Another View on the Society Seed Exchange
Molly M. Grothaus, Lake Oswego, Ore.
I think the proposed seed exchange is a very excellent idea. but personally I strongly object to the proposition that the exchange be conducted on a price per packet basis. Prices of 50 cents and $1.00 per packet have both been proposed and the idea behind these prices seems to be that this kind of fee will discourage members from wasting the seed.
First, I suggest that there is no correlation between a member's ability to pay a commercially scaled fee per packet and his interest and enthusiasm in raising rhododendrons from seed-in fact, I would suggest that there may be an inverse correlation. The member whose enthusiasm for rhododendrons exceeds his financial ability to buy the plants will certainly be among those who are willing 'and eager to devote all the time and attention necessary to grow these seedlings to blooming size.
Secondly, I suggest that the purposes of the proposed seed exchange should be considered. Certainly, the primary purpose should be to promote the greatest possible interest in growing a greater variety of rhododendrons. The most democratic way to achieve this is to organize the seed exchange so that each member is allowed the same maximum number of packets and pays a flat fee of, say, $1.00 to defray the costs involved in the seed exchange. Give first preference to the members who donate seed to the exchange and supply other members as their letters are postmarked.
This last suggestion, in itself, will tend to preserve rare seed by giving more experienced members, who are interested in participating in the exchange by donating seed, first chance in obtaining the less common seed offered.
Perhaps those who suggest that seed will be wasted are thinking of commercial quantities of seed, but a pinch of rhododendron seed in a 3 inch pot will supply more plants than the average gardener can grow to maturity. I believe that, statistically, 30 plants will give a fairly representative sample and this is the number to which we limit our own seedling batches at planting out time.
If we donate seed to the seed exchange we would do it because we hoped that the effort involved would encourage more non-chapter-affiliate members whose only benefits from the Society would be the Bulletin and their share in the seed exchange. We would hope that rather than let his share of the seed exchange go unclaimed some member might be willing to gamble his time (on which I place a higher value than on our seed) in raising a species he is unfamiliar with, or trying a species presently considered unreliably hardy where he lives, or simply learning how to grow rhododendrons from seed.
The thrill of growing rhododendrons from seed is not that one is going to have the best form of a species (if this is the primary interest, buy a clone). The thrill is in the excitement of the unknown, the pleasure of the first bloom and the sharpening of one's critical eye in selecting the best of the seedlings for a permanent place in the garden.
We belong to three British seed exchanges from which we receive 60 packets of seed annually and to these we add approximately another 60 batches-our own rhododendron hybrids, native alpine seeds collected during the summer and seeds sent us by friends who know of our interest.
This is the most exciting way to garden and this is the excitement a seed exchange should promote. We want the seed we might donate to encourage someone to experiment, to gamble and to embark on an adventure.