A Talk by David Leach before the A.R.S. at the Annual Meeting
Seattle, Washington - May 16, 1964
I am going to start my talk this afternoon with some speculative things concerning rhododendrons. As soon as one gets into the realm of deductions and inferences he runs into differences of opinion, but it is an interesting area of rhododendron study: the series or clans, to which the species belong. The resemblance of one species to another may not be so strong to one observer as it is to a colleague 3,000 miles away, so you do have these differing views and it is perfectly understandable. It is a little bit like the differences of opinion about children. Someone says a new born child looks just like his father; someone else says he looks just like his mother.
The phylogenetic chart in my book is a family tree of rhododendrons now shown here on the screen. It illustrates the sequence in which the different series, or clans, of species evolved in the course of evolution over millions of years. This sequence is not the same as has been previously published and 1 thought you might be interested in seeing how I arrived at the changes. In general as you look at the chart the scaly-leaved clans are on the right, the Azalea-like clans are on the lower left and the non-scaly series are in the center and the upper left of the family, tree. Such a species as R. fortunei is typical of the sorts without either hairs or scales. Incidentally this picture is of one of the plants grown from the original seed sent back from China by Robert Fortune in 1856. If you magnify the underside of the leaf of Rhododendron fortunei two hundred times it is entirely devoid of hairs.
But there is a large group of species in numerous different series with indumenta. The purpose of the indumentum is to control the loss of moisture and the higher the species grow in the mountains of southeastern Asia the thicker the indumentum. You can almost place the altitude where species originate just by examining the indumentum. Some species have two layers, with different kinds of hairs and this affords the best protection of all against moisture loss because it makes a wind break and forms a layer of still air next to the leaf's under surface. Let's examine through the microscope some of the hairs making up the indumenta of various species and see what they mean to us.
A Primitive Type
Fig. 22. Funnel shaped hairs of R.
falconeri. An unknown species
can be placed in the Falconeri
Series on the basis of this hair type.
Here is R. falconeri, the primitive large-leafed species, not much changed since the age of the dinosaur. If you take a piece from the indumentum, put it beneath the microscope so that it is magnified two hundred times you find cup-shaped hairs. You know instantly when you see the cup-shaped or funnel-shaped hairs on any species that it belongs to the Falconeri series. The identification is as certain as the brand on a steer is to a rancher. When a man who owns the C-Lazy-U Ranch sees cattle with the C-Lazy-U brand he knows they belong to him. If, under magnification, you see funnel-shaped hairs in a rhododendron indumentum you know instantly that the species belongs on the Falconeri range.
R. lacteum is a beautiful, but temperamental, yellow flowered species and wightii has been placed by taxonomists in the same series. They don't look much alike, do they? Well, what does the indumentum tell us? A photomicrograph of the lacteum hairs magnified two hundred times shows radiate hairs. If you look closely you will see that there are ovoid arms forming a loose rosette. If wightii were very closely related to lacteum the hairs of the indumentum ought to be very similar. But what do we find? They are very different as you see in this next slide. R. wightii has a two layered indumentum; the top layer is formed of ramiform or branchlike hairs on the surface and at the bottom of the slide from the under layer is a single hair of the rosulate type. This pretentious name simply means it is supposed to resemble a rose-like cluster. It doesn't look much like the lacteum hairs which we saw a moment ago and if I were a taxonomist working on the Lacteum series I would take wightii right out of it.
But let's go back and look at the hairs resembling the loose rosettes of lacteum for a moment. Remember that these hairs have to be shaved off the underside of the leaf with a razor blade so there are a lot mangled and two hair types that make up the arboreum indumentum.
Here is another species in the Arboreum series. There are no dendroid a lot of fragments but if you look closely you will see complete hairs. There are some of them there, resembling this loose rosette that I am talking about. A species in another series has indumentum hairs which are almost identical. Notice here also that the hairs are like loose rosettes where they are complete and whole in the slide as a good many of these are. This is a species with radiate hairs as you can see, identical with those of lacteum, and the name of the species is brachycarpum. Well, brachycarpum is in the Ponticum series. I would certainly take this species out of the Ponticum series and give considerable thought to putting it into the Lacteum series.
R. maximum is our native rhododendron in the northeastern United States and Dr. Cowan, Dr. Hutchison, Mr. Stevenson and other British authorities have always maintained that the mature leaves are glabrous, devoid of hairs. I can only conclude that maximum requires sunshine to maintain hairs, and that in the British climate it quickly becomes bald. In any case here are the non-existent hairs from the indumentum of one-year-old leaves of R. maximum magnified 120 times. The second photograph of another specimen clearly shows the dendroid character, or the tree-like structure, of the hairs of R. maximum. The indumentum is a thin one but you can find specimens of R. maximum literally by the millions with this dendroid type of hair.
Two Layers of Hairs
Arboreum is another species with two layers to the indumentum. The surface layer is dendroid or tree-like as you see in the large hair in the center of the slide, and the under layer is rosulate or forming rose-like clusters as you see below the tree-like branch reaching out to the left. These are the hairs here-only very small hairs forming rose-like clusters. This is R. argyrophyllum. My studies have convinced me that the Argyrophyllum subseries evolved collaterally and not directly in the same line with the Arboreum series. So in the course of preparing the chart for my book I broke this series up in the family tree. Instead of being on the main trunk of evolution with the Arboreum clan, the Argyrophyllum sub-series is on the side branch.
A good many hobbyists grow bureavii because of its handsome indumentum. R. bureavii has ramiform or branch-like hairs, the branches being thread-like in the surface layer. Another picture taken through the microscope shows the branched hairs of bureavii with the shorter armed, rose-like clusters of the rosulate hairs which constitute the under layer. There you see the two different types of hairs in the indumentum of bureavii. Dr. J. M. Cowan published a masterful work on this subject about fifteen years ago and it was called The Rhododendron Leaf. My own studies differ in some respects from his findings and I'll mention these as I go along. This species bureavii in the Taliense series has an indumentum identical with some species in the Argyrophyllum subseries of the Arboreum series and it shows their close relationship.
An old friend hardy in the east is R. smirnowii. The photomicrograph shows the ramiform tentacles along with the shorter armed rosulate hairs of the under layer. You see the ramiform hairs to the right and the single rosulate hair on the left, very similar to those of bureavii which we just saw on the preceding slide.
Now let's have another look at the smirnowii indumentum for just a second. The branch-like hairs, and rose clustered hairs constitute the two layers of the indumentum. Let's see now how different these are from the hairs on the two layers of indumentum of R. makinoi. The two are in the same Ponticum series. Here you see that makinoi has an outer surface of branched tree-like hairs quite unlike those of smirnowii, and an under layer of rose-clustered hairs. Yet makinoi, from Japan, and smirnowii, from the Caucasus of Asia Minor, were put in the same series. The two are not closely related. They shouldn't even be in the Ponticum series together. The Japanese species are one clan; the Asia Minor species are another.
Hookeri is a beautiful rhododendron as this picture shows. It is one of the most easily recognized species because of the tufts of hair along the veins. This is what these tufts of hair look like when they are magnified a hundred and twenty times. Each tuft is a single bundle of arms originating from the same base and these are called fasiculate hairs.
The Azaleas have their own distinctive trade mark in the hairs on their leaves. The picture on the screen is an evergreen Azalea hybrid called 'Marjorie' produced by the Pride Nursery of Butler, Pa. All the Azaleas, both deciduous and evergreen, have these simple stiff hairs that are called strigose. The edge of the leaf in the photomicrograph is here magnified 200 times.
Indumentum and Scales
Fig. 23. Loriform hairs from the
indumentum of R. bullatum. This
type of hair is found only on scaly
R. bullatum is a beautiful greenhouse shrub which is wonderfully fragrant. It belongs to that strange Edgeworthii series which has both the woolly indumentum and underlying scales, a unique combination. As you might expect, the Edgeworthii series has an unusual hair type shared by several other scaly leaved species and this is called a loriform hair. It is found only on species with scales, never on the non-scaly. A cross section through a bullatum leaf shows the long convoluted loriform hairs, entwined as you see here, with a single scale visible at the top. The hairs intertwined form a mat-like mass with this magnification.
R. auriculatum is a popular rhododendron for its very late white flowers. You don't usually think of auriculatum being hairy but it is. It has the bristly hairs that you see here. Note that they're tipped with glands. The little knobs that you see at the end of the two horizontal hairs are the glands. A cross section of the midrib of a different specimen of auriculatum, shows again the gland-tipped hairs. Dr. Cowan found that the setose hairs of this species are largely without glands but I have found that they are largely with glands as you have seen in the last two slides. It is really not important but it seems to me that all the specimens I have examined have these gland tipped hairs. In any case these bristle-like hairs bear little resemblance to the dendroid hairs in the form of a tree, seen in the next slide, yet this species is in the same series as auriculatum. These hairs were scraped from the indumentum of griersonianum. If there is one association in the entire genus which has nothing to support it, this is it. Auriculatum and griersonianum have so little in common that they are downright incompatible and they ought to be divorced without further delay.
R. augustinii is one of the most attractive of the Triflorum rhododendrons. Most of us look for the hairy midrib as one of the means of identifying it. If you make a cross section through the midrib of augustinii magnified 200 times, it looks like the picture on the screen. These are filiform or filament-like hairs, composed of a single cell. You see the midrib of the leaf on the left and the single-cell, needle-like hair on the underside of the leaf magnified 200 times.
R. pubescens is a pretty little shrub in the Scabrifolium series. It also has single cell hair-like filaments as seen in this picture. This is a photomicrograph of the top of the leaf. The single cell filaments arising from the leaf surface are visible. The under side of the pubescens leaf shows the scales and if you look very closely you can see a single filiform hair rising from the surface.
Fig. 25. Filiform one-celled hairs
on edge of juvenile leaf of R.
moupinense. Protective hairs
are shed when mature leaf
develops thick cuticle.
Fig. 26. Simple, bristly, gland
tipped hair of R. glischrum. The
author removed R. strigillosum
from the Maculiferum Subseries
and placed it in the Glischrum
Subseries because of its similar
R. moupinense is a popular early blooming species. The picture shows an exceptionally good pink-flowered form from Caerhays estate in Cornwall. If you take the leaf of this species in a juvenile stage it also has these filament-like hairs and this illustrates another purpose of these hairy leaf coverings. Some protect the tender young leaves until they develop a thick cuticle and then having served their purpose drop away; these hairs are not found on the mature leaves of R. moupinense.
R. maculiferum, is the type species for the Maculiferum subseries, a rather rare one in the United States. It has a distinctive hair, type called folioliferous as you will see in this next slide. This grandiose word just means "bearing leaves." You note here the little flat, ribbon-like, very short leaves branching off the main stems; folioliferous.
Notice how different these next hairs are. These are simple bristly hairs of the setose class. They bear little resemblance to the leaf clad branches of the preceding, yet this species was put in the same series as maculiferum. The hairs you see here are from R. strigillosum. It is ordinarily a brilliant scarlet. In my book I took this species out of the Maculiferum subseries because it just seemed too completely ridiculous to repeat an old mistake in a new work. Obviously, the simple bristly hair of strigillosum identifies it with the species from which this next picture was taken. This also is a simple bristly hair though it does happen to be gland tipped. It comes from R. glischrum, which is the type species of the Glischrum subseries. I therefore put R. strigillosum in the Glischrum subseries where it clearly belongs and I understand that there are still some thumps from falling bodies at the presumption of it all.
R. wasonii in its best forms is a beautiful species. The picture shows a yellow-flowered form, and so far as I know, no one has ever used this attractive rhododendron in breeding. It has a hair type unlike any we have seen so far which is called the long-rayed hair. Notice that the arms are of even width and ribbon-like as taken from wasonii.
Fig. 27. Long rayed hairs
compose indumentum of
Fig. 28. Capitellate hairs
resembling short handled mops
make up the indumentum of
R. campanulatum. Identical
hairs on R. fulvum suggest a
A Plastered Silvery Indumentum
The leaves of sinogrande are probably the most dramatic in the genus. A single leaf may be three feet long. A terminal rosette of a number of leaves may be as much as seven feet across. R. sinogrande has a plastered silvery indumentum composed of hair's in rose-like clusters with a sparse admixture of dendroid or tree-like hairs of which you see fragments in this photomicrograph. This is characteristic; whenever you see the rosulate hairs alone there is always a plastered type of indumentum.
R. fulvum is a very attractive species in the Fulvum series, scarcely ever seen in its best form as it is pictured here. It is one of the most richly indumented of all the rhododendrons. R. fulvum, has still a different type of hair structure from those we have seen so far. These are capitellate hairs as found on R. fulvum. They have short stems and a mop-like head. A magnified cross-section of a fulvum leaf looks like this.
Here we have another species with hairs like a mop with a short handle, very similar to the hairs of fulvum and yet it is in an entirely different series. This is R. campanulatum. If I were revising the Fulvum and Campanulatum series this evidence of close relationship would give me pause. I would consider other evidence too, of course, but this similarity of hair structure would make me examine the facts as to whether R. fulvum and R. campanulatum should not be in the same series.
Useful in Identification
Fig. 24. The tree-like dendroid
hairs of R. griersonianum
indumentum. The midrib hairs
of R. auriculatum, formerly in
the same series, are totally different.
Finally, to conclude this part of the talk, you might say, "What are the uses for this type of information?" Well, Cecil Smith and Hjalmer Larson provided me with most of the specimens that I used for this study but when I needed both rare and somewhat tender species, I often asked for them from several sources and one of those species which I got from several sources was kyawii. One of my correspondents sent me a leaf labeled "kyawii" and when I looked at the indumentum through the microscope it had the appearance seen on the screen. Now kyawii is in the Parishii subseries of the Irroratum series and should have stellate or star shaped hairs. I'll show you now a photomicrograph from the indumentum of griersonianum and you can identify as well as I can the late blooming red rhododendron from which the leaf came that was sent to me labeled "kyawii." So this is one of the practical uses of the study of the indumentum.
Dr. Clarke suggested that I show you some of the rhododendrons we grow and enjoy in the East. Here is one called "P. J. M.," a cross between carolinianum and dauricum. This is a group name; the best clone is number 15. The winter foliage has a striking purplish color. It blooms very early, with mucronulatum, and makes a five foot shrub, densely evergreen and well foliaged. This is a new one introduced by the Weston Nursery up in New England.
The striking white flowered dwarf you see in the next picture is 'Dora Amateis', a cross between carolinianum and ciliatum. It is scheduled for introduction this fall by Baldsiefen, in New Jersey, and at wholesale by Sid Burns on Long Island.
Here is an ordinary form of mucronulatum planted with Magnolia stellata, it's pretty but it has a good deal of blue in its pink and the color is somewhat muddy at close range. A clear pink which we like very much in the East is called 'Cornell Pink'. Henry Skinner, Director of the U. S. National Arboretum, made this selection and there is also a seed grown strain, in which the majority of the plants are equally clear in color.
'Pioneer' a Gable hybrid is some sort of a racemosum-mucronulatum derivative, it is very attractive; the flowering is, well you might say, violently, right after mucronulatum.
R. linearifolium is one of the Azaleas we like in the East. We are tired of the multitude of similar hybrids that you see everywhere in these evergreen Azaleas but this is one that we think has some character and distinction as the next picture will show. It is just a very attractive evergreen Azalea which, as far as I know, should do very well out here.
Another one with character that we like is 'Hatsugiri'. It molds itself to a six inch carpet oŁ flowing color coming down the slope which you see in this picture. Euan Cox will identify it as being taken at the Botanic Garden at Edinburgh. 'Hatsugiri' is sparsely distributed in the East but commercially available.
'Hino Red' is a brand new, patented Azalea being introduced for the first time this spring from the Shammarello Nursery, in South Euclid, Ohio. It promises to be a good deal hardier and more sun fast than any of the reds we now have.
An unusual use for evergreen Azaleas is seen here in azalea Kaempferi espaliered against a building. I learned recently that this is an Italian word, not French, and the correct way is to say "es-pall-eared" whereas I have been saying "es-pallyay'd" for a good many years. Anyway, a rangy grower such as kaempferi is needed for this unusual and attractive use of azaleas as you see in this picture.
In the East we can't understand why you fellows out here don't grow more of our native azaleas. Here is prunifolium. It comes along in August, when everything else is over, with these brilliant orange-red flowers and the R. H. S. rates it 4 stars, but it is very rarely seen on the West Coast. It is commercially available from different sources.
The species shown on the screen is one that doesn't bloom; you might say that this next one detonates. It is one of my selections of cumberlandense. It is called 'Scarlet Salute' and it blooms at the end of June. Plants have been given to several nurserymen here on the West Coast who specialize in the propagation of deciduous Azaleas so it will be available out here and you should have it in a couple of years. Darrel Kammer has it and Bob Comerford and several others I can't remember. I sent sets to a number of the people who specialize in the propagation of deciduous Azaleas.
Another one that we think you would enjoy out here is canadense forma albiflorum. In the East we think this is one of the most beautiful of all Azaleas. It is very early blooming and it has these butterfly-like flowers that we think have great aesthetic appeal.
Some Natural Hybrids
I'm going to show you now a little series of natural hybrids, some of which I collected and others I grew from seed. They bloom around the first of July when not much else is in flower. In my garden I think they are attractive and I wouldn't be without them. This white came in with seeds which were marked "Furbishi." The picture gives you the garden effect of the natural hybrid and a closer look at the next slide shows you the white flowers with the yellow blotch. It is an arborescens natural hybrid.
'Colouratura' is a bakeri natural hybrid of unusual and dramatic color. Now remember these flower early in July when there is not much else in bloom.
'Cream Puff' is an ivory with a yellow blotch, the natural hybrid you see on the screen.
'Pink Puff', a salmon flowered natural hybrid coming up, is probably an advanced generation derived from bakeri and arborescens.
I named the next one 'Pink Plush' because somehow the color reminded me of the Gay Nineties.
'Chamois' is an off white with a pale yellow blaze. Again, plants of these have been given to the West Coast nurserymen who specialize in propagating deciduous Azaleas and will be available out here in a year or two. The next picture gives you the garden effect of 'Chamois'. This comes in early July and many of these are wonderfully fragrant. They scent the garden for yards around and as far as I am concerned I think they are very fine.
There is quite a little interest on the West Coast in the Ilam Azaleas and I have made a few selections from several thousand seedlings that I grew. Here is one called 'Canterbury.' You can see the enormous size of the flower, by comparison with the 4˝" label. 'Chartreuse' is not my selection. It is one made by John Yeates in New Zealand.
The next one, 'Spring Salvo', is mine and it gives a brilliant garden effect. It is very early flowering, just about as early, I think, as any deciduous hybrid that I have seen. Don't get the idea, however, that gigantic flowers are necessarily the most effective as small flowers freely produced may be much more ornamental as you can now see on the screen. This picture was taken in the Northwest, incidentally. The Azalea is the old, old species luteum introduced in 1793. We may not admire the use here but the effect is hard to beat.
You've read in the Bulletin about the strange red-flowered maximum found in the Blue Ridge mountains in North Carolina. There has been a great deal of interest in the East and at least some in the West. The usual form of R. maximum looks like this at its best. It blooms the first week in July and has small trusses partly hidden by new growth. Here is the second generation grown from the red flowered maximum found on Mt. Mitchell in N. Carolina. The plants propagated from the original specimens lost their color at low altitudes and it has been suggested that it is because there is not as much difference between the day and night temperature, the differential being much greater up in the mountains. But this plant, grown from seed by Warren Baldsiefen and subsequently given to me, retains much of the red pigment and I think it is unusual and perhaps a potentially valuable parent.
Another unusual form of R. maximum is maximum var. leachii. This has an interesting, somewhat oriental foliage effect, with the undulant leaves, and a dwarf stature. It was named for me by Bernard Harkness, Rochester, N. Y., who was the botanist who first described it.
This next slide doesn't relate to anything else, but I brought it because I thought you might find it interesting. It shows the tremendous gain which can be made by flash-lighting small rhododendron seedlings one second per minute at night. The sign is self explanatory. All you have to do is give them a total of 12 minutes of light all night long and the growth rates are approximately four times the usual growth rates with a normal number of hours of darkness at night. The flat on the left was flash-lighted; that on the right was not. The equipment to do this costs about $24.00 in all and if you are a breeder and want to gain time I know of no better way to do it than by flash-lighting your seedlings at night one second per minute. This is the result you get.
Standard Hybrids in the East
It was also suggested to me that I show some of the standard rhododendron hybrids in commerce in the East together with some of the newest things produced by the eastern breeders.
'Lady Armstrong' is representative of the conventional rhododendron hybrids we grow. Ninety-nine per cent, plus, were introduced about a century ago. This one came from Anthony Waterer sometime before 1873. 'Sefton' Anthony Waterer produced about 1881; it went out of fashion for awhile and now it is having a revival and there is a fresh demand for it. It is a strange plum-red color with a bloom on it and hard to catch in a photograph. Our most popular red in the East is called 'America'. It is one of the few exceptions to the general rule that we are growing rhododendron hybrids that originated a century ago. 'America' as you see it here was introduced by Koster in 1920.
'Boule de Neige' came from a French breeder called Oudieu in 1878. This is a very old plant which you see on the screen. It is usually only about 4' tall, and broader than it is high. 'Roseum Elegans' is the most popular rhododendron grown in the East. It is very hardy, grows anywhere, propagates easily, and has a compact habit. It is over a century old, having been introduced by Anthony Waterer in 1851. Some hobbyists consider 'Mrs. C. S. Sargent' to be the finest of all the old standard clones. It has been with us since Anthony Waterer sent it over about 1888. 'Catawbiense Album' is a hybrid with the same name as the wild species. It is another of the phenomenal successes of the master breeder, Anthony Waterer, who lived from 1820 to 1896. 'Catawbiense Album' is not a species variety, but a hybrid. It used to be the fashion to latinize hybrid names because this was a sign of erudition.
'Parsons Grandiflorum', also produced by Anthony Waterer, has been with us since 1875. It speaks for itself as seen on the screen.
'Everestianum' is at least 114 years old. We know it was introduced by Mr. Waterer before 1850. At any rate, that's a representative assortment of the standard rhododendrons in commerce in the East. You must have noticed that the whites aren't bad, the red's are flawed by blue, and the pinks by modern standards are terrible. But they survive 35° below zero and subzero cold lasting two or three weeks at a time and that's what we need in the East.
Here are some of the newer things of much higher quality that have come out in the last four or five years.
'Betty Hume' is a Dexter Hybrid. It's a beautiful rhododendron but is only hardy enough for favored climates along the East Coast.
'Scintillation' is another Dexter hybrid which has received a lot of publicity and it is very attractive. It also is for favored climates, as it is not so hardy as at first appeared. It can stand brief cold snaps to possibly 10 to 15 below zero but it cannot stand prolonged cold. This is the best known of all the Dexter hybrids.
Here is another group of Dexter hybrids, quite a little bit hardier than the foregoing, selected by the Bosley Nursery of Mentor, Ohio. These are not quite so cold resistant as our old standard ironclads but they are very free flowering. This one is called 'Lavender Princess'. I would say that these Bosley Dexter hybrids bud up on each terminal about 98% year after year, I have never seen rhododendrons more floriferous.
The next one is called 'Brown Eyes', another Bosley selection. They are all extraordinarily free blooming. There are about ten of them.
Tony Shammarello. of South Euclid, Ohio, has produced a rather extensive list of hybrids; of these the following have done particularly well for me at Brookville: 'King Tut' is about as hardy as the old standards and it has a good growth habit. It is a fine rhododendron for our climate. 'Pinnacle' is another one about as hardy as the 19th century Waterer hybrids but much improved in flower quality and color. 'Caroline' is one of Mr. Gable's hybrids, introduced several years ago. It is nicely fragrant but not quite hardy enough to be called an iron clad. 'Mary Belle' may be the best of all of Mr. Gable's rhododendron hybrids. It opens pink and ages yellow. It is distinctive and there is nothing else like it that we can grow in the East. It has a good growth habit, but we don't yet know exactly how hardy it is.
'Rochelle' is the first of Guy Nearing's conventional rhododendron hybrids to come on the market. This is a handsome rhododendron, quite hardy, but it couldn't quite win an H-1 rating.
I'll show you a few pictures, if you'll excuse the personal reference, of my own hybrids for such interest as they may have. I called this one 'Duet' because of the pink and yellow color combination. It appears to be perfectly bud hardy to 25° below zero.
'Tahiti' is orange in garden effect, a novel color for the East, and again it also is hardy enough to be grown almost anywhere.
'Blaze' represents the closest I have been able to come to a deep orange-red, eliminating the blue reds which we have always had up to now.
'Limelight' is the best yellow that has so far shown up. Its flowers are very large, but the color is pale. It is hardy to 25° below zero.
This is the best white I've been able to come up with. It's called, tentatively, 'White Caps'. It is a considerable improvement, it seems to me, over the old standard 'Catawbiense Album' both in its growth habit and its flower quality, and it is even a good deal hardier.
'Janet Blair' as you see on the screen is among the most free blooming of all the rhododendrons I have seen. It is named for a well known actress who came from our neighboring county in Pennsylvania. The large ruffled and fluted orchid-like flower reminded me of the feminine Miss Blair.
The next slide shows a very pale pink, a clear delicate color which we do not now have in commercial hybrids. This is a descendant of 'Mrs. Furnival' crossed with something much hardier, and I have not yet named it.
Next is a strong pink which I call 'Pink Flourish'. I'm not so much taken with this one myself; it seems to me a trifle overblown, like a Ruben's nude. It is a little gross, but visitors liked it and 1 finally decided to name it.
Here we have a distinctive pale wine color with a burgundy blotch, not yet named.
Everybody seems to be interested in yakushimanum hybrids so I brought along a picture of one I called 'Spring Frolic'. This is a cross between yakushimanum and a selected form of catawbiense var. album. The close-up gives you a little clearer idea of the flower. This bloomed after the coldest winter in a century when the temperature went to 35° below zero.
A Woodland Garden
Finally, I thought you might be interested to see a woodland rhododendron garden in the East. Mine is the most accessible so it is mine that I photographed and I will show a few pictures of it. Here we are early in the year, in late April, with Virginia Bluebells in the foreground and Daffodils. There's a chapmanii hybrid in the middle-ground, one of my own selections called 'Vernus' just beyond and so on. Next is another early season scene with schlippenbachii on the left, carolinianum var. album on the right, Nearing's hybrid 'Rochelle' in between, and I see also vaseyi var. album on the extreme right. Very early in the season for us, this is late April.
In the next picture canadense forma albiflorum is in the foreground. Just beyond is the Gable hybrid, 'Conewago', planted with Daffodils and blooming a little later, in early May.
In mid-season which is about the end of May for us, comes the big splash as you can see here. Looking down toward the work area from the top of a flowering slope at my place in Brookville, you see a tool shed in the distance, storage shed and the ground beds on the right where the seedlings are grown. Even our century old standbys make a pretty good show. In the foreground is 'America', with 'Roseum Elegans' behind it. I don't admire the color combination very much anymore. R. calendulaceum is the yellow in the middle foreground on the right. Even 'America' and 'Roseum 'Elegans' when they get some size make a pretty brave show though their color is quite badly flawed.
In the foreground on the screen you see the ground beds where the seedlings pass two years before being lined out in rows. My place is a combination of hybridizing and trial grounds, as well as a garden, so it is really not too much of anything. After the plants come out of the ground beds they are planted out in rows as you see here until they bloom and can be judged, at least on a preliminary basis, and if they look at all promising they are transplanted out of the rows and up into the woodland landscape for further observation as you see in the next picture.
This picture was taken looking across the rows of new hybrid seedlings in bloom. In the next picture, with the woodland beyond, is another segment of what I call the nursery. Even though I don't sell plants, that's the best word for it because they're just lined out as they would be in a nursery. Next is one of the older sections of the woodland plantings.
The time I enjoy most looking at my plants when they are in flower is in the early morning and sometimes in the mist it looks like this. In the foreground you see some preliminary selections which have been made from crosses of about 10 years ago, with the hybrid seedlings beyond in another portion of the nursery.
Finally this is the aspect I most enjoy and look forward to seeing every year. The great billowing waves of color washing through the woodland have brought the phantom ship of the hybridizer's dreams home on a sea of flowers, laden with a hopeful new cargo of first blooming hybrids. Most will be disappointments, but a few will give the electric moments of recognized success, the galvanic surge of delight that here is something beautiful and new on this earth. That makes the voyage of the previous twelve months worthwhile.
Tape Recorded, Courtesy H. H. Miller Seattle Chapter