The Progeny Of Helen Everitt
Selma Fuller, Easton, Connecticut
The woman, Helen Everitt, took us to see her uncle, Sam Everitt, when he was old, and sick. He sent his nephew out to get some seedlings for us, some of his last cross for which he had high hopes. He died a few months later. We took the best care we could of the little seedlings, but, of course, we lost many of them. We did not know the methods people know today of bringing little seedlings along to blooming size plants in a short time, so it was quite a number of years after Mr. Everitt died before our seedlings bloomed. They were so different from the rhododendrons we had seen heretofore that we thought all of them were beautiful, but it was the very white one that we selected to exhibit. The people running the flower show placed it on the Dexter table, where it looked very much at home, and where it won the prize for best Dexter in the show. And that day we named it 'Helen Everitt'.
It was known that Mr. Everitt worked with Dexter stock, but it is not known whether or not he worked only with Dexter stock. It was stated recently that 'Helen Everitt' was a cross of a Dexter with some other strain. This deduction may have been made by a regrettable mistake I made when I registered it, a mistake I made in connection with a minute measurement of the calyx. It was a mistake I did not catch until I checked my notes after I heard the statement, and was surprised at the certainty of the announcement. It looks as if our 'Helen Everitt' will keep being called a "selection by Sam Everitt". I wish it might have been, but we selected it from a number of other seedlings many years after Mr. Everitt died, as the tiny seedling he gave us, with many others, did not bloom until Mr. Everitt had been dead for many years. We named it 'Helen Everitt' because she was the friend, now deceased, who took us to see Mr. Everitt.
The same day we received the batch of seedlings, Mr. Everitt gave us a large, old plant which we called 'True Love', because we did not know its name, or if it had a name. Cuttings from this plant had been grown, we learned later, on Long Island, and they were called 'Honey Dew'. The color of the bloom is indeed the color of honey dew melon. But this name was not registered and has since been used on the west coast by a plant tender in our region. So we continue to call our plant 'True Love'.
We have been growing the progeny of 'True Love' and 'Helen Everitt' for eighteen years, and we have many selections that may be the equal or even superior to 'Helen Everitt'. Many are hardier than 'Helen Everitt' and do not lose any buds. The only way we could grow the great number of seedlings we have grown was to plant them out in our woods, and let them fend for themselves. The ones that have survived are indeed rugged, and just as hardy as our Iron Clads. We have done little discarding because they make the woods exciting in the spring, and they supply bouquets of unbelievable beauty. Also, perhaps some day somebody very learned will come by, at blooming time, and tell us if our suspicion is correct that these various seedlings show discolor, fortunei, griffithianum and decorum influence. This spring we found one that had layered itself all over the place. This may mean it roots easily from cuttings, as 'Helen Everitt' does not.
At a flower show on Long Island, I pointed to an exhibit and asked Fred Knapp, "Do you call that yellow?" He replied, "If it were anything else, it would not be yellow. In a rhododendron, that is yellow." Such yellows have been showing up in our seedlings for the last several years, all fragrant and very hardy, hardier than 'Helen Everitt'. They do not lose buds.
The late Mr. Everett Bobbins produced a good yellow he called 'Butter', a cross of campylocarpum and 'Champagne'. When we saw him near the end of the blooming season he was distressed that none of the crosses he had made with 'Butter' appeared to be setting seed pods. He found one unopened bud on his plant. He gave this to Henry and asked him to make some crosses on our plants which were still blooming. Henry succeeded in getting seed on several plants that might produce the big fragrant hardy yellow, so long desired. He divided the seed with Mr. Bobbins, but after Mr. Bobbins death there was confusion in regard to labels, and the disposition of Mr. Bobbins seedlings is not certainly known.
We are pleased with our eighteen years work with these big fragrant flowers. In much of the literature on the Dexter-type flower it is stated that what is wanted is a reliably hardy, fragrant white flower. This we surely have, in abundance, and with slightly different variations, of pure white and rhododendron-yellow. If for no reason but the joy the old and new flowers give us each spring, the venture would have been well worth while.
This article was probably written in 1977. The author is now deceased.