Winter Meeting of Rhododendron Society, January 30, 1947
More than 200 members of the American Rhododendron Society paid little attention to a heavy snow and ice storm on January 30 and came to the regular quarterly meeting held that evening in the Public Service Bldg. Auditorium.
Highlights of the meeting included the election of officers, appointment of committees, reading of the annual financial report prepared by Yergen and Meyer, Certified Public Accountants and the decision of the Society to sponsor an expedition in Asia headed up by F. Kingdon Ward, world famed British plant hunter. Detailed reports appear elsewhere in the Bulletin.
An informal talk by John Henny, Jr. president of the Society followed the election. He recently spent two months in England visiting famous rhododendron collections. Excerpts from his talk follow:
"The first place of real interest that I visited was J. B. Stevenson's "Tower Court". It is about 35 or 40 acres in size. He has the series of rhododendrons growing together. The most outstanding feature was a little valley, the sides of which were planted with R. grande, and types with the rich reddish brown leaves, so that one could see them from the bottom. Mr. Stevenson has not made a great many hybrids. The few that he has made were top notch such as 'Azor', and three new ones not generally found: 'Red Cap', 'Romarez' and 'Polar Bear'. 'Polar Bear' is a very vigorous, robust shrub with white flowers about the middle of July. 'Red Cap' blooms at the end of June, and the name is descriptive of the color. It is a brilliant red. It is a small foliaged plant four to five feet in height.
"While talking to British gardeners, I discovered they were almost unanimous that there is no hybrid that can hold a candle to a species. To the artist, there is a sense of unbalance, that something is top heavy about hybrids. The species gives more blooms at a younger age. Gardeners also prefer to have the bells gracefully pendant, plants tight, compact and proportionate, and not exceeding five or six feet. That is the opinion of the people of England.
"The next place I visited was Exbury Gardens where Mr. de Rothschild spent a lot of his time starting gardens in 1919, and continuing until he died. It seems unbelievable, but there are 500 or 600 acres, all planted to ornamental trees and shrubs. If there is anything that is grown, it can be seen in the Exbury Gardens. They are all there. The British gardener is a very keen gardener, one who takes a good deal of pride in the garden. In the Exbury Gardens it was not mentioned which rhododendron is the most important. Many of his things are very good. R. 'Lady Chamberlain', 'Lady Roseberry' and 'Royal Flush' will always be remembered. 'Marydell' is a very large flowered yellow, another very hard to grow. 'Mariloo' is well worth growing, it will make a good plant. 'Grenadier' is another, the flowers are a brilliant blood red. R. 'Golden Horn' is another one, the flowers being larger and more orange. R. 'Halcyon' was graceful."
At the close of his talk, Mr. Henny answered specific questions on his observations of rhododendron culture in England. Some of the questions and answers follow:
Question: Do they apply scientific methods to their experiments?
Answer: Wisley has a large building 40 x 250 feet. There is complete laboratory equipment there. They track down plant diseases, and are at the service of the Royal Horticultural Society. They are always carrying on experiments. They were working on dahlias at the time. The committee was out there judging those things. They work on fruit trees, flowering trees, chrysanthemums, etc. That is the test ground for the rhododendrons too.
Question: Did you see the place where they hold their shows?
Answer: Grayco Hall. It is 8 or 10 feet above the floor. The show is held on benches. The building is 60' wide and 150 to 200 feet long, and very high, 40 or 50 feet high, with a glass roof. Shows are held every fortnight. I saw a fall show. The outstanding show was the fall colored trees.
Question: Why are some of the varieties in England so scarce here?
Answer: Very simple. Many of them are grown by private amateur gardeners. If Mr. Rothschild gave Mr. Stevenson one of the selected forms of his, he would propagate for himself. Most of the hybrids have been done by the private amateur gardeners.
Question: Are most of the plants we are getting from England the award of Merit and F.C.C. varieties?
Answer: They are most of the seedlings out of the cross.
Question: How big are some of the specimen rhododendrons?
Answer: Some in the states are as large as any you will see in Great Britain. For instance I saw the pink pearl, 20 feet across. I saw one 400 feet around.
Question: Are the English rhododendron minded?
Answer: Yes, Even fallen seeds mature and grow in the open ground. They use them also in hedging.
Question: What is the trend in color and habit?
Answer: Mr. Hanger was working toward a good yellow. He was using 'Cunningham's Sulphur'. As to habit, they are working on the dwarf and also to stretch the blooming season into August and September. Another thing is to get a real and truly good blue color. Slocock, who was at the head of the rhododendron firm, said what they want is a "biscuit" color.
Question: Is the Aberconway garden going to be kept permanently?
Answer: At the present time, the house is a polished stone building. The Admiralty has taken it over. Aberconway is one of the most wealthy in England, but it is a question whether he will be able to keep it. Unless things are completely changed over there, in order to maintain his gardens he would have to grow plants, and sell them. They would have to keep their gardeners and grow enough to pay their wages.
Question: Did you visit Kew Gardens?
Answer: Yes, They had a row of 17 greenhouses but there were only four or five left from bombings.