An Opinion of Dutch and English Hybrid Rhododendrons
by Francis W. Mosher, Jr., Woodacre, California
When Mr. John Henny, Northwestern nurseryman and first president of the American Rhododendron Society, spoke at a recent meeting of the California chapter he recommended ten hybrid rhododendrons as the best first class varieties which he has personally seen in bloom and on all-round basis could rate at the very top.
Only one of them was red and it was one of those loose, floppy and dog-eared English types developed by the gentlemen gardeners of Great Britain, now fast vanishing from the scene. It was R. 'Elizabeth', truly a good rhododendron if you like that kind. I don't!
Mr. Henny didn't select for top honors a single Dutch red hybrid. He explained that Dutch plant breeders are purely commercial in their outlook toward hybridization while on the other hand many British hybridists as amateurs are interested in developing more desirable types regardless of their future commercial value.
While all of us are entitled to our own opinions, the writer deplores the lack of interest in "Bigger and Better Reds." This may be due to the fact that out here on the Pacific coast we have been visited by such Britishers as Major Barber and Mr. Cox. In turn, when our West Coast folks tour Europe, Boskoop doesn't seem to be on their itinerary. It is always Windsor Great Park, Exbury, Wisley, Bodnant, the Chelsea flower show, etc.
If washed-out blush pinks, ghost whites, pale lemon yellows and other boudoir pastels are the rage, then let me out! After ten years of growing rhododendrons and with more than 100 hybrid varieties growing under redwoods, I still like my rhododendrons "Big and Red" with high trusses. Nobody can deny that they are eye stoppers.
Fig. 9. R. 'The Hon. Jean Marie de Montague'
To the Dutch hybridists go most of the credit. Just to name a few which are stand-outs is easy. It is with pleasure that I nominate R. 'Hon. Jean Marie de Montague' (Fig. 9), R. 'Britannia', R. 'Earl of Athlone', R. 'Scandinavia', R. 'Langley Park', R. 'Hollandia', R. 'Borde Hill', R. 'Kluis Sensation', R. 'J. H. Van Ness', and R. 'Peter Koster'.
When the International Rhododendron Conference is held in Portland, Oregon, May 12-14, 1961 it is to be hoped that some representation from Boskoop will be on the program. Instead of neglecting the "Big Reds" from Holland, we ought to be importing and promoting their wider use on the West Coast.
With the advent of jet air freight service to Europe, it might be possible to fly-over some of the newer Dutch trusses for display at Portland. The writer, for one, would be keenly interested in giving the Dutch more of the credit which is due them. Members could do most by each contributing test plants and also that we should keep the test garden and the display garden at the same site. He feels that the "door has not been shut" but that the Arboretum must prove they will make it a worthwhile thing.