Comments on Dr. J. Harold Clarke's Latest Book
Mrs. L. J. Janzen, Mercer Island, Washington
This new book, "Getting Started with Rhododendrons and Azaleas," just recently published, should be given a prominent place in every gardener's bookshelf and be referred to often. It represents much time, thought and research, in which Dr. J. Harold Clarke has purposefully fulfilled every phase of Rhododendron information.
The title itself suggests a welcome challenge to every amateur whether he be a beginner or more advanced. The author intended to promote real enthusiasm in this basic and easy-to-read book of 260 pages. And he has cloned it artfully, not only with many illustrations but by careful selection of subject matter.
Reflecting his own modesty and academic background, Dr. Clarke did not intend to create an encyclopedic writing. Instead, he has tried to convey to the reader the overall subject matter, Rhododendrons and Azaleas, without losing the reader's interest, and furthermore, has left no stone unturned to kindle a knowledgeable interest in the uninitiated, unless it be to seek further texts more detailed and scientific.
This writer, in reviewing Dr. Clarke's book, has but few suggestions and criticisms to make. First of all, the author says it would seem wise for the real beginner to plant azaleas first and then go on to rhododendrons, adding that, "this does not mean that rhododendrons and azaleas can be used interchangeably in the garden, although to some extent they can."
I would challenge these remarks, if my interpretation leads me to believe what I think they mean. I firmly believe both azaleas and many rhododendrons can be planted equally well with ease (barring a few areas). And, above all, a well landscaped garden includes an intermixing and grouping of both rhododendrons and azaleas to complement one another. That is to say, they can be changed about for more effectiveness in color, texture and line, plus adding depth and perspective to the overall picture. Besides, the deciduous azaleas give relief to the heavier green masses of rhododendrons or related plants.
Also, the chapter on propagation was thorough and well defined. But since this subject is quite often the most difficult to accomplish, it might have been made more comprehensible to have included a series of pictures illustrating the various propagation methods, instead of the group of pictures showing individual named trusses of rhododendrons, especially since these are in black and white. The only colored plates shown are on the jacket design; unfortunately, they seem inharmonious and ineffectual.
In addition, the book is considerably repetitive, although Dr. Clarke's intentions might have been just that, so as to instill the many valuable points which are interrelated among the twelve chapters.
These chapters are divided into three parts. The first is about origin, uses and special requirements of rhododendrons and azaleas. Part two consists of methods of culture, fertilizing and pest control. Part three concludes with species and varieties for garden use (with no discussion of greenhouses or conservatory culture). The author consistently lists his plants in groups of fives, as a sampling only, with simple descriptions. He suggests that further information can be obtained of plants suitable to one's own community by visiting nurseries.
In conclusion, this book is most interesting and direct, factual and up-to-date. Dr. Clarke says: "I know of no other genus of woody plants which includes such a wide range of altogether delightful and useful garden plants." The reader cannot help but heartily and happily agree.