The Greenwood Azaleas
Bill Guttormsen, Canby, Oregon
During the Spring of 1959, we were beginning to assemble azalea varieties for nursery cutting stock and very soon discovered that the selection in this area was limited to a few varieties. The mail order selection seemed to be good but our luck was apparently bad because we received several varieties that were obviously not what they were tagged, so we were afraid to propagate and sell from this source.
I had been thinking about hybridizing rhododendron but decided to try to develop new azalea varieties which seemed to be needed this area. Many of the varieties that were available had tall, open habits which required a great deal of shearing and shaping, so our first goal was for compact, well shaped plants.
To obtain this shape, we selected 'Helen Close' for the seed parent. The lineage in this variety is R. kaempferi, mucronatum, and 'Shinnyo-no-tsuki' (Indica 'Albert-Elizabeth' x macranthum). The flower is large and a pure white single with a light yellow blotch.
To obtain orchid colors, we selected Purple Splendor (poukhanense x ' Hexe' (obtusum var. amoena x Belgium Indian 'Duc de Nassau')) as the pollen parent. This flower is a large, ruffled, hose-in-hose and the plant carries the genes of 'Hexe' which is a red hose-in-hose. We feel this flower form is more desirable than the single form and it transmits easily in crosses. Most of the plants raised from this cross had hose-in-hose flowers.
Next we selected 'Glamour' and 'Madrigal' (indicum x 'Hazel Dawson' (kaempferi x mucronatum)) for the brilliant red and salmon-red colors. We felt that these combinations would give us a chance of getting large, single, semi-double, and hose-in-hose flowers in a wide range of colors. Nearly three thousand plants were grown to maturity from these crosses.
The following plants were selected from the Purple Splendor cross:
'Royal Robe' - a low compact plant with a large hose-in-hose, dark orchid flower that blooms late.
'Jan' - a semi-dwarf, hose-in-hose, orchid plant that flowers midseason.
'Katie' - a semi-dwarf; ruffled, hose-in-hose orchid with long, upright flower buds resembling candles. Late flowering.
'Pink Lace' - has a medium habit with a large pink, hose-in-hose flower.
'Pink Fancy' - has gold and green variegated foliage, a large pink hose-in-hose flower in midseason.
'Concho' - a very dwarf, compact; single, bright orchid flower.
The Glamour cross produced the following plants:
'Pink Cloud' - a large, full double pink on a tall plant with heavy, coarse foliage, flowering very late.
'Jet Fire' - a large single, fragrant flower on a medium, compact plant that blooms early.
'Tat' - a full double pink flower on a low, round, compact plant in midseason.
The Madrigal cross produced:
'Sleigh Bells' - a large, single white with a low spreading to a medium tall habit. Late flowering and very hardy.
'Cloud Cap' - a low, round, compact plant that bears large, single, white flowers late in the season.
All of these plants appear to be hardy to zero and below. When we feel that a gap exists for a particular color or form, we select parents and continue crossing until we feel the chances are good that we will get that particular plant. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. Occasionally an entire group of seedlings will be identical .-and inferior, but normally we get a variety of shapes and forms, and occasionally, an exceptional plant or flower turns up. Many more varieties have been selected and named than are listed here. Each one is distinctly different, and is tested for many characteristics before it is released including rooting ability, hardiness, color, consistent and heavy budding, and attractive foliage.
Hybridizing is interesting and at times very exciting, as many of you know from experience. The combinations available for producing new varieties are endless. The important work has already been done for us by such men as Joseph Gable and B. Y. Morrison. By using these plants as a base, and adding new species or new hybrids, particularly from Japan, we could anticipate the development of many new, outstanding and perhaps exotic plants. I hope more members will consider working with the evergreen azaleas.
We operate a wholesale nursery without facilities for mail-order or retail sales. Anyone living outside of the Portland area who is interested in obtaining our azaleas should contact Mr. Ellis Jones, Island Gardens, 701 Goodpasture Island Road, Eugene, Oregon, 97401.