A report from Merle Cisney, Camas, Washington, Chairman of the A.R.S. Ratings Committee, indicates that the activities of this committee are developing, with help being solicited from a number of Chapters. Dr. Franklin H. West of the Philadelphia Chapter has consented to serve as Chairman of the Azalea Rating Group in his area.
A good start has been made in this field as indicated by the tentative ratings already published in the Bulletin. Mr. Francis Sholomskas, also of the Philadelphia Chapter, will coordinate rhododendron ratings for the East. Mr. J. M. Blackford will serve as area Chairman in the Eugene Chapter. In the Portland area, working closely with Chairman Cisney and serving as the Tabulating Committee, will be Cecil Smith, Howard Slonecker, Mrs. Cecil Duncan, and probably others.
Members are urged to check the ratings of rhododendron varieties and species with which they are familiar and make their opinions known to some member of the committee. It would help if members would jot down their opinions which agree with published ratings, but it is especially important for them to indicate where they think changes should be made. Where ratings are essentially agreeable to everyone there might not be much comment and such lack of comment could be interpreted as an indication that the present rating is satisfactory. Of course all ratings are subject to revision as all are based on somewhat limited evidence, and if additional evidence indicates that a change should be made, then that will be done.
At this point it might be worth mentioning a difference in the A.R.S. system of ratings and the English system. In the English system, as indicated in the recently published R. H. S. Handbook, ratings are designed to indicate the range of quality which may be found in a particular species. In other words a rating might be 2-4 for flower character and 1-3 for plant character for a particular species. This would mean that seedlings would range from rather poor to quite good. The American system has been to give a rating which indicates the quality of the best forms. There are obviously certain advantages to both methods. However, anyone who has raised rhododendron seedlings will know that almost any species will produce a few seedlings which are very poor, and it has been felt that no particular purpose would be served by indicating in a rating that such poor seedlings may be expected, even though the number or percentage may be quite small.
In some ways the development of ratings is probably one of the most valuable services the A.R.S. can perform. The more individuals and groups who cooperate in this the more accurate will be the ratings finally developed.