Nurseryman George Fraser emigrated from Scotland to Canada in the late 1800s and bought 100 hectares of forest on Vancouver Island, where he established a new nursery. In his breeding programme he used many other genera, in addition to rhododendrons.Fraser’s first hybrid rhododendron was largely a matter of chance. He had ordered cranberry plants from Nova Scotia, among which he found an extra “weed”, a small rhodora (R. canadense), which he planted. It flowered for the first time 15 years later, when he dusted it with pollen from a Japanese azalea, renge tutuzi (R. molle subsp. japonicum). He later sent some of the resulting plants in bud to Boston’s Arnold Arboretum and London’s Kew Gardens which both – independently of each other – named them Rhododendron x fraseri. They have been registered under the name ‘Fraseri-group’.
R. ’Fraseri’ has grown at Mustila at least since the 1950s. The small shrub looks at first glance like a large rhodora. It flowers abundantly at the end of May every year, slightly later than the rhodora but before most other azaleas. The reddish violet, scentless flowers are somewhat orchid-like, like those of rhodora but larger.