Some Thoughts on a Rating System for Rhododendrons
R. L. Ticknor and W. L. Guttormsen
Oregon State University Experiment Station
All Americans want to grow the best, whether it is an annual, a rose, or a rhododendron. Since everyone cannot evaluate all the possible choices for himself, rating systems have been devised to help him make the goal of growing the best easier.
At present, rhododendrons are rated on a system of 4 for the best quality to 1, or sometimes 0, for the poorest quality. This is done for both flower and plant, so that the rating for a top quality plant would be 4/4 or for a plant with excellent flowers but poor growth habits would be 4/1. This is much better than the previous system, where only one number was used to evaluate a plant.
As presently used, this rating system leaves all the people in the Lake States and the Northeast doomed to growing low-rated plants. However, many of these plants - such as 'America', 'Roseum Elegans', and the newer hybrids are excellent plants - and deserve ratings higher than 2/2 and 1/2. Since these or similar plants may be the best that can he raised in the area, they should be considered as possible four-star plants, but only in their own area.
To correct this situation, a possible solution would be to give a rating followed by an area code indicating the area to which the rating applies. Thus, A might indicate the rating was given in the Pacific Northwest, B - California, C - Great Lakes, D - New England. E - Middle Atlantic, and F - Southeast. This would remove the stigma of a low rating and also give a better indication of performance in the different areas. More than one rating or area code might be applied to the same plant.
From personal experience, we realize that the same plant - though capable of growing in more than one area - may not deserve the same rating in both regions. Some Dexter rhododendron cuttings obtained from good plants while in the East have proved to be a disappointment in the Northwest. In the East the flowers were showy, while here they are hidden by new growth. In California, many plants for lack of a chilling period have scattered bloom instead of the mass bloom normally associated with rhododendrons. We are sure many other examples could be found of this nature showing the need for regional ratings. This means the ratings will be more cumbersome, but at the same time they will be much more useful.
Any discussion this may arouse will help to further improve the rating system.