Sometimes, a great horticulturist comes along who changes our tastes and creates new markets. The rose breeder David Austin was one such: who would have supposed, 50 years ago, that roses with muddled centers would oust the elegant Hybrid Teas and super-floriferous Floribunda roses that everyone grew and loved?
Let me introduce you to Hans Hachmann, another innovator but little known to English gardeners. He was by far the most significant breeder of rhododendrons of the 20th century. Better than Loder, Aberconway, Millais and de Rothschild? Yes, without a doubt. I realize there are still a few Brits who cannot believe that any country does gardening better than we do — and certainly not Germany. But that is where we must look for the best modern rhododendrons, not to mention disease-resistant roses and prairie-style gardens.
Hachmann’s nursery, now run by his son, is at Barmstedt in Schleswig-Holstein, a region of Germany to which sandy soil and mild climate have attracted nurserymen for at least 150 years. Hachmann laid out a show garden and stocked it with rhododendrons from England and the Netherlands. Then came a beast of a winter when the temperature dropped to -20˚C, and he lost almost everything. Hardiness immediately became Hachmann’s priority, and hardy rhododendrons could only be obtained by breeding new varieties. Between 1950 and his death in 2004, he raised more than five million rhododendron seedlings in search of hardiness, as well as floriferousness, bright colors, handsome leaves, and plants of a compact size suitable for small gardens. It is greatly to his credit that he introduced only about 400 of them.
His new super-hardy rhododendrons proved popular, especially in markets where these most beautiful garden shrubs had never before been growable. ‘Mine’s a Hachmann’ became the catchword of first-time rhododendron lovers in the American Midwest, where his introductions began to carve out a place for themselves in cold-climate gardens.
Read the complete article at www.countrylife.co.uk.