Hellikki, Elviira, Raisa and others

Mustila hosts some rather famous rhododendrons, including the one named after the first lady of the former Soviet Union.

When the former President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, was asked to choose from four species of rhododendron at Arboretum Mustila, he selected a flat and round low-growing rhododendron with small scarlet flowers.

It was given the name Raisa in honour of the President’s wife, Raisa Gorbachev. Raisa can be admired not only at Mustila but also in St Petersburg where it grows in the park of a hospital named after Mrs Gorbachev.

Other domestic species of rhododendron include Hellikki, Kullervo and Pohjolan tytär (Pohjola’s Daughter). As you might notice, inspiration for the hybridisation of plants has been found in the names of the national epic, Kalevala.

Congeners of lingonberries

Rhododendrons are a in the heather family. They are related to the Finnish forest shrubs, blueberry and lingonberry.

The oldest rhododendrons at Mustila are almost 100 years old. The youngest have only recently been test-planted.

Most of the park’s rhododendron bushes are hybrids between hardier species, where the characteristics of the father and mother are evident as different combinations as can be seen in human children.

Especially good hybrids are what Mustila calls varieties. Contrary to natural species, these are products of human trial and error and can only be multiplied by layering or micropropogation.

Raisa’s mother, the Mustila Rhododendron

Raisa’s mother was the Mustila Rhododendron (R. brachycarpum var. tigerstedtii) and it was pollinated at Mustila by the low-growing, red flowered Japanese rhododendron hybrid (R. Brachycarpum).

The Mustila Rhododendron is a world-famous species. It was imported to Mustila in the early 1930s from the Pungsan Mountains in North Korea. Seeds of the Rhododendron aureum were expected, but the seedlings that sprouted turned out to be large-flowered Korean forms of the less known Japanese rhododendron.

The rhododendron was renamed according to its first place of cultivation. As a hardy species, the Mustila Rhododendron has been the backbone of Finnish rhododendron growing. It was the only species of rhododendron to survive the frost of the Winter War (1939 – 1940) completely undamaged.

Tigerstedt varieties

The variety P.M.A. Tigerstedt is named after Prof. Peter M.A. Tigerstedt. From 1973 to 2000, he ran a breeding programme for rhododendrons and azaleas at the University of Helsinki. In the US and Canadian markets, the variety is called Peter Tigerstedt.

Axel Tigerstedt is a medium-high variety of rhododendron with white flowers. It is named after Axel Tigerstedt (1930-2010), the grandson of the founder of Arboretum Mustila. The blooms of Axel Tigerstedt come out in a delicate shade of pink at the beginning of June, but their colour quickly changes to pure white.

Mustila has also given birth to other types of rhododendron, such as Elviira, Marketta, Mikkeli, Unelma, Haaga, Pekka and Mauritz. Most of the names refer to the inner circle of Ms. Marjatta Uosukainen, a long-term researcher of rhododendrons.

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