These were the first species to be received in the British Isles. Many of them were raised from seed and different forms were cultivated with only minor variations. At one time there were more than thirty different named varieties of Rhododendron ponticum ranging from white forms to those which only had another twist to the leaf
This was the position at the beginning of the nineteenth century but the nurserymen of the day made the most of this limited marterial. They produced a number of excellent hybrids, many of which are still widely grown and planted today.
They were the men who were as much responsible for putting the rhododendron on the map of the British Isles as were those who collected the plants from other parts of the world. Without the work of the hybridists it is doubtful if these early species would have been grown with such enthusiasm.
More than any other plants the rhododendron refutes the argument that the pure species found in the wild is superior to the man-made hybrid. So important was the work of the men who patiently crossed and re-crossed, selected and re-selected the seedlings which they raised that this story demands a chapter on its own.