About the Proposed Seed Exchange
Gordon G. Emerson, Rock Creek, Ohio
The two references to a rhododendron seed exchange in the last issue of the Bulletin were the best news in many a day. I hope the problems of establishing some sort of exchange will be worked out in the very near future.
I am a new member of the A.R.S. and made my first efforts at raising rhododendrons from seed only two years ago, but I have been an enthusiast for much longer. Two years of trying to track down hardy species seed have been more frustrating than anyone who has not tried it could imagine, and the seed obtained in some instances has added to the frustration. Two packets reputed to be R. orbiculare produced a host of plants with uniformly long narrow leaves, which resemble the species about as much as R. maximum or less. This was from Thompson & Morgan, England. Of eight species obtained from that firm, I have the 50 or so plants of R. orbiculare, one plant of R. campanulatum, which looks true: six plants of R. glaucophyllum, and about 150 of R. luteum. Two packets each of the other four did not produce a plant although each was divided into three sowings and handled under near ideal conditions. Two other species ordered were cancelled.
Fig. 17. R. smirnowii
C. Smith photo
Four of six species ordered from Harry E. Safer, Michigan, were cancelled because of the difficulty of obtaining seed. A couple of dozen R. smirnowii seedlings are obvious hybrids. Several are deciduous, which could mean several things, including sloppy packaging. The R. vaseyi which Mr. Safer sold as year old, did not germinate.
Three of six items ordered from the West Coast last year were cancelled. One item was cancelled this year. Germination was only fair in all species except the R. canadense alba which was replaced with R. vaseyi this year since the other is not listed again.
Orders went out to several specialists this year, but seed has not been received yet.
I have written hundreds of letters to nurserymen, arboretums, universities and others in attempting to locate seed, seed sources, or plants. Most were replied to but contained very little information of value. Most help was supplied by the National Arboretum which promised some seed which has not been received.
" Your simplest solution would seem to be to buy a plant of the desired species and raise your own seed," one professor wrote.
I would agree except for one thing: I am a newspaper reporter depending on a weekly wage, raising a family and building a home. Flowering-size plants from reliable growers cost more than my wife can save out of the grocery money.
The professor's comment on this probably would be, "Find another, less expensive hobby."
It would probably be good advice, but...
Plants of the hardiest species are particularly hard to come by. Those which are rated H2 may or may not survive in our general climate, particularly if they are from clones selected and propagated in the milder, moister West Coast or England. Seedlings of these same species―as Gable and Nearing have demonstrated, may produce much hardier as well as more tender individual plants. Thus the primary interest in seed.
At our particular location we have winters during which the temperature does not drop too far below the zero mark. Other winters, such as the current one, we have seen the mercury plunge to minus 20 degrees. Usually we have an adequate snow cover, but two years ago we did not. Twenty miles south of Lake Erie, our climate is still somewhat influenced by that body of water. We rarely have sustained drought and humidity is relatively high even during the periods of no rain. Evergreen azaleas do quite well in full sun as do most of the Ironclad rhododendron varieties. A friend a few miles to the north has had excellent results with R. 'Goldfort' and R. 'Mars' with a minimum of protection.
But I am wandering far a field.
A seed exchange would be an invaluable aid to people like myself (if there are others).
I do not think it should compete with commercial sources by offering otherwise available species. Nor should the cost be confined to handling expenses. Persons like myself, having nothing to exchange, should be happy to pay the market price. The profits, I'm sure, could be put to good use by the Society.
Also, a listing of special crosses, would find excellent response - the reference again pertaining to such as myself, who cannot have flowering size plants for making crosses, or who do not have the facilities to house more tender plants which might be desirable for making crosses with hardier ones.