Bob Ross, Portland, Oregon
I had been dreading the arrival of the grant application from the Rhododendron Research Foundation because most of these forms are formidable challenges to the applicants. However, this one was a simple one-page questionnaire, not at all painful. We were asked what we proposed to do, where, for how long, and why this was worth doing.
We explained we planned to search for forms of R. macrophyllum which were superior to the general run of lanky plants with little pink blooms. We would look for good foliage and growth habits as well as better flowers. When we found these superior plants we would map and tag them, collect cuttings and (we hoped) go back to them later to collect seed.
The "where" would be easy. We would go back to the same area where we found our 1984 plants. This was just because we knew something of the place, not from any lack of other possible sources of plants. As the Forest Service Director told us, there were probably 150,000 acres in his district in which R. macrophyllum was "the dominant brush species". We decided to apply for a three year grant, planning to explore in this area during the bloom seasons of 1985, 1986 and 1987.
The Foundation doesn't want to fund just a camping trip. We were asked to explain what we saw as the significance of our proposal horticulturally or scientifically. The garden value of fine new forms of the species is clear. But of wider usefulness may well be the hybridizing potential of good forms of R. macrophyllum. The species is regarded as being quite drought resistant, and might well be important in developing new hybrids for water short gardens. Some of the plants we saw growing and flowering well in gravelly sand in full sun certainly were drought resistant.
The Foundation accepted our "what, when, where and why" explanations, with the stipulation that we publish our results in the Journal.
A bed has been set aside in the Jenkins Estate Garden, Forest Grove, Oregon, for growing the Ross-Boge R. macrophyllum forms. As they develop we will be propagating them and hybridizing with them, and enjoying their wide diversity.