In Memoriam: Weldon Delp
Weldon Delp of Harrisville, Penn., born in 1920, passed away in March 1999. He left wonderful memories to his family - to his wife, Virginia, the memories and joy of each spring coloring and naming new rhododendron hybrids; to his older daughter, Judy, the original farm where his evergreen nursery was established and his love of rhododendrons began; to his younger daughter, Joyce, his rhododendron nursery including acres planted with his hybrid rhododendrons and a desire to preserve his work.
His greater legacy he left to the world, more than a thousand selected and named rhododendron hybrids, both lepidotes and elepidotes, about a third of which have been registered in the International Rhododendron Register. He never sold any of his creations; he kept some but he gave away more than he planted. He rested in the uncertain assumption that if they were any good the world would not let them die. He was perhaps the most prolific rhododendron hybridizer of plants for cold and extremely cold climates. What survived in his planting in Harrisville, Penn., was certainly bud hardy to at least -15°F (-26°C) and several bloomed after -30°F.
With never a request for a research grant, he did his own research and developments in propagation as well as hybridization and freely shared information and techniques. Study group meetings were often held in his greenhouse, and he met weekly with a few who wanted to learn more. Some brought questions to which they could have looked up the answers, but it was easier to just "ask Weldon."
He was awarded the Bronze Medal by the Great Lakes Chapter, and in 1986 he received the Gold Medal from the American Rhododendron Society. Nomination letters were replete with words like "enthusiastic," "generous," "knowledgeable," "innovative," and "meticulous record keeper."
Weldon will live on in the minds of many that he touched and in the hearts of the few who were closest to him. Every spring at places all over the country the essence of what he loved will begin to swell and break forth into bloom, and many who never knew him will be graced by his passion.
His life and work were chronicled in two volumes of Rhododendron Hybrids, in three reports in the Journal American Rhododendron Society (43:1, 1989; 49:1, 1995; 49:3, 1995), and in the American Nurseryman, May 15, 1974.
A collection of 233 of his creations is preserved with professional care at the Dawes Arboretum, Newark, Ohio.