THE AZALEA BOOK by Frederic P. Lee, 324 pp., Illus., D Van Nostrand Co., Princeton, N. J., 1958
Some of us have been looking forward to the promised new edition of the "Azalea Handbook," originally published by the American Horticultural Society in 1952, and edited by a committee of which Frederic P. Lee was chairman. This new book is a continuation of that committee effort, but is essentially, as such hooks have to be, the work of one man who is correctly given author status.
This publication has outgrown the 'Handbook' appellation and may now he considered the definitive work on Azaleas which every gardener seriously interested in this great section of the genus Rhododendron will want to possess. Although partly an adaptation of the original Handbook, it has been entirely rearranged, almost entirely rewritten, contains more than twice as many pages, and is superior in all respects.
There are four rather logical divisions, the first covering azalea culture, including a discussion of soils and fertilizers from the standpoint of the average gardener. In Part II, entitled Basic Azalea Horticulture, some of the more technical aspects of nutrition and breeding, as applied to this particular group of plants, are discussed in more detail.
The Historical Background is given in Part III, including botanical relationships, and evolutionary development is associated with various geological changes. Here we find the most complete information now available on the development of the various types and groups of azaleas, their origins, interrelationships, and identifying characteristics. It is true that some of these groups can he set apart from other groups almost solely by the name of the person who grew the seedlings. Frequently the parentage was unknown or open to question. But it does give one a sense of satisfaction to see these groupings, even though we learn little more than the name of the introducer, the names of the varieties, and possibly a few general characteristics. At least it puts the reader on a par with others in knowing about all there is to he known, in written form at least, about these small islands in the great ocean of Azalea varieties, close to 5000 named sorts.
Part IV is made up of descriptive lists of varieties, something over a thousand of them, which will probably be the most valuable part of the hook for the advanced amateur. The descriptions are necessarily brief, but even the most complete would not permit one to positively identify a variety. out of the thousands of possibilities, from the written word alone. These lists are grouped by type. or by originator, or both, and occasionally by parentage. However, Azaleas now comprise such a complex group and breeding lines are so intricately entangled that one is not surprised when the casual breeder simply raises a mass of seedlings and picks out the ones which appeal to him.
Variety recommendations for different climatic zones should be of special interest to every gardener who plans to increase his azalea collection. A list of contemporary azalea breeders gives some idea of the work being done by 33 individuals, or firms. throughout the United States.
This book will he read for its interesting descriptive and cultural information, and will then be put on the reference shelf to provide the answer for any question that comes up about azalea species, types, and varieties, if the answer is available in print.
- J. Harold Clarke
THE DIRECTORY OF AMERICAN HORTICULTURE FOR 1958, By the American Horticultural Council, Inc., 72 pp., c/o Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain 30, Mass.
This directory edited by Miss Carol Woodward contains the names and addresses of 418 national, regional and state horticultural organizations in the United States with the name and address of the President, the Secretary and each organization's publications. Also included are the names and addresses of 103 botanical gardens and arboretums in this country, together with sixty-one non-commercial garden centers. Two hundred and ninety-four universities, colleges and junior colleges teaching horticulture or its related subjects are also listed.
- Rudolph Henny