Something To Think About
B. C. Potter, Port Ewen, New York
For many years authors have presumed to know where rhododendrons will and will not grow well, leaving the impression that favorable areas were the only places they would be successful.
This, in effect, has tended to retard the expansion of rhododendrons to those supposedly less favorable areas. Fortunately, this is changing. For one example I was recently privileged to visit the mountain home of a naturalist deep in the heart of the Catskill mountains where a surprising collection of rhododendrons is flourishing and among them could be found oriental species, interspecific hybrids etc. Rhododendrons are not all delicate, fragile plants. They are for the most part, mountain top growers, where they endure the elements at their worst and should be able to thrive most anywhere in the North Temperate Zone, if they can find the moisture light and nutrients they need for survival.
Generally speaking man has made them tender and fragile in his breeding efforts to produce oversize, delicate flowers, with little or no thought being given to the plant itself or its year round ornamental beauty.
With honor, respect and gratitude to the breeders of the past, one could scarcely call their pollinating methods scientific. Yet many today continue to use the same pollinating methods, that in turn produce questionable pedigree records.
Now, I do not mean to imply present-day breeding can be classified as scientific, but I do want to point out that controlled pollination is vital to the practical rhododendron breeder, if he plans to utilize the scientific advances as they come along, and keep accurate records.
For a long time rhododendron breeders have felt the need of scientific guidance over and beyond the information available to them in books that deal for the most part with the improvement of food crops.
So one can readily understand the large gathering of those interested, at the first meeting of the Breeders Round Table in Pittsburgh, under the leadership of Dr. August E. Kehr, a man of science and a part-time rhododendron breeder, who is well aware of the problems and needs of the practical breeder. His ability to bring together other men of science, makes it possible to offer a forum where the practical breeder could seek the latest scientific answers to his questions and keep up-to-date on advancements as they come along. The large attendance at the morning, afternoon and night sessions bespoke their keen interest in the subject matter.
Again in Portland the Breeders Round Table sessions were of great educational value to all and drew a still larger attendance. The gratitude of all interested in the future of rhododendrons in general should go to whomever created the Round Table idea, and to the forward looking Society officers who approved and encouraged the idea.