Maud Corning’ has the most fragrant flowers of any rhododendron at The Holden Arboretum. It forms a rounded shrub about 6’ tall in 14 years. Our largest specimens are now 10’ tall with fairly open branching. The flowers are dark pink in bud, open peach-pink and have a small greenish-yellow spot in their “throat.” One distinguishing characteristic is that although the flowers possess a style and stigma (female parts), their stamens and anthers are missing. Flowers are borne on somewhat lax trusses for 2-3 weeks between mid-May to early-June.
Flat, 5” long narrowly elliptic apple-green leaves are held for 2 years. Mature specimens may be viewed in the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden on Beech Knoll, southwest inside the loop, and in the Red Oak area of the Layer Rhododendron Garden about 60 yards northwest of the old carved stump inside the loop path. ‘Maud Corning’ was hybridized by Charles Dexter on Cape Cod. The Dexter Estate, now known as the Heritage Museum and Gardens in Sandwich, Mass., is still a wonderful place to view rhododendrons. ‘Maud Corning’ was originally one of 48 Rhododendron fortunei hybrids (‘Britannia’ x ‘Skyglow’) or (Dexter #9) received by Warren Corning at Holden on April 27, 1940.
Grafts were made of the most outstanding plant of the lot by Lew Lipp in April, 1956 who named them ‘Maud Corning.’ Lew and Arlene Lipp had arrived at Holden in 1954 and it was Maud Corning who shared a common interest in horticultural therapy with the Lipps. It is most appropriate that Mrs. Corning, who brought Holden’s Horticultural Therapy program into being, have the honor of being commemorated in this way.
Our records show ‘Maud Corning’ rhododendron was rooted from cuttings that were taken in 1966, ’69, ’77-’81, and these are the ones that are currently on display. In 1983, a detailed description was made and the cultivar ‘Maud Corning’ was registered in the fall issue of the American Rhododendron Society Journal by Peter Bristol.
In addition to proving very cold hardy in the Layer Garden, at the David G. Leach Research Station in Madison, Ohio, ‘Maud Corning’ and its progeny have exhibited marked adaptability to full sun and heat in field trials, given the benefit of drip-irrigation.
The Maud Corning rhododendron was named for the wife of Holden’s first director, Warren H. Corning. Her contributions helped shape The Holden Arboretum’s growth and programs. Working with the late Lewis Lipp, she was instrumental in the creation of Holden’s Horticulture Therapy program in 1955. Taking an active role in the fledgling program, she would often transport participants from Cleveland to her home at Lantern Court, where meetings were held. The program, which continues today, now serving about 600 people each year who are coping with disease, injuries, disabilities or the affects of aging.
Unfortunately, we are not aware of any nursery that offers plants of ‘Maud Corning’.