The New A. R. S. Book
A new book, which has been in preparation for some three years, is announced in the advertisement on the back cover of this issue. This will he the third in a series, of "Yearbook" type, published at approximately five year intervals, to follow "Rhododendrons 1956" and "Rhododendrons for your Garden," both of which are out of print.
The ratings committee met some 16 times in its work of providing variety descriptions and ratings and have provided this information for over 400 varieties. Franklin H. West, M.D. and his colleagues of the Philadelphia Chapter have revised and brought up to date the ratings for evergreen azaleas in the Philadelphia area. The large number of azalea varieties available, many of rather recent introduction, has made selection by the gardener somewhat difficult. Although these ratings are offered specifically for Philadelphia and vicinity they should be most useful wherever these attractive plants can be grown with reasonable satisfaction.
Dr. Henry Skinner, Director of the National Arboretum at Washington, D.C. has kindly consented to draw on his wealth of personal experience and provide suggested ratings for the native azaleas of the Southeast.
All ratings, of course, are tentative, in the sense that many of them will probably be changed some time in the future as more information is accumulated. The new system of ratings is being tried out on a large scale for the first time. The merit ratings are expressed as fractions, with the numerator denoting flower quality and the denominator indicating plant and foliage quality. Superior characters are rated 5, above average 4, average 3, below average 2, and inferior 1. Hardiness ratings are expressed as "Hardy to -5," or to whatever other minimum temperature the plant will withstand, during mid-winter, without visible injury to bud, leaf or stem. These ratings are expressed, not in single degrees, but in 5 degree intervals as they are based on a consensus of committee members and a finer distinction would usually have little meaning.
A discussion of insects which may damage rhododendrons, and their control, is given by Dr. E. P. Breakey, recently retired as Entomologist at the Western Washington Research and Extension Center, at Puyallup, Wash. Dr. Breakey has been a rhododendron fan as well as an Entomologist for many years. Recent advances in disease control on rhododendrons and azaleas is covered by Dr. Charles J. Gould, Plant Pathologist at the same Research Center. Dr. Breakey and Dr. Gould covered these same general subjects in "Rhododendrons 1956" and have been actively engaged in some phase of pest control on rhododendrons both before and after the publication of that book.
We have all seen occasional pictures of plants grown as bonsai and now and then the subject has been a rhododendron or azalea. However, this book includes one of the first, if not the first, treatments of bonsai with specific application to the genus Rhododendron. Mrs. Ainsworth Blogg, of Seattle. Wash., developed the story, in cooperation with other members of a Bonsai group at the University of Washington Arboretum.
Dr. David Leach, author of "Rhododendrons of the World" has contributed a most interesting account of the poisonous principle found in certain rhododendrons. Beginning with the account of Xenephon whose army, in 401 B.C., was temporarily incapacitated when they gorged on honey made from the flowers of R. luteum, the author traces the history of rhododendron poisoning down to the present day when the toxic principle has been identified and species separated into groups which contain it in relatively large amounts, which are intermediate, or which are apparently free. A large part of the account deals with the use of rhododendron leaf extracts during the Middle Ages as medicine for the treatment of arthritis, and the disastrous effects of such treatments. We hasten to add that we know of no case where the handling of rhododendrons or azaleas has had harmful effects, and that we see no reason at all for the rhododendron lover to be alarmed. It is a story you will enjoy reading and it does add to our total knowledge of the genus.