Seedlings vs. Clones*
The introduction of new rhododendron hybrids from Great Britain has made us increasingly aware of the vast improvements which have been wrought by our gardening contemporaries abroad. The accounts of the A. M. and F. C. C. forms in the publications of the Royal Horticultural Society leave one with an overwhelming desire to possess them all. Unfortunately, at the present time the majority of them are unobtainable, or at least very scarce in this country. The reason for this is that, in order to obtain a plant which is identical to the A.M. or F.C.C. form, it must be vegetatively propagated from the original plant. Consequently, the process of dissemination is exceedingly slow. Seedlings from the same cross or seedlings from a similar cross would not necessarily have the qualities of the award plant and in many instances would be inferior. Yet, according to the rules of nomenclature, the progeny from the same cross made any time or any place shall be accorded the name given to the original hybrid For example, R. griersonianum x R. 'Loderi' is called R. 'Sarita Loder' which means that anyone making the same cross is entitled to call his plants R. 'Sarita Loder'. However, the original description of this hybrid was made from a selected form and therefore this same description would not necessarily hold true for the rest of the progeny or the progeny of any similar crosses. It would be particularly true in this instance since one of the parent, is a hybrid and even if it were self-pollinated it would not produce a constant batch of seedlings.
It is discouraging to wait several years for a so-called new hybrid to bloom only to find that it is apparently a seedling form and in no way comparable to the description of the award plant. Furthermore, because of the many new hybrids now being released, the practice of selling rhododendrons under a hybrid name without indicating that they are seedling forms tends to create a confused situation which will be almost impossible to correct. Therefore, it is important that nurserymen inform their customers regarding the proper status of the plant. If it is a seedling out of the cross, let them be so marked. If the plant has been imported from Great Britain and has not been designated as an award plant, then indicate the source from which it was procured. However, under no circumstances should a plant be given the description of the award plant unless it is actually a clone from that particular plant.
* Clones: A group of plants propagated only by vegetative and asexual means, all members of which have been derived by repeated propagation from a single individual. "Standardized Plant Names", 2nd Edition, American Joint Committee on Horticultural Nomenclature.