Dexters Way Out West
Francis W. Mosher Jr., Woodacre, California
On the Garden Tour arranged for the 1974 A.R.S. annual convention I was surprised to see what appeared to be a Dexter hybrid in the display garden at the North Willamette Experiment Station near Aurora, Oregon.
Closer inspection showed an identification tag labeled "Dexter Hybrid #976." It looked like "Spice" (Dexter #968) but did not have any noticeable fragrance. Nearby were sturdy rhododendron stock plants labeled "Dexter Hybrid #10" and "Dexter In Jail."
Our tour guide, an Experiment Station Technician, when asked indicated that additional information could be secured from Dr. Robert L. Ticknor. Realizing that Charles O. Dexter had not spent any time in jail, I ran after Dr. Ticknor and cornered him just before the tour bus left for the next stop.
He explained that the designation "In Jail" was given to a plant on the Dexter Estate by Mr. Stanley Berns. After purchasing the Estate in about 1956 Mr. Berns had the brush and seedling trees that had grown since Mr. Dexter's passing removed from the plantings. One plant was found that was surrounded by 7 or 8 pine trees whose trunks were 4-5" in diameter thus looking like it was in jail.
Cutting from "In Jail", which is not a registered name, and other varieties from the Dexter Estate were started in 1957 while Dr. Ticknor worked for the University of Massachusetts. These plants were moved to Oregon in 1959. For 15 years these three Dexters and other rhododendrons from the Dexter Estate have thrived on the summer heat and freezing winter cold (down to 5° Fahrenheit with strong winds) of this broad Western Valley. Inquiries for additional information would be welcomed by Dr. Ticknor or the writer.