Rhododendrons are relatively new beautiful ornamental plants in Latvia forming an essential part of public and private gardens, although they were introduced in Latvian territory already during the first half of 19th century. Rhododendrons deserve their immense popularity due to the diversity of their habitat, size and type of blossoms and leaves and their flowering season. There are about 1000 rhododendron species in the wild up to now whereas breeders in various countries have created more than 30 000 cultivars. Intensive rhododendrons introduction and acclimatization in Latvia started in 1957 when Rihards Kondratovičs, at the time director of the Botanical Garden, University of Latvia, started his research on the introduction and acclimatization of rhododendrons. Winterhardiness of about 400 wild species in Latvia was tested and 76 species were found to be suitable. Following the development of an extensive collection of wild rhododendron species and cultivars, the Rhododendron Breeding and Experimental Nursery “Babīte”, University of Latvia, was established at 1980 and the active breeding of new winterhardy cultivars was started. In 2017, the collection of outdoor rhododendrons of the University of Latvia consists of 76 species and 265 cultivars, including 109 cultivars bred in Latvia by Professor Rihards Kondratovičs.
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