Some Observations from the East Coast
By R. P. Jefferis, Media, Pa.
Fig. 9. R. 'Diva'
R. Henny photo
Fig. 10. griersonianum
R. Henny photo
Fig. 11. R. 'Grenadier'
R. Henny photo
Our trip through the state of California, Oregon and Washington last summer was one of a tightly scheduled itinerary, and prevented the leisurely sightseeing most desirable to one fond of rhododendrons. Nevertheless, we did see rhododendrons growing will at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and numerous parts of Oregon and Washington, including the University of Washington Arboretum and the Society Trial Gardens at Crystal springs in Portland. At San Francisco I went directly to Golden Gate Park to see R. nuttallii which was pictured in the Quarterly Bulletin for April. Luckily, an excellent gardener there was available to give me a lengthy tour of the rhododendron plantings. It was interesting to see the tender rhododendrons growing outdoors.
The University of Washington Arboretum has an extensive collection of rhododendron growing in the large lath houses and outdoors. Under the lath shading R. lindleyi was growing nicely. On the grounds of the Arboretum are many beautiful specimen plants. A R. discolor was particularly impressive. I had a short but pleasant chat at the Arboretum offices with Mr. Mulligan.
The Trial Garden at Crystal Springs Lake was about as I had pictured it. I was amazed to see such a profusion of fine rhododendrons. It seemed as though the plants I saw there in variety and growth exceeded my highest expectations. Truly, rhododendron fanciers here in the east should go west for inspiration. I was more than impressed with the professional tidiness and order of the grounds. The addition of the coolhouse should be another outstanding contribution of the American Rhododendron Society to the culture and exhibition of rhododendrons. My hope is that the beautifully planned coolhouse will be large in proportions. Most of all it was a pleasure to visit with our kind President Sersanous and to accompany the editor of the Bulletin in the garden.
While I was enjoying the sights of the west coast, heat and drought were doing some damage to my plantings here. Over a 30 year period rainfall in Philadelphia averages 41-44 inches annually, with a monthly range of 2.5-4.5 inches monthly. July and August of 1955 were abnormally hot and dry. July was the hottest month ever known in Philadelphia: on 20 days the temperature reach at least 90 degrees: July 15-23, degrees or over were recorded; July 22-100 degrees; July 23-98 degrees. Rainfall was deficient in July: 1.04 inches recorded, about one-quarter of the normal amount. Of this approximately 1 inch fell on the 24th and 25th, with the remainder of .04 inch spread over the rest of the month. There were 17 consecutive days with less than .01 inch--a long drought. Despite this heat and drought, frequent light overhead watering kept nearly all my plants in excellent condition during July.
At the end of July we left for the west coast, returning the first week in September. The hot weather of July continued through the first seven days of August, with temperatures ranging from 90 degrees or higher (eight above normal). 100 degrees was recorded on the 6th. Hurricanes Connie and Diane brought heavy rains concentrated on the 12th, 13th, 18th, and 19th. During August my plants had not the type of care I would have given them had I been home; they had none of the light overhead sprinkling which I am accustomed to giving rhododendrons during dry spells.
When I returned home to Media, early in September I found less damage to my plants than I had expected. The following were casualties (relatively recent acquisitions and perhaps not well rooted): R. 'Agnes Lamont', cinnabarinum, thomsonii, discolor (a beautiful pink flowering form), fortunei, (three small plants which I had moved in the spring), 'Lady Bligh', 'Brit-a-Brac'. One or two other small things died on me, the result I believe only partly of heat and drought. Early in the year I had some trouble with the acidity desired and I am certain this was a large contributing factor to the poor health of the plants. So much for my losses; the living plant is the thing. The low acidity required I have taken steps to correct. Pine needles I shall use for mulching. Heat and drought thus might be endured during any future absence.
Upon returning I found the following plants were doing beautifully: 'Loderi Venus', 'Arthur J. Ivens', 'Diva' (Fig. 9), 'Avalanche' F.C.C., 'Antonio', 'Calstocker', 'Androcles', 'Cornish Cross', 'Faggetter's Favourite', 'Earl of Athlone', 'Day Dream', 'Lady Bessborough', 'Naomi' A. M., leucaspis, davidsonianum, williamsianum, 'Cilpinense', 'Jaipur', 'Azor', keiskei, scintillans, augustinii, racemosum, moupinense, cerulean, oreotrephes, griersonianum (FIG. 10,) fortunei, discolor, euchaites, and auriculatum. These species along with a large number of hybrids are now doing well and many are heavily budded. The following were living but just barely upon my return, 'Barclayi', 'Robert Fox', 'Elase', 'Tally Ho'. After mentioning some of my losses due to improper care I have kept the best until last. Before writing these notes I made a quick count of the buds on a few of my plants: 'Romany Chai' 60, 'Day Dream' 50, 'Mars' and 'Cilpinense' are covered with buds.
Spring is almost upon us and on this date, February 14, it is warming up rather fast here. Many bulbs are already coming out of the ground.