my homework first. There is a lot of variety with this group, and the ones I had before were tall and leggy with really big leaves. I'm going to start by asking those people in Hawaii for some suggestions. I'll keep you posted.

R

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Guest on Sat Jun 25, 2011 11:46 pm

Glaucus,

Thanks for explaining the term 'meika', that azalea is absolutely beautiful & really ugly at the same time. I get what your saying tho & agree that sometimes we shouldnt be trying to have the perfect wide flaring trunk & nebari etc.
The one time my vireya has been totally covered in flowers it was stunning. Tho when you have a base like this its hard to not want to try & get the rest to match the usual bonsai way...
This is the opposite side to that shown in the full pic I posted & my eventual front (maybe). The bulge part way up will be carved thru to create a hole right thru. The shari is natural, the result of the dieback I mentioned occured after its first pruning.

One of the things that attracted me to bonsai in the early years was the ability to grow more species than I would have room for in the ground or things that wouldnt survive in my local climate. I am not keen on hybrids at the best of times and with the sheer number of species in a group like Vireya I dont see the point, but your right on the numbers. Even if you made the same cross of parents each time, every seedling would vary from each other, each time, the wonders of genetics.....

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Guest on Sat Jun 25, 2011 11:54 pm

Russell,

Forgot to say, A soil mix like you are using would dry out too quickly during summer in my climate (even with the usual twice daily watering). I couldnt tell you accurately (dont remember) but the potting mix has a high percentage of organic matter (peat & compost) to help retain more moisture but is still very free draining.

Look forward to seeing what you start again with when the time comes.

Matt

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Glaucus on Sun Jun 26, 2011 1:47 pm

Actually, the F1 hybrids would all be the same.

Species should be homogyzous for basically all traits. That's what makes them species. They will pass on the same gene to every seedling. So every seedling will have gene A from parent A and gene B from parent B. So all seedlings will be genetically the same. The seedlings will be AB heterozygous where the parents were all either AA or BB. So in the seedlings all the dominant traits will be expressed.

When you cross hybrids, you can get more recessive qualities.


That 'meika' azalea is not a bonsai. At least not from the traditional bonsai person's point of view. The tradition of potting and styling satsuki azalea in Japan was not a bonsai style. It was a purely flower style closer to the tradition of other flowers. But when metal wire became available it kind of fused with the bonsai tradition.
Still, 'meika' style seems really popular. It's the best style to enjoy the flowers and grows a lot faster than if you want to grow nebari and taper.


It looks like vireya is more similar to rhododendron than to azalea. So maybe you can ask people that styled rhododendron as bonsai. When some people see how small some of the leaves of some rhododendron are, they find that preferable to azalea.

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Guest on Mon Aug 01, 2011 6:06 am

A few weeks ago I found this article while researching & got me interested in trying to find one of them Dwarf hybrids. No luck searching nursery listings (not even mail order), by chance I was wandering one of the nurseries near my partners only to spot a handful of this beauty

(The 10cent coin is the same size as an american quarter) Nice small leaves and short internodes. The label was generic for Vireya's so I cannot be sure but would be very surprised if it isnt one of the hybrids mentioned in the article. Had to get their entire stock... a couple of the orange form & a salmon pink, now to let them grow a year or 20 Rolling Eyes

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Bruce Winter on Tue Aug 02, 2011 6:26 am

There are many Vireya with small leaves/flowers. Quite dwarf in nature. There are Vireya clubs in many countries where it freezes in Winter so I don't know why we don't see Vireya bonsai. They don't mind being pot bound and respond well to root pruning, similar to azalea. Before they adopted the island of Hawaii as their second home, (Big Island) the largest collection was under glass in Edinburgh Scotland. I'm old friends with the man who first brought them here. He now has a destination garden which will be given to the state as a botanical preserve. I heavily pruned this garden 3 years ago and even trunks as big as my arm popped new buds. The garden fairly exploded with new growth and is now at it's peak. Mitch Mitchell, the owner, is 94 and say's what keeps him going is waiting for the first flower of his extensive hybridizing. So one wonders why I, who's been involved in bonsai for 40 years, haven't done something with Vireya? I don't have an answer. So much material, so little time?

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Guest on Sun Oct 30, 2011 4:07 am

The best show of flowers in many years so i thought I would share.

I have started thinking about a suitable pot for the next time it gets a repot, would be interested to hear what others think.

Matt

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Russell Coker on Mon Oct 31, 2011 2:44 am

That's pretty Matt.

If I hadn't seen the flowers I would swear this was our (American) native Kalmia, Mountain Laurel. The similarities are amazing.

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Guest on Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:22 pm

Its been a while & lots has changed since my last post on this. In november '11 I was given a beaut pot by my mentor & couldn't resist repotting straight away. It took a fair amount of wiggling & jiggling to get the rootball into the pot but it finally got there...


The new potting mix has a high organic component & the tree boomed then in october '12 WHAM

Once finished it was cut back hard

It has filled out immeasurably since then tho i still have a big bare spot half way down the cascade, there are a few shoots showing in that area so they will be given a chance. If it hasnt improved by mid spring I will remove the tail & rebuild from a branchlet half way down...

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  lackhand on Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:20 pm

I like it in that pot quite a bit, and it's probably worth growing just for the flowers. Very nice. Thanks for sharing!

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Leo Schordje on Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:34 pm

That Vireya of yours is turning out really nice.

I played with a couple Vireya a while back, there are some good species to use, and some less ideal. Most of the white flowered and very fragrant species have leaves that are too large. The leaves don't reduce enough, regardless how much ramification you get. The leaves will reduce some, but not enough.

One advantage of Vireya, they do tolerate, (some of the more epiphytic species require), a short dry out between watering. If you miss the day they need water, they don't seem to mind, as long as you get to them within a couple days of drying out. No set back if the dry out is short. They will come back if you don't water them. Not so with most terrestrial azalea.

I have grown Vireya pauciflora, very nice small leaves, one or two deep red flowers per umbel. Slow growing though and unfortunately had no fragrance. I sold the plant some years ago, don't have any Vireya right now.

Some of the Vireya species that have small leaves are anagalliflorum, taxifolium, salicifolium, saxifragiodes, rosemarifolia, stenophyllum, and hybrids like (rubineiflorum x gracilentum), (gracilentum x laetum), (macgregoriae x bagobonum), Saint Valentine (viriosum x gracilentum), and many others. Well worth spending some time researching which hybrids and species have smaller leaves.

The draw backs I see is that for all the Vireya, branching is always pretty coarse, so the fine ramification you would see in a Satsuki just won't happen. But they have a charm of their own, and if you can find a species or hybrid with smaller leaves, and intensely fragrant flowers, you can have an interesting bonsai. But if they don't submit to bonsai training, they certainly are beautiful house plants worth enjoying in their own right.

One USA source is http://www.bovees.com

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Guest on Sun Feb 10, 2013 1:04 am

Thanks Lackhand, the flowers are a bonus for me, I just like looking out my office window to see this sitting on its tall stand...

Leo, thanks for the extra input, I don't really consider this bonsai tho maybe it is... the art has grown & changed soo much since I started out I no longer know what is what. I lost the small hybrid to drying out but agree with your comments about them being more accepting of it than azalea. If i miss a watering for the big one it starts to lose it's sheen but doesnt wilt, well, its not ever been left that long...

Thanks also for the list of species & hybrids you think would be good candidates, it is difficult tracking down any vireya out here but I did get hold of a few different species seed but had no luck in propagating. I will try again soon thumbs up

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Vireya

Post  Bruce Winter on Tue Apr 23, 2013 6:21 am

Matt...we've gotten many shipments of vireya cuttings over the years from Neil Puddy in NSW. Do you know of him?
I'll PM his email if you like.

Neil
&
Kathryn Puddey Nursery
PO
Box
126,
Woolgoolga,
NSW
Australia

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  Guest on Tue Apr 23, 2013 10:35 pm

Bruce, many thanks for the Puddey's address. I have to admit to being rather slack of late with my collection, once my health & a few other things are sorted I will definitely be in touch with them. If you could send me his email would be fantastic.

Are you growing any vireya as bonsai or purely for garden plants?

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Vireya

Post  Bruce Winter on Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:00 am

You're welcome, Matt.
As I said on the previous page, I don't know why I haven't done any vireya bonsai. There are many varieties with very small leaves and flowers. Maybe too easy? I have them in beds, hanging onto trees and giant tree ferns, (Hapu'u).
I found this link to a book by the man who started it all, Mitch Mitchell.

http://www.blurb.com/books/2612684-kimalia

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

Post  JimLewis on Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:25 pm

For those of us in the western hemisphere who don't know these plants, here is some good info:

http://www.vireya.net/classification.htm

Looks to me like taxonomists are long overdue in reworking the Rhododendron Genus.

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Re: Vireya Rhododendron

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