Notes From Barnard's Inn Farm
Polly Hill, Vineyard Haven, MA
The three busloads of ARS members on June 1, and the group of 20 or more from ARS Massachusetts chapter later in June could not help but leave their mark on Barnard's Inn Farm, Martha's Vineyard. As host and hostess for the event my husband and I longed for more time to talk with all those knowledgeable and delightful individuals. Several thoughts on plants and planting emerge as worthy to pass on.
Two North Tisbury plants, unnamed by me, are in the trade, and I would like to clarify their identity and history, briefly.
1) Hill's Single Red: syn. nakaharai North Tisbury Orange.
The first name appears in the catalogue of Walter and Mary Beasley, Transplant Nursery, Parkertown Road, Lavonia, Georgia 30553. The second name appears in the catalogue of Greer Gardens, 1280 Goodpasture Island Road, Eugene, Oregon 97401.
HISTORY: In 1961 I received a packet of seed from Dr. Tsuneshige Rokujo in Tokyo, labeled Rhododendron nakaharai Open Pollinated. All but one of the surviving plants were hybrids, clearly, and 2 were named 'Marilee' and 'Wintergreen'. My #61080-C refers to the plant in question. The C stands for Compact. As I learned later, it seems to be the true species as represented by the Taiwanese Mount Morrison R. nakaharai species commonly grown in Japan. It is indistinguishable from the species R. nakaharai as sent to me from the Rhododendron Species Foundation 73/195.
The original plant is currently in my Play-Pen at position 2-S. It is now about 12" wide and 4-5" high with light red flowers. This plant is culturally more demanding than the hybrids.
I have not named it since it seems to offer nothing new or better than the existing species 73/195 of the Species Foundation, which is a very smooth and compact plant. My Rhododendron nakaharai cv. 'Mount Seven Star' is readily distinguished from my 61-080-C. The foliage is hairier, the flowers larger and deeper red, and the plant is more vigorous. 'Mount Seven Star' comes from the mountain of that name (in English) in Taiwan, and is a clonal selection from the wild of which I am very proud.
2) Mrs. Hill's Flaming Mamie is the other plant in the trade, which I have not named. It is also listed in the catalogue of Transplant Nursery. Mr. Beasley writes: "Yes, you are the Hill, and yes, you are right. Hill's single red matches R. nakaharai 61-080-C and R. nakaharai x R. kaempferi matches Flaming Mamie. Our stock of these came from Ralph Pennington at the time when Ralph had realized that his illness was terminal. Apparently Ralph assigned description names to these plants. Ralph insisted on giving us cuttings of everything that he considered good. He seemed most anxious to have his collection perpetuated.
My #61-078 was grown from seed, hand pollinated by Dr. Rokujo and labeled Rhododendron nakaharai x R. kaempferi. I have 2 plants, very similar, located in my Play-Pen at 7-N. They seem definitely hybrid, much more compact than other R. kaempferi, somewhat later to bloom, hold more leaves longer, and are indeed Flaming - whoever.
They are about the first plants to succumb to the azalea petal blight, about June 1 on Martha's Vineyard. I did not name them because I thought they were too gaudy. But I can imagine they would be just right for an "Oh my!" planting. They are very hard and vigorous, bearing their blossoms in a show of solid color.
One or two other thoughts emerged from the visit of the Rhododendron Society that I would like to share. Rhododendron makinoi in my Play-Pen showed clear evidence of black vine weevil nibbling on the edge of the leaves. I believe rhododendron growers have felt the indumentum was distasteful to the weevil. Our strain of the pest is non-gourmet.
A cheering note: The Beasleys have been breeding and collecting our native azaleas for years. They have grown many R. atlanticum from my Choptank River strain (pink and white). They have one beauty labeled "Choptank River Hybrid C-1 " that has a fuller and wider petal than my strain. Right on! The eastern natives have more champions.