Impromptu Remarks Made in Honoring Guy G. Nearing
at the Awarding of the Gold Medal of the American Rhododendron Society
New York City, February 26, 1958
MR. JOSEPH B. GABLE:
The first time we met it was typical of the man that his first words were a question about a rhododendron instead of greeting or identification and we discussed these things for some little time before I was really certain he was Guy Nearing. We worked together sharing seeds and pollen and the records of our experiences in our efforts to obtain our several objectives. For example, Guy crossed his hybrid R. decorum x R. griffithianum with pollen of R. griersonianum from me and shared the seeds. The seedlings were of course all quite tender but one flowered three years from seed in my little lean-to greenhouse. As far as we know, the only seedling of this first cross to flower. The flowers were huge, over six inches across, and pale salmon with yellow shading to deep yellow in the throat. This I crossed with America and again shared the seeds with Guy who eventually gave his seedlings to Mr. Hardgrove who wrote me that he had some fine things from them. My seedlings were planted in the open to test them for hardiness-a quality which was still conspicuously lacking. But about twenty of them succeeded in flowering a few florets and everyone that did was in the superlative class but only three hardy enough to be worthwhile. One of these was lost in an accident; the other two are 'Madonna' and 'Degram'. Though one may get the honor of producing such hybrids, the help of another has been fully as essential and he should have his full share of the credit.
In Dr. Bowers' first edition of his book on rhododendrons, in "Appendix B" we, along with some others, made some solemn pronouncements-since regretted heartily-on the hardiness of species that had lived out for only a winter or two. We suggested to the Doctor that in his new edition "Appendix B" be subjected to an appendectomy. The good doctor assured us that this had been already taken care of much to our relief.
MR. PAUL VOSSBERG:
On my first contact with Guy Nearing, I was greatly impressed by the large number of unheard of rhododendron species which he had growing.
DR. JOHN C. WISTER:
I am very happy that this medal is being awarded to Guy Nearing and very happy that I can be present on this occasion. I can think of no one who deserves this recognition more than he does. I feel that The American Rhododendron Society has honored itself in honoring him.
I first met Mr. Nearing some twenty five years ago when he was at Guyencourt. I saw there his special frames for growing rhododendrons from cuttings outdoors without heat. This was then a totally unexplored field in plant propagation and Mr. Nearing little by little worked out the different details that were necessary for the different species and varieties of rhododendrons. Many other people have since taken up this work and added their contributions to our present knowledge but Mr. Nearing was the pioneer and did the work upon which others have now built to make it possible for us to have own root plants instead of grafted plants.
Much of Mr. Nearing's early work in breeding was lost in the flash flood that destroyed his first nursery in New Jersey. But some of his earlier hybrids have survived and are being grown in a few places. We are fortunate in having at Swarthmore, two clones of a hybrid of maximum and discolor of particular value to us because it usually blooms at Commencement time in early June when most species and hybrids are over and the species maximum has not begun.
I have seen only a few of Mr. Nearing's hybrids of more recent years, but have been greatly impressed by them and hope it will not be too many years before they become available in nurseries.
I congratulate Mr. Nearing and wish him many more years of happy work with his rhododendrons.
DR. CLEMENT GRAY BOWERS:
There is nothing that I would rather do than come here from the frozen north to pay tribute to my friend and erstwhile traveling companion in England, Guy Nearing.
I fully endorse the words of praise given him by previous speakers. I do not feel it necessary to echo a list of his accomplishments. After all, we who are his friends have recognized these for a long time. But I think there is one more matter of significance that is generally overlooked. This concerns the importance of negative results.
There is no particular distinction in being able to grow good rhododendrons and produce fine hybrids in such places as Cornwall, Wales, the Hebrides and certain spots on our West Coast where nature is congenial and the greatest treasures of the rhododendron world will thrive. It is quite a different thing, however, to produce improvements in the rhododendron status of the American northeast. This is where negative results come in. It has been characteristic of Guy Nearing that he will not introduce a new plant or advocate a new method until he has put it to the most severe test and is sure it is really, truly an improvement. Working in this climate, one must have patience unequalled in other climes-the kind of patience that is required to produce thousands upon thousands of promising new seedlings only to see most of them dwindle away or prove unsuitable to the requirements of a tough environment. Again, it is doubtful if any rhododendrons of an "ironclad" constitution will ever receive merit stars or be acclaimed at flower shows in competition with the petted darlings of milder regions. Yet, in the face of such odds, Guy Nearing has worked ceaselessly.
When I visited the late E. H. Wilson in Boston in 1926, he told me a most depressing story. He said that although the Arnold Arboretum had tested almost every new species that he and others had brought in from Asia, no evergreen rhododendron among them had survived in Boston except the miserable little Rhododendron micranthum from Manchuria. Now, however, through the patient efforts of Guy Nearing, Joseph Gable, Charles Dexter and a few others, certain rare individuals among the exotic species have been uncovered which are able to stand the gaff of our northeastern climate. This hasn't been easy. It has meant that thousands of plants have had to be grown and discarded as unworthy. Again, it is these negative results that bulk large, costly and important, because only upon the basis of a myriad of failures can any notable success be attained. The fact that we have come so far since Wilson's time is a tribute to our honored guest and a very few other rare souls that makes the mere presentation of a medal seem tawdry indeed.
So I am delighted to be here and see Guy Nearing receive this award. It couldn't happen to a better person.
MR. DAVID G. LEACH:
It gives me great pleasure to salute you on this happy occasion when you are receiving the organized recognition of your achievements which has long been yours from the many persons who have individually admired them.
Most of us are reluctant to be outspoken in expressions of affection and respect, but this is one occasion when convention requires no hesitation. You have shared your enormous knowledge of rhododendrons with me, as you have with so many others, and I count myself tremendously benefited by your generosity with your time and information.
I believe the propagating frame which you invented will become a favored means of producing rhododendrons commercially, and your other contributions in this field are already in wide use by both amateur and professional growers.
'Ramapo' and other of your hybrids are certain to be important contributions to the horticulture of the eastern United States. Still others are contributing to the advances in hybrids produced by fellow breeders, some of whom began work in the field because of your help and encouragement.
The cultivation of rhododendrons has been promoted by your activities as a writer and lecturer, disseminating knowledge to a large audience ranging from the amateur to the professional.
Your accomplishments are so many that it would be tedious to enumerate them all but not the least of them is a character of integrity, dedication and kindness coupled with an inquiring and perceptive intelligence.
I salute you as a scholar and as a man. Only my absence abroad prevents me from delivering this salutation in person.