The Flowers of Eld Inlet
Mrs. Lloyd Jordan, Tumwater, Wash.
Who is a hybridizer? George Ring, in an address at the 1976 convention commented on "Who is a Hybridizer?" He listed 9 steps involved in the development of a new and worthy hybrid rhododendron:
1. Obtaining pollen
2. Pollinating a seed bearing plant.
3. Collecting seeds
(b) In the Wild
4. Distributing seeds.
5. Growing Seedlings.
6. Selecting Promising Seedlings.
7. Test and Evaluation.
8. Final Selection and Registration.
9. Production and Distribution.
Many members do not consider themselves hybridizers. From his point of view you can see that most members of our society are involved in one or more steps of hybridizing. If you are growing seeds, even though the crosses were not made by you, you too, deserve recognition and credit for your work, if it results in a worthwhile plant.
The most experienced, longtime hybridizer in our Olympia Chapter, Roy Clark, started by just such a method, growing seeds. He first became interested about 30 or 35 years ago during World War II years, 1942-1946, when he was in his late thirty's. This was fortunate because it gave him a chance to live long enough to see the future of the plants he introduced early in life.
He first heard of rhododendrons through a nurseryman friend in Portland. Roy and an Olympia friend imported the plant, 'John Coutts' and several others from England. They obtained seed from Sir John Ramsdon of Scotland in exchange for materials that could not be obtained in Britain because of the war. They also imported seeds and cuttings from Kew Gardens. These were grown on a place they had on the Bay until Roy's friend, a dentist, could not continue with the project, and Roy carried on alone. Most of these plants were lost in the freeze of 1955, but one fine plant of this group was 'Puget Sound', introduced in the early 1950's.
It is 'Loderi King George' x 'Van Ness Sensation'. Dorothy Chamberlain grows it and rates it higher than 'Loderi King George' in her garden, which puts her in disagreement with the published ratings of these two plants. Also, 'Puget Sound' has a better hardiness rating than 'King George'.
In the early 40's a flat of plants from Ostbo of Seattle of the cross 'Loderi King George' x williamsianum produced the Olympic Series. You will find these listed in the Leach Book. 'Olympic Lady' was the best white in the 1950's. It was sent to Kew Gardens. It is hardy to -5° and has been a well known and popular parent to use for other crosses.
There is also a 'Miss Olympia', and a pink called 'Lollipop', grown by someone in Elma, as Roy distributed many of the seedlings among other growers.
During the 1950's Roy introduced the purple 'Aunt Martha', an unknown seedling from Aberdeen. Members may recall the stunning picture this plant presented when it was the center of interest in the landscape display that won first prize for the Olympia Club, at the National Convention and flower show, in 1966 at the Tacoma Mall.
'Thundercloud' is an unknown cross of his own. His wife, Rosina, said these two, with 'Purple Splendor' in bloom together, caused passers-by to stop and look. Their chief assets were their color, hardiness and ability to take the sun. Others are 'Hamma Hamma', a 'Fabia' cross, red with a dark spot; 'Fort Nisqually', 'May Day' x 'Hugh Koster', a red; and others of the Fort Series, and also, 'Leschi'.
In the early 1960's Roy introduced 'Vicki Reine', named for his daughter. It has been advanced two steps by the rating committee. The flower is similar to 'Rainbow', but it is larger and the plant has an interesting leaf texture. It blooms later, is hardier and does not grow as tall and wide. ('Rainbow' H3-4 M 4/3 - 6 feet) ('Vicki Reine' H3 ML 4/3-4 - 5 feet)
Both of these flowers are similar to 'Point Defiance'. At the Pacific Rhododendron Show in Tacoma a few years ago, the question was asked about two of these plants, what is the difference? They were on display and I went around and looked at them a second time. I think I might choose 'Vicki Reine' on the basis of hardiness rating and leaf texture. If you like 'Rainbow', you would enjoy lovely 'Vicki Reine'.
Sometimes a good plant is overlooked in the mad scramble to obtain tender ones that have been publicized in the mild Seattle-Tacoma area. Comparisons are needed for those living in colder areas.
In the late 1960's Roy also introduced 'Noni C', white with a pink edge, 5 feet in 10 years and with large heavy foliage. The cross is 'Mariloo' x 'Olympic Lady'. It should be tested with the previously described plants, as the description of the flowers and foliage is similar.
In 1969 he introduced 'Potlatch', a late blooming red of four feet. The cross is 'Grosclaude' x 'Britannia'. It has along, olive green leaf, heavy indumentum of tan, and a mound-like habit. No bud pinching is needed. It takes sun and is a good bloomer. Roy considers this his favorite, although he likes 'Glory Be', a large plant and flower of unknown parentage. The truss and flowers are so enormous that the name is apt. It is a deep rose color with a tinge of purple on the stems. These two are being tested in the field by Bruce Briggs.
The following plants are described in Greer's catalogue: 'Aunt Martha', 'Vicki Reine', 'Olympic Lady', 'Thundercloud' and 'Puget Sound'. One of our members, Dorothy Chamberlain grows 'Hamma Hamma', 'Olympic Lady', 'Puget Sound', 'Aunt Martha', 'Ft. Nisqually', 'Rosina', 'Vicki Reine', 'Glory Be', 'Potlatch' and 'Butter Yellow'.
Roy's present garden is a fairly new woodland garden of 7 acres on Eld Inlet. He calls it Rainbow Gardens. It is on the Young Road on the left hand side going towards Frye Cove Park. There he has 300 to 400 varieties and countless numbers of seedlings and cutting grown plants, propagated in his well constructed green-house. He has so many, in fact, that he is not operating the greenhouse at present.
The temperature of these gardens is conducive to the growth of tender plants. He has R. griffithianum 4 to 5 feet tall growing there. He also has seedlings outside from the Sikkim expedition, that some of the people from Tacoma brought home with them from the Himalayas. Although he gets frost, it doesn't last. This is quite a contrast to Tumwater Hill or the prairie toward Yelm, or toward Little Rock, or numerous other areas in Western Washington.
Roy has always made his living in work with sawmill machinery. He does not necessarily judge or like a plant because it is suitable to the nursery trade. With a hobbyist, it is the something new and different that is appealing and the challenge of growing it, in his garden. Roy has many northwest hybrids.
He first became a member of the Tacoma Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society when it was organized, about 1950. When the Olympia Chapter was organized, he became its first president.