Hardy to zone 5, this attractive rhododendron was created by Tony Consolini and registered by Heritage Plantation in the 1950's. The flowers are a bright carmine-red in color, and are displayed in large, full trusses in April/May. A great red for colder areas. The leaves are large with slight downturned edges, creating a 'sturdy' look. The plant grows to be about 4 ft tall and 5 ft wide in 10 years. Rarely offered.
This history of R. 'Francesca' was sent to us by Dorothy Swift, who obviously knows the correct history. Thanks Dorothy!
The cross was made by Tony Consolini who worked at the estate that is now Heritage Plantation. He had his own garden and grew many plants from seed from crosses that he made (probably using plants at the estate). The 5 Savella Brothers, who owned Bald Hill Nurseries in Rhode Island, purchased a number of seed lots from Tony Consolini. They germinated the seed. They then planted the small plants in nursery acreage they owned (in my town of North Kingstown RI). Unfortunately, they used multiple rows close together and 1 foot centers. There were some beautiful plants that resulted. The brothers quarreled a lot and some of them were colorblind. One plant that they agreed on was the one dark red that they named 'Francesca' after their mother, registered, and also patented (unusual for rhododendrons). They never really agreed on what to do about some of the other attractive rhodies growing by the acre. Some of us in the Massachusetts Chapter of the Amer. Rhode. Soc. were allowed to visit the fields in the early 1980's and label some plants as being suitable for propagation. Then, we weren't allowed to take cuttings for several years, until, eventually, the brother who was propagator, Leonard Savella, allowed us to take cuttings. None of the brothers had children who wished to continue the business, and the brothers were aging and dying. The property was sold for upscale housing construction. Some of the plants still exist in gardens of those of us who propagated some. The others were mostly destroyed during construction. Tony Consolini's own home garden contained numerous attractive rhododendrons from his own crosses, and his property was purchased after he died by a couple who were rhododendron enthusiasts who wanted the plants. They removed many of the rhododendrons and allowed propagation of the plants, so there are a number of these plants in the Cape Cod region
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