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Journal American Rhododendron Society

Current Editor:
Dr. Glen Jamieson ars.editor@gmail.com


Volume 14, Number 2
April 1960

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Rhododendron Notes

        "Rhododendrons," the new 250 page book of the Society is now being written and is to be published the spring of 1961. It will contain chapters on care and planting, breeding for amateurs, landscape use, rhododendrons and azaleas used in flower arrangements, names and descriptions of new American hybrids, the hybrids will be re-rated; plus a new species section containing material now only found with considerable research, new descriptions, new ratings both quality and hardiness, the species story told from the American viewpoint. There will be many pictures and much other material. The price for the book will be $6.95 when published. Order now, members price pre-publication, postpaid is $5.50. You not only save money but help the Society to get the book out on time.


        The new rhododendron quality ratings will be on the basis of 1 to 4, with 4 the highest rating. Flowers and plant will be rated separately and the rating will be expressed as a fraction; 4/4 would indicate top quality flower and fine plant habit; 3/2 would indicate flower of above average and plant of average growth habit. Each plant, whether a tiny dwarf or a tree will be judged on its own merits with no comparison between plants and no plant will be set up as a standard to judge others by.


        The story, in the last issue of the Quarterly Bulletin, by the member who likes them "Big and Red," has brought forth comments, and we have heard several amateurs express opinions of the best species and hybrids. So here goes with our personal selections of our ten favorites; it ended up twelve. R. wardii (but find a good form) for fine foliage and growth habit and good yellow flowers. 'Snow Lady,' masses of pure white flowers with black stamens against dark green foliage. R. 'Bow Bells', fine foliage, compact and rounded, easy to grow and beautiful pink flowers. R. 'Moonstone', for the same reasons as 'Bow Bells' but the flowers are cream yellow. Here in the northwest it will take a lot of sun. R. 'Mrs. Furnival', our favorite pink with a blotch, wonderfully compact and fine trusses and it blooms so young. R. 'Elizabeth', low and spreading with good foliage and graceful big red trumpets, no plant blooms more heavily. R. 'Letty Edwards', dark green leaves and good habits with a fine truss of lovely light lemon-yellow flowers as cool looking as iced lemonade.. R. yakushimanum, it looks like an aristocrat and it is with its dark green distinctive leaves, tight growth and handsomely shaped white flowers of heavy substance. R. williamsianum, it may not bloom for years but it's still one of the best, a rounded mound with beautiful leaves and copper colored new growth. When it does bloom its soft pink flowers are lovely. R. 'Corona', the flowers may not be large but are a distinctive coral pink different from other rhododendrons. The truss is tall and the plant habit compact with dark green leaves. Protect it from the hot son. R. 'Helene Schiffner', another low growing plant that does not like the hot sun. Foliage is very dark green and the pure white flowers and truss are perfect. The whitest white we have seen. The last but one of the best, 'Loder's White', an old variety but still the top white for most gardens. Good growth habits and fine trusses of frilled white flowers flushed apple-blossom pink, it blooms when quite young. P.S. Ask us tomorrow and we would probably come up with a different list. I think what we like best is the plant in bloom. If you differ with us, send in your list and the reasons. We'll publish it in the next Bulletin.
 - Bob Bovee


        In the spring a gardener's fancy turns to the acquisition of new plants. If the plants are to be rhododendrons (although this applies to any plants with balls of earth) and they have been growing in soil much different from your own, which is generally the case, it is very important to free the roots around the entire perimeter of the ball carefully by hosing and/or with a sharp pointed implement. A heavily budded small plant in particular is very likely to be a danger signal that the plant is root bound.
        It has already been pointed out in the bulletin by an Eastern authority that plants develop roots suited to the medium in which they are started and either cannot emerge into a different medium, or do so only with great difficulty. While we buy plants for economic reasons, we want them to grow up to good landscaping size as quickly as possible. At the same time, we may have a great desire to have some flowers and so buy the best budded small plants. Here we are at cross purposes with ourselves inasmuch as botany teaches us that flowering is generally an inhibiting factor to new growth.
        A happy solution, after a sigh of regret, is to remove all but two or three flower buds, free the roots and your plant will be a pleasure for years instead of blooming madly and then going into a decline which may end in death.


        Seattle has experienced a relatively mild winter. One snowstorm that gave our neighbors to the south some trouble stopped short of this area.
        In our location, overlooking Puget Sound and across to the Olympic Mountains, Rhododendrons mucronulatum and dauricum started blooming in January along with Cyclamen coum. Such a combination, planted near a stump or at the base of a large conifer, would give the contrast of fragility and strength used so effectively by the Japanese and sound a single color chord swelling upward from the ground. Those who enjoy a contrast might include Heleborus lividus (Corsicus) nearby or some soft yellow species crocus.
        February brought forth Rhododendrons praecox and 'Tessa,' both of which are wonderful with the rosy-hued winter blooming heathers, such as 'Springwood Pink'.
 - Ruth Jacobson Seattle, Washington


        The first rhododendron I have ever seen on a stamp appears on one of the Netherlands New Guinea Charity Stamps, issued November 16, 1959. R. zoelleri, Warb. appears in apricot-copper tones on an orange-red background, offset by dark green leaves. The other three stamps in the set do not show rhododendrons, but the flowers are lovely.


        The garden of Mr. Curtis Clement, Haddonfield, N.J., boasts a handsome "backdrop" on the south and east sides. A clipped hedge of Ilex opaca 'Farage', eight foot high rich, deep green in foliage, is a perfect contrast to pink, salmon and white azaleas and rhododendrons planted in front of it - to say nothing of an ideal windbreak.


        At the January meeting of the Philadelphia Chapter, Mr. Charles Herbert, Vice-President, presented our National President, Dr. J. Harold Clarke, with a gavel of rhododendron wood, made from an old plant which was broken in the heavy snows, at Valley Forge, two years ago. The gavel is intended for use by the President of the American Rhododendron Society.


        In January, I had the pleasure of visiting a neighboring community, Fairless Hills, and talking to their Garden Club about azaleas and rhododendrons. It was a most agreeable surprise to find many of the members conversant with many rhododendron clones, and in addition, with many fine companion plants as well.
 - Betsi Kelius Philadelphia, Pa. 


        Pictures will be needed for the "Rhododendron Book" to be published by the A.R.S. in the spring of 1961. This will be the last growing season to secure pictures for this publication as the copy is due to go to the printer by October of 1960. Good pictures of rhododendrons, especially if they tell a story or illustrate an interesting variety, could be used. Why not take pictures and submit the best to the editor of the Bulletin? They might be used in the Book, or eventually in the Bulletin. It has been suggested that members make a special effort to get good color slides this season as some will be needed for part of the program at the International Conference in 1961. 


        Speakers from three different foreign countries have tentatively agreed to give talks at the 1961 Conference. In addition to these, several outstanding rhododendron personalities in this country have agreed to appear on the program. The program is not complete, and additional speakers, both from this country and abroad, are expected to be scheduled.


        The various Chapters were asked to help in preparing revisions of the variety rating table for the forthcoming A.R.S. Book. So far we have received suggested ratings from the Eugene and the Philadelphia Chapters. These, with others which come in will be turned over to a committee for study and eventual determination of official A.R.S. ratings from this and other evidence.


        We note that zone ratings are occasionally suggested for rhododendron varieties. The A.R.S. official ratings, of course, are based on the groups H-1 to H-7, depending on the minimum temperature well matured plants can withstand without visible injury to stem, bud, or leaf. The zone system, in my opinion, has two weaknesses. In the first place different zones have been outlined in different publications, so that it would be necessary to indicate the reference on which a zone rating is based. In the second place, in hilly or mountainous country, such as we find in the northwest, there may be two, or possibly even three, zones in one small locality, depending on elevation and exposure. It is difficult if not impossible to draw maps in enough detail so that a gardener in hilly country can be sure just which zone he is in. However, he will probably be able to estimate the minimum temperature which his plants are likely to encounter and so should be able to make use of a rating based on minimum temperature.


        It has taken a long time for new American varieties to be propagated in quantity and widely distributed. We note that 'Pioneer', one of Mr. Gable's varieties, is now being advertised on a nation wide basis. Other varieties from American breeders will undoubtedly be coming onto the market in quantity in the near future. There are several in the Northwest which are being propagated rapidly, and offered on a local basis.


        It is hoped to include a list of rhododendron and azalea breeders in the new Book, although there will not be space to write up each breeder as was clone in "Rhododendron 1956". I would like very much to have the names and addresses of any who are breeding rhododendrons or azaleas, and who were not included in "Rhododendrons 1956". Any information you could give as to your breeding work. date started, number of seedlings raised, number named, and general objectives, would be appreciated. Most of this supplementary information will probably not be printed at the present time, but it seems to me it would be desirable to have it on file for the convenience of other breeders who might want it.


        During January, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Philadelphia Chapter, the New Jersey Chapter, and a group of members of the Middle Atlantic Chapter. A pleasant feature of the Philadelphia meeting was the presentation to me, as President of A.R.S., of a gavel made out of R. maximum wood from a plant which had been growing at Valley Forge. The presentation was made by Mr. Herbert. President-elect of the Philadelphia Chapter. In New Jersey, there was great interest in the new rhododendron display garden being started in cooperation with the Union County Park System. This is a very large undertaking, and the local members have been doing a great deal of work to get it started. I had the opportunity of visiting the site, and certainly hope to get back there in a few years and see the transformation which I am sure will take place. The prospects are for a very beautiful and useful rhododendron garden located some twenty miles from New York City.


        Rhododendron growers in our locality are frequently worried about using only an acid fertilizer, even though their soil is extremely acid to start with. In such localities the provision of the right nutrients in the fertilizers is, in my opinion, much more important than its being an acid material. Actually most of the nitrogen in mixed fertilizers nowadays is ammonium sulfate which is quite satisfactory for rhododendrons and leaves an acid residue. If one has a soil that is more alkaline than pH 5.5 to pH 6.0, he should perhaps be concerned about an acid fertilizer. If the soil is more acid than that any good garden fertilizer of the proper nutrient content should be satisfactory.


        We frequently have rhododendron leaves with various spots and yellowish coloration brought in for comment. Usually discussion brings out that these are the older leaves toward the center of the plant. Although the rhododendron may be an evergreen variety, the leaves do not hang on forever. After two or three years they fall off. Just before they drop they are likely to become yellowish and to have various unsightly, brownish spots. This of course differs with varieties. If the newer leaves, towards the tips of the branches, are a good healthy green and free from spots there is usually little to worry about if the older leaves show some discoloration.
 - J. Harold Clarke


Volume 14, Number 2
April 1960

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