Molly Grothaus, Lake Oswego, Oregon
Hybrids And Hybridizers, Rhododendrons and Azaleas for Eastern North America
Edited by Philip A. Livingston and Franklin H. West, Harrowood Books, Newtown Square, Penn.
Few people, including. rhododendron enthusiasts, realize the extent of the potential gardening adventure open to them with the tremendous advances which have been made in the development of rhododendrons and azaleas hardy on the East Coast. Here is the guide to that adventure and the map (zone hardiness).
The better pan of fifty years ago five men began their separate and lonely quests in search of those rhododendron and azalea parents capable of producing big flowered, brighter colored offspring which, most important of all, would be hardy in winters that might range from zero to 20 or 30 degrees below.
A diverse group these men were. Charles O. Dexter, the New Bedford textile manufacturer, cultivated hundreds of hybrids at his Shawme Farm. The farm has since become the Heritage Plantation of Sandwich and many of the Dexter hybrids, long dispersed, have come home again. After the family farm at Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, was inherited by Joseph B. Gable, he gradually changed it from diversified farming to a rhododendron nursery. The multi-talented Benjamin Y. Morrison developed the Glenn Dale azaleas while director of the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., and after his retirement produced the Back Acres azaleas. G. Guy Nearing, working at his nursery in Ramsay, New Jersey, took an intellectual and creative approach to hybridizing. Many of the propagating methods he devised are widely used. Coming on the scene a little later than the others, Anthony M. Shammarello, the Cleveland nurseryman, developed rhododendrons hardy in northern Ohio.
Biographical sketches by ARS members who knew the five well, their own correspondence, and excerpts from their notebooks draw a vivid picture of each and his struggles to achieve his goal.
The book is replete with lists, charts, descriptions, hardiness ratings and evaluations. Sponsored by the ARS, Hybrids and Hybridizers is good reading and an important addition to rhododendron literature. With this guide to the multitude of new rhododendrons and azaleas developed by the Big Five in hand, follow Ben Morrison's advice. "Frankly, I cannot see why any person who wants any plant and does not know in advance its behavior in his own area, does not do what I do: buy it and find out." At that point, all this information becomes a personal adventure.