Speakers Who Will Appear at the International Rhododendron Conference
Mrs. L. C. Grothaus
Our International Rhododendron Conference speakers are being awaited with growing anticipation. The principal speaker on the first day of the Conference May 11, will be Dr. H. R. Fletcher (Fig. 13), Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.
Fig. 13. Dr. H. R. Fletcher.
Dr. Fletcher compiled the International Rhododendron Register for the Royal Horticulture Society and on behalf of the R. H. S. acts as the International Registration Authority for the genus Rhododendron including Azalea.
He is also Secretary of the International Commission for the Nomenclature of Cultivated Plants and of the Editorial Committee of the Commission which bas recently redrafted the Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants. He received the Victoria Medal of Honor in 1957. This medal, which is given by the Council of the R. H. S. to those British horticulturists considered deserving of special honor, is limited to 63 holders, the number of years which Queen Victoria reigned. Dr. Fletcher received the Loder Rhododendron Cup the following year for his work in connection with rhododendrons.
Dr. Fletcher's association with the Royal Botanic Garden has been a long one. He was Botanist at the Gardens for 17 years before spending the period from 1951 to 1954 as Director of the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens at Wisley. He returned to Edinburgh as Assistant Regius Keeper in 1954 and assumed his present position as Regius Keeper two years ago.
"Rhododendrons at the Royal Botanic Garden at Edinburgh and at Benmore" will be the subject on which Dr. Fletcher will speak. Along with the rhododendron species collection at Windsor Great Park, the rhododendron species collections at Edinburgh and at Benmore (which is also under his control) are probably the most important and most comprehensive in the world representing about 450 species. In spite of the size of these collections, they are still in the process of building, especially at Benmore where the rhododendrons are being lifted and replanted in their series. Here visitors to the Garden and students of the genus may see a living representation of the classification of the rhododendron genus into its various series. At Benmore not only rhododendrons but conifers and certain tender plants such as those from Chile grow magnificently and these collections are being increased.
The flora of southwestern China has long interested Dr. Fletcher and especially the genus Primula under which, with his former chief at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Sir William Wright Smith, he has published widely. He is also particularly interested in the history of rhododendrons in cultivation and especially in the variation certain species show in cultivation.
Fig. 14. Mr. F. R. Knight
Speaking first on Friday will be Mr. F. P. Knight (Fig. 14), the Director of the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens in Wisley. The Society owns over 300 acres here of which 116 are in Gardens whose comprehensive collections of ornamental plants draw nearly 200,000 visitors yearly. Besides maintaining the Garden, Wisley carries on horticultural research, trials of new varieties of fruit, flowers and vegetables, a training program in theory and practice for young gardeners and advice on horticultural problems for its nearly 58,000 members. This membership makes the R. H. S. the largest Society of its kind in the world.
In a country whose national pastime seems to be gardening, how does one become the Director of such a large and important garden as Wisley? Mr. Knight began as a "garden boy" in the employ of the late Mr. J. C. Williams who did so much to introduce Rhododendrons and other plants from western China through the expeditions carried out by George Forrest. Then followed time as a garden probationer at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh and at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, he continued as Student Gardener and then Arboretum Propagator.
About twenty years were spent in the nursery trade as alpine plant foreman with "Baker's," and as nursery manager for Knap Hill Nursery. Here was the original home of many of the hardy hybrid rhododendrons raised by Anthony Waterer and also the home of that famous strain of Knap Hill azaleas.
During the war years Mr. Knight worked as Horticultural Officer in the Directorate of Camouflage, Ministry of Home Security. After the war he returned to the Nursery trade as managing director of R. C. Notcutt's Nursery before being appointed Director of the R. H. S. Gardens at Wisley.
Mr. Knight was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honor in 1958. His personal interests center around trees and shrubs, in particular rhododendrons and lilacs. The propagation of trees and shrubs, especially from cuttings, is a field to which he devotes special interest.
Battleson Hill is the section of Wisley which most interests the rhododendron enthusiast. Here are held the Rhododendron Trials about which Mr. Knight will speak. The Rhododendron Trials are permanent trials carried on year after year and the plants grown here consist of a standard collection of established varieties as well as new varieties. The new varieties entered in the Trials are selected by the Rhododendron and Camellia Committee after having been exhibited at one of the Society's London Shows. While an older variety may from time to time be discarded, those whose garden value has been proved remain to provide for gardeners a basis for judging those qualities of flower and growth habit which they might like to add to their own garden.
Fig. 15. Mr. Dietrich Hobbie
Particularly interesting to Conference visitors from the northern and eastern sections of the United States will be the contributions of Mr. Dietrich Hobbie (Fig. 15), who will participate on the second afternoon of the Conference, May 12, in a Symposium on "Rhododendrons for the Colder Climates." The other members of this symposium will be David Leach of Brookville, Pa., and Edmond Amateis of Brewster, N. Y.
Mr. Hobbie grows his rhododendrons in a pine forest just 25 miles from the North Sea in an area where the minimum temperature may drop to twenty-two degrees below zero Fahrenheit. His father's farm which he took over in 1930 encompasses about 250 acres half of which is in forest of 60 to 100 year old pine trees. The ground is sandy loam with some partially swampy areas.
Mr. Hobbie began growing rhododendrons in 1928. His interest stimulated by English publications, he turned to rhododendron species and modern hybrids, but he didn't fully realize the possibilities rhododendrons offered until after visits to Chelsea and many of the famous English gardens in 1937. The seeds and information received from his English friends helped to form a basis for the considerable Rhododendron Park at Linswege, and Mr. Hobbie feels that the interest of his English friends encouraged him to expand his lifework to the dimensions it has today.
In 1939 he began to develop his own hybrids and by 1960 several hundred thousand small seedlings of over 600 different combinations are growing on large areas in his forest. (For a more detailed account of his work during this period refer to this Bulletin Vol. 11 No. 2 p. 97). Over 20,000 visitors come yearly to see the Linswege Park rhododendrons in bloom. Mr. Hobbie's hybrids have received Gold and Silver medals at exhibits in Hanover, Hamburg, Essen, Milan and Trieste. This year at the Floriade in Rotterdam, Gold Medals were won by his R. 'Oudijk's Sensation' and his 'Scarlet Wonder'.