Dr. Carl H. Phetteplace 1894-1982
Curtis Huey, Springfield, OR
It is with much sadness that we report to his many friends and acquaintances in the American Rhododendron Society the death of Dr. Carl H. Phetteplace on October 21, 1982, at the age of 88. Known as one of Oregon's outstanding physicians and surgeons, many society members became aware of Dr. Phetteplace through his contributions to the Bulletin, the Society, the Species Foundation or met him in his garden at Leaburg, Oregon. All who knew him were aware of his willingness to share his knowledge and plant material. It is certain that many gardeners in the Northwest got their start because of this kind gentleman's encouragement, his enthusiasm for growing the best hybrids and species, and his sharing of what he had in his garden.
As hard as it is to conceive, at one time Dr. Phetteplace knew as little about rhododendrons as many new members in the society. In 1944, he was one of 18 founding members of the Men's Camellia and Rhododendron Society in Eugene, Oregon, which eventually became the Eugene Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society in 1951. During these early years, Dr. Phetteplace grew about 150 varieties of camellias, but freezes and disease problems soon caused disenchantment. Del and Ray James, along with Marshall and Ruth Lyons, talked to him about James Barto and the rhododendrons being grown on the Barto farm west of Junction City, Oregon. They suggested that this was an alternative to growing camellias.
Having just started his medical practice and with little money available, he drove with a trailer to the Barto farm, where plants were being sold for $1.00 each. Dr. Phetteplace picked out 15 or so plants by foliage only — there were no labels on the plants. These rhododendrons became the foundation of his species collection. Of course other plants were added from time to time. From the James' he acquired R. fargesii, later named 'Barto Rose', a beautiful pink R. schlippenbachii, and what was to become the most noble of the species in his garden, the giant R. calophytum that impresses visitors with its flowers and foliage. Those who have seen this plant say that when both flower and foliage are considered, it may be one of the best in cultivation. The large R. barbatum which gave pleasure to so many visitors until the freeze of 1972 came from Jack Simons, a local collector.
Species and good hybrids were sought out and added to the garden. The Barto plants, the species and hybrids he found in the Northwest, his contacts with gardeners in England and Scotland and plants from the 1948 Rock collection led to one of the fine collections in this country.
The Rock collection was unique. Bought in 1950 by Dr. Phetteplace, he was most proud of these plants. Through the years, many plants were lost but several dozen survived to impress visitors to the garden.
Much hybridizing was done by Dr. Phetteplace and he sent hundreds of seed packets of crosses and species to the Seed Exchange. He was cautious about naming new hybrids so one does not find a long list to his credit. He created and named such useful hybrids as 'Crater Lake', 'Show Boat', 'Gretchen Gossler', 'Verna Phetteplace', 'Queen of McKenzie', 'Prince of McKenzie', 'Ruth Hanson', and 'Mount Hood'. Others are growing many of his crosses. Some crosses being grown in local gardens show much promise.
Dr. Phetteplace was awarded the Gold Medal at the 1968 Annual Meeting of the American Rhododendron Society held in Eugene, Oregon, for his many contributions to the society. He continued with his involvement by serving as Vice President and as a most successful President of the American Rhododendron Society during a period of time when the concerns of the East and West could have split the society. On the Board of Directors of the Rhododendron Species Foundation, he donated a number of species plants to the Foundation Garden, where they may be seen by visitors. A R. balfourianum, a fine R. lacteum, and a R. argyrophyllum were so large that they required special equipment to move them. He cared a great deal about the American Rhododendron Society and the Rhododendron Species Foundation and saw the two organizations as beneficial to each other.
Retiring from his medical practice in 1975, Dr. Phetteplace continued to work with his rhododendron collection until the end. It has been said that the greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. Dr. Phetteplace's many contributions to the community, to the medical profession, and to rhododendron enthusiasts throughout the world demonstrate that he made good use of his life.