At the recent meeting of the publications committee it was agreed that revised ratings of rhododendron varieties and species, and of certain groups of azaleas, should be one of the more important features of the new A.R.S. book to be published early in 1966. If we maintain our "every five year" schedule we should have material ready for the printer about October 1965. That means that any additional information on ratings will have to come from the blooming data and observations obtained in the spring of 1964 and 1965.
Actually much of the collecting of information from various groups and discussions within the rating committee, which are necessary to the determining of the most nearly accurate rating for each variety, must be done during the winter months. This means that the winter of 1964 - 1965 is the critical time for developing our official ratings although some additional work, of course, may be done right up to publication time.
With many plants, such as roses for example, large numbers are propagated and plants are placed in the hands of many different cooperators for testing throughout the United States. Each cooperator grows and observes the plants, and gives them ratings, which can then be considered by a central committee and one official rating derived. Unfortunately the stock of a new rhododendron variety cannot be developed that rapidly and so it is hardly practical to send plants for trial to a large number of cooperators.
How Ratings Are Determined
The American Rhododendron Society ratings in the past have been derived by getting suggested ratings from as many people as possible and then having them digested, discussed. and eventually a rating determined, by a committee of people who know rhododendrons extremely well. When rhododendron ratings were first being considered, several year, ago, a questionnaire was sent to the entire A.R.S. membership, and the returns were used by the Rating Committee in making its final ratings. More recently we have hoped to work through the Chapters and have urged them to have meetings at which the question of rating revisions would be the program topic. We are still hoping that a great deal of information can be provided in that way. It will be necessary, of course, for someone to serve as clerk and tabulate the information and send it to the Chairman of the A.R.S. Ratings Committee.
One way to conduct such a Chapter program would be to have a person who grows a fairly large number of varieties and/or species, go through the list with which he is familiar and suggest whether he agrees with the ratings published in "Rhododendrons For Your Garden." The other members could then indicate that they agree or disagree. If there is disagreement, about a particular clone, a show of hands should indicate the rating which most nearly represents the opinion of those assembled as most accurate for flower and for plant of the variety in question. As a general rule the ratings which have been published previously seem to have met fairly general agreement, but undoubtedly there are a number which should be revised. By concentrating on those which need revision a group, either a chapter meeting or a small committee, could cover a great many in one evening, and have an entertaining and instructive program doing it. All ratings of course are tentative in that they are subject to revision as more information is obtained. Very new varieties of course are sometimes given ratings on rather slim evidence, and the fact that such ratings are quite preliminary is stressed.
The new Chairman of the A.R.S. Ratings Committee is Mr. Merle E. Cisney, Camas, Washington. Groups which do consider ratings are urged to send their report to him as soon as possible after the study has been made. Individual opinions as to published ratings are very much desired also. Even if one disagrees with only one rating, that information should be conveyed to the Ratings Chairman. Indications of agreement with published ratings would of course be very desirable also.