Seed Exchange Report
Kay Ogle, Mercer Island, WA
By this time, midsummer, several hundred thousand rhododendron seedlings should be greening the four corners of the earth, if all has gone according to plan. Here at the Seed Exchange the left-over seed has been tucked into the refrigerator and we are making plans for next year. But first a resume' of how it all worked out this year, my first year as chairman.
Seed began to arrive in mid-November and continued until the middle of January when receipt was closed to prepare the copy of the list for the printer. Orders started to arrive two days after the catalog was mailed, Feb. 16th, and quickly reached a peak of 40 to 50 per day. We did not start to fill orders for two weeks - until we had received orders from the East Coast, Europe and Japan. Contributors orders were filled first, on a random bass and the general distribution was handled the same way, that is, random selection of orders. Work crews of 4 or 5 Processed orders four days a week until the 1st of May when we were caught up with the backlog. 680 orders were received for 12,000 packets of seed from 36 states and 13 foreign countries. (This does not include the Malasian seed handled by Esther Berry.) Seed was supplied to many of the leading arboreta of the world including Edinburgh Botanic Garden. The largest volume item was the unidentified species from China with 250 Packets sent out.
We should all be deeply grateful to the over 100 contributors who made the effort and took the time to pollinate, collect, clean and contribute the seed which makes the whole thing possible, and we hope their generosity will continue. It is our goal to offer seed of all the species in cultivation and we need more contributors. A letter has gone out to all chapter presidents which describes in detail the procedure for hand-pollinating and collecting seed and we hope every chapter will include a demonstration on hand-pollinating in its program this year.
Basically, the procedure for sending seed is simple. Collect the capsules as the pedicels begin to turn brown and allow them to dry inside in an open container. Agitation will normally cause the seed to fall out but if it does not (usually because the capsules were picked too green), do not crush them as the seed will then be difficult to separate from the chaff. Send either the cleaned seed or the capsules, but either way, always wrap in double folded tissue inside the envelope so we won't lose the precious stuff out the corners of the envelope or stuck to the tape used to seal the corners. Labeling should be accurate and legible and include the date collected.
And please give us a break and get the seed in as early as possible. We have a dedicated group of volunteers but we don't like to ask them to work Christmas Day and New Years Eve and there is a lot of cleaning, packaging and labeling to be done between receipt and dispersal. January 15th will be the last day for seed to be included in the 1979 Seed List and any seed arriving after that date will be kept for the following year. There will be no addenda.
The demand for wild collected seed is great and fortunately our Japanese contributors were active and generous. We were short of our native American species, particularly the special forms, and should do better in this area. Everyone wanted yellow carolinianum and the named forms of bakeri, occidentale and catawbiense. Demand is great for hand-pollinated seed of species and for open-pollinated seed where no hand-pollinated seed is offered. And of course the good hybrid crosses are in demand. We were pitifully short of azalea hybrids, both deciduous and evergreen. There seems to be no end to the demand for the forms of yakushimanum and its hybrids.
This year we did not include in the catalog any item which we had in a quantity fewer than five packets, and we may raise this number. These were used for substitutions. The most difficult part of our job is making substitutions and here we ask your understanding. We have many instances of 50 orders for eight or ten packages of seed. Examples are ludlowii, phaeochrysum, recurvoides, tsariense, megeratum, lanatum, caloxanthum and makinoi and some of the previously mentioned natives. It is important that members make alternate choices when ordering although there is no assurance that we will have the alternates either. Substitutions were made unless the member specifically requested that we not substitute and then a refund was made.
We have learned a lot - both about the genus rhododendron and about running a Seed Exchange and the thing that amazes us now is that we had the temerity to tackle the job in the first place, particularly following in the footsteps of that paragon of knowledge and capability, Esther Berry. It could not have been done without the help of a great many enthusiastic and faithful volunteers. But there has been the satisfaction of providing a worthwhile service and helping to spread the joys of growing our favorite plant to an ever-widening group of enthusiasts. The kind words of appreciation for our efforts that were received with some of the orders were heartwarming and did much to keep the workers interest from flagging on those fine spring days when digging in the garden had more allure than choosing substitutes and licking stamps.
Thanks to George Ring, we now have a good start on a slide program of plants raised and flowered from the Seed Exchange. Please send us some of your favorites.