Pioneer Award - G. Guy Nearing
G. Guy Nearing has become the third recipient of the American Rhododendron Society's Pioneer Award. The Pioneer Award, established in 1981, is given to a person who has made a significant contribution towards growing the genus Rhododendron in America. The award may not be given more often than once in two years. Previous recipients have been Joe Gable (1982) and Cecil Smith (1985).
ARS President Bill Tietjen announced the award at the Society's annual meeting, May 2, 1987, by reading the following letter of nomination from District Seven Director, Patricia Walton:
We, the members of the four chapters comprising District Seven, wish to nominate G. Guy Nearing for the prestigious Pioneer Award of the American Rhododendron Society.
Mr. Nearing has been prominent in the annals of our society since its inception in 1944, as he and Joseph Gable were well known even then for their hybridizing efforts in the Northeast. Nearing began working with rhododendrons in the late 1920's, when he was associated with the Guyencourt Nurseries in Delaware, and in 1930, began his voluminous correspondence with Joseph Gable. Spanning a period of two decades, these letters exchanged by Gable and Nearing delineate their attempts to develop strains of species and hybrids which are adapted to the rigorous climate of the Northeast and are a wonderful source of information and inspiration to those who still pursue this goal.
Early in his career as a nurseryman, Nearing recognized the need for a method of producing own-root rhododendron cuttings on a large scale for the commercial nursery. He is well known for his invention of the Nearing Propagating Frame, a structure designed to create an atmosphere of continuous humidity in indirect light, which accomplished this goal. The Nearing Frame, for which Nearing received a U.S. patent, is still used by many nurseries and hobbyists. Nearing was also the first to suggest the wounding of semi-hardwood cuttings as an adjunct to the formation of a sturdier and better balanced root system, as well as other pioneering propagation techniques.
Guy Nearing was eager to disseminate information about the genus Rhododendron and in a letter to Joe Gable in 1931, he stated the need for a Rhododendron Society in this country. He wrote articles for "The Floral Exchange" and "Florists Notes" in addition to presenting programs to garden clubs and horticultural groups. In September, 1940, he reiterated the need for an American Rhododendron Association, and after the formation of the ARS in Oregon, he became an active member of the New York Chapter, the first chapter on the East coast. He later was a founding member of the Tappan Zee Chapter and regularly attended meetings of this and the New Jersey Chapter, where he conducted studies of species and other topics.
Although he worked as a nurseryman most of his life, Guy Nearing's prime interest lay in the creation of beautiful and hardy rhododendrons for our difficult climate. He joined the British Rhododendron Society and became conversant with others in Great Britain and the United States who were in the forefront of exploration and introduction of new species and development of new hybrids in this extensive genus. Nearing became an authority in his own right and was able to obtain seeds and pollen to initiate his program. His association with Joe Gable and their shared resources allowed both of them to expand and enrich their goals. Hundreds of crosses were made and thousands of seedlings were raised. The gene pool they created still serves as a valuable reservoir for those who are engaged in further development of this work. Nearing had a particular interest in the dwarf lepidotes suitable for rock gardens and small-scale designs, and he is know for his creation of such popular varieties as 'Windbeam', 'Wyanokie', and the Guyencourt hybrids. Two of his best-loved plants, 'Ramapo' and 'Mary Fleming' are grown extensively from coast to coast. His plants are also sought after in Great Britain and Japan.
Currently, the Nearing Study Group is continuing efforts to evaluate, propagate, and distribute worthwhile hybrids and selected species of the Nearing plants which remain after the destruction of his last nursery in Ramsey, New Jersey. In 1981, Dr. A. R. Fitzburgh, former chairman of the Nearing Study Group, submitted a letter of nomination of Mr. Nearing for the Pioneer Award. We consider this letter a further endorsement.
Guy Nearing lead a life devoted to the study of rhododendrons. He made invaluable contributions to the culture and development of these plants and to the service of the American Rhododendron Society from whom he received the Gold Medal in 1959. We feel he is a worthy candidate, indeed, for consideration for the Pioneer Award.