Franklin Lakes, New Jersey
Retirement is a time when many of us are required to accept an abrupt change in the substance of our lives. Some approach retirement with a vague sense of dread wondering how they will fill so many empty hours. Others eagerly anticipate retirement as a time when they can pursue the activities they didn't have time for while earning a living. Rhododendrons and especially the pursuit of new rhododendrons through hybridizing has the power to give us a new focus and provide stimulating, even exciting activity to replace our former careers.
Frank Lloyd Wright wrote about architecture, notably his architecture, as something that could "nourish the human spirit." I'm not precisely sure what this phrase means but it has a resonance that suggests a germ of truth. The human spirit is nourished by art and by music and by other things as well, but gardening with rhododendrons and the seeking of exciting new plants can give our lives a purpose that more than replaces our former concerns.
Rhododendron breeding is still early in its stage of development. Much remains to be done about flower truss formation, plant habit, leaf retention, extending the hardiness of the "showier" sorts and adaptability in general. Anyone can choose one or more of these objective to keep the mind engaged and fingernails dirty...day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year. In addition we can benefit from the better physical health and the happiness that results from contributing to the earth's beauty.