The ARS Gold & Silver Medal Who's Who and Their Associated Hybrids, Part IV
Clive L. Justice
Vancouver, British Columbia
In the Fall 2003 issue, Clive Justice began his discussion of ARS Gold and Silver medal winners. Part II was published in the Winter 2004 issue and Part III in the Spring 2004 issue. He continues the series with Part IV.
Sandra McDonald of Hampton, Virginia, was the next woman to receive an ARS Silver. It was given for her hybridizing efforts and her service to the Society in chairing the Journal Editorial Committee and helping to guide the Research Committee; her work with both helped to elevate the ARS to professional credibility. The Society and its Journal have overcome its purely amateur status due in no small part to the work of Dr. McDonald. She was presented with the Society's fifteenth Silver Medal award at the 1988 annual convention banquet in Williamsburg by president Harold Greer.
It was the second time the ARS annual convention had been held in this historic area of America. A feature of the convention was a white evergreen azalea named 'Williamsburg'; it had been hybridized ('Gumpo' x 'Wakaebisu'), named and registered by Sandra.26 A photograph of azalea 'Williamsburg' was featured on the cover of the Journal, Vol. 44, No. 1, Winter 1998. This first-of-the-year journal issue always announces the venue and speakers for the year's ARS Annual Convention so the cover picture was appropriate. From her registrations, mostly evergreen azaleas, my choice of names: 'Negligee', 'Purple Pansy' (a rhododendron) and 'Venus' Baby' - three sexy names. However, I signal thumbs down on her 'Salmon Mound', it is too fishy.
Having been conceived on a very small Island, born on a middle-sized Island and schooled on a large island27, I take possession of the history of the islands I have visited. One of these is the US Atlantic coast island of Martha's Vineyard. It is where the sixty-third Gold Medal winner has her "farm" that is now Barnard's Inn Farm Gardens and Arboretum. Polly Hill of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, received her Gold Medal in 1990 at the Hyannis ARS Annual Convention from President Austin Kennell (GM 82). It was the second time for Cape Cod (Hyannis) to host an ARS Annual Convention. Polly Hill has many contributions to improved plant selections for gardens. One such tree is the selected more narrow and upright forms of Cornus kousa, the Korean dogwood. Polly (Mrs. Julian) Hill also registered some selected forms of Eastern North American azaleas hybrids and some "yaks," but perhaps her greatest contribution to the genus Rhododendron was her development and introduction from Japan of the low mounding and spreading evergreen azaleas she called the North Tisbury hybrids. The name "North Tisbury" is the area on Martha's Vineyard where Barnard's Inn Farm is located.28 In Chapter 8 of Fred Galle's book Azaleas, he tells all about the Japanese evergreen azaleas of which Satsuki, Kurume and Tsutsuji are groups of these azaleas going back to hybridizing and selection of native Japanese rhododendrons that began with them in the fifteenth century.29 Of the various nursery and individual lists of Satsuki azalea names that Fred Galle has in his Chapter 8, I find there are thirty-six names with the prefix "pink." However, I choose Polly Hill's plants she registered as 'Pink Pancake' and 'North Tisbury Orange'* not for their flower colors but for the leaf colour and its landscape value as a carpeting plant. A plant of 'Pink Pancake' keeps to under 10 inches (25cm) high and spreads to 3 feet (0.9m) in twelve years, while both have green foliage in summer and purple foliage in winter. They are much better garden plants than Arctostaphylos uva ursi, even the New England small leaf, less vigorous form of kinikinnik.
Dorothy (Dot) Gibson with husband Ken received the Society's twenty sixth Silver Medal in 1997. Since the beginning Dot keeps the books on the roster of Ken's collection of great exuberant hybrids that layer by layer form a multi-coloured skirt below their hilltop home in Tofino. This unique display of Ken's big, bloody, bold, blousy flower and foliage hybrids is the featured attraction of this west coast of Vancouver Island village. As the map will show, most of the Pacific Ocean coastline of Vancouver Island has a southwest aspect, Tofino being protected behind Vargas, Stubbs, Wickinninish and Echachts islands. Dot's favorite rhododendron hybrid is the J. C. Williams campanulatum-fortunei cross he made at Caerhays in the 1920s. While not an American hybrid, 'Susan' is a twentieth century rhodo with its firm foliage, fast growth and informal truss of frilled feminine flowers - cool lavender-pink - that make it not one with Victorian-Edwardian demureness or stiff formality but one possessing 1920s and '30s stylishness and freedom.30 Her husband Ken's choices are another matter to be pursued later.
In 1998 the Society's twenty-seventh Silver Medal was awarded posthumously to Sophia Maitland of Grimsby, Ontario, who had died quite suddenly four years earlier. She was a long-time member of the Rhododendron Society of Canada (RSC), and after serving as Interim Director of District 12 (RSC) she became Director in the summer of 1993. She and her husband kept a fine woodland garden in Grimsby, which is midway between St. Catharines and Hamilton on the only portion of the South Shore of Lake Ontario that is Canadian. The rest of the lake's South Shore is in upper New York State. There is a 1922 Dutch hybrid by Koster & Sons named 'Sophia Gray' which J. G. Millais describes in Rhododendrons and the Various Hybrids Second series, 1922, "K96. R. 'Sophia Gray' - large truss, rich pink, upper lobe heavily spotted, burnt umber, frilled edges. First Class." Charlie Sale tells me there is a rhododendron named 'Sophia Maitland'* that was possibly named by Weldon Delp, but no one knows. The name is obviously not registered or used in hybridizing or Jay Murray would have found it.
Jay Whitney Murray and husband Robert (Bob) Murray were jointly awarded the ARS seventy-sixth Gold Medal for the development and management of a database for the genus Rhododendron. The database covers species and hybrid rhododendrons and azaleas grown worldwide. Bob invented and developed the computer program that keeps those registered and unregistered creations, while Jay is the manager of this great library of information. As Jay explains it: "In the mid 1980s, we turned our attention to development of a database and a computer program capable of searching for a variety of data elements ranging from provenance or parentage to flower, foliage, and shrub characteristics." But Jay does much more with the hybrid database than that. It enables her to handle and funnel fairly individual hybrid data for RHS registration, help Journal Editor Sonja Nelson vet articles for rhodo names not registered (I look forward to seeing those asterisks (*) at the bottom of journal pages). But best of all it's an electronic library that holds a record of the results of those gardeners and plantsmen, professional and amateur, mostly the latter who have wanted to create more beautiful and more adaptable plants for their and other gardens. These recorded creative efforts are rarely if ever made for monetary gain. In this age where making money seems to be the be all and end all for everything it is part of a precious heritage they and we preserve.
Jay writes: "The two rhododendrons I prefer to be associated with are 'Jay Murray' and 'Wynterset White'. 'Jay Murray' was named for me by our friend and near-neighbor, G. David Lewis. It is a lovely large-flowered lepidote. The description was published in ARS 873. I named 'Wynterset White', an elepidote that was in the trade for many years without an appropriate name to identify it. It was being referred to as 'Leach's White', 'Snow', 'Obal's Snow', 'Kordus White', and possibly by other names. At the time when large-scale propagation was about to begin, an effort was made to identify its origin and true name. Research revealed that none of these names could be registered for this plant. 'Kordus White' was eliminated on the basis that Mr. Kordus routinely bought plants from estates and defunct nurseries and subsequently sold them by color preceded by "Kordus." Many of the names may have been unknown to him, but when plants were identified and called to his attention he chose to ignore the information. An example was 'Mary Belle' which he sold as 'Kordus Yellow'. It is probable that more than one clone was sold as 'Kordus Yellow' or Kordus whatever. 'Obal's Snow' was eliminated when the Obal nursery disclaimed any knowledge of the plant. 'Snow' had to be eliminated because 'Snow' was the registered name of another plant (a Kurume azalea). 'Leach's White' was more difficult. First, it was not associated with David Leach. Because of his prominence as a hybridizer, the name 'Leach's White' had the potential for confusion. Eventually I learned that there had been a Leach's Nursery in New Jersey, but it was long defunct and information was scant. It is probable that this plant originated there and was sold as an unnamed "white," hence the designation, 'Leach's White'. With this history, I decided to select a totally unique, identifiable name for the plant. Since it was being grown on Wynterset Road in Mercer County, New Jersey, I named it 'Wynterset White'. As for Whitney hybrids, I am not related to that family."
Now there is a great trivia story that is to my liking.
Having covered the ARS Founders and women medalists, we continue with the men who have been honored with the Society's medals.
In 1953 The ARS awarded its second Gold Medal to Joseph B. Gable of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania. Joe Gable was an orchardist who created many fine hybrids that were New England hardy. His great rhododendron legacy is recorded in the 1978 book Hybrids and Hybridizers Rhododendrons and Azaleas for Eastern North America. Edited by Philip A. Livingston and Franklin H. West; it chronicles the work of the Gable Study Group of the ARS Potomac Valley Chapter in uncovering and recording the hybridizing and introduction of his rhodos. Beside 'Catalode' ('County of York') and the evergreen azaleas 'Elizabeth Gable' and 'Louise Gable', the "Gable Girls," the rhododendron hybrid I associate with Joe is a hybrid he raised and introduced from seed sent to him by nurseryman George Fraser of Ucluelet on the West Coast of Vancouver Island that Joe named 'Albert Close'31, said to be a cross between the eastern North American R. maximum and either the western North American R. macrophyllum or 'Mrs Jamie Fraser', a hybrid between R. macrophyllum and R. arboreum. It got the name, as Joe Gable related, when Albert Close, Ben Morrison's chief propagator at Glenn Dale, Maryland,31 admired it when it first bloomed at the Stewartstown home place, so Gable promptly named it after him.32 The next year the Society's third Gold Medal went to another Joseph although it is doubtful if anyone ever called him Joe. It was awarded in 1954, to the last of the great explorers in western China, Dr Joseph Rock.33 Unlike Kingdon Ward, Wilson, Farrer and Forrest, Joseph Rock collected rhododendrons as an adjunct to his other work, the study of the customs and languages of the numerous indigenous tribes in Western China bordering Tibet. As well he wrote articles and took photographs for the National Geographic magazine. One of these NGS assignments, in part self-generated, was to the small kingdom of Muli.34 He went there twice, pictured and wrote about it and other places in Western China for the magazine35 in the 1920s and '30s. The great number of the rhododendrons at the University of California Botanical Garden up in Strawberry Canyon above the Berkeley campus came from the Joseph Rock's Western China and Tibet trip of 1929-30.
The ARS association with Dr. Rock began in 1948 when he was in Western China as a Research Fellow for Harvard University. He wrote a series of letters to George Grace36. In the ARS Quarterly Bulletin for in Vol. 4, No. 1, P. H. “Jock' Brydon reported on Dr. Rock's 1948 expedition to the Yunnan Tibet Border: "In the spring of 1949, the results of Dr. Rock's harvest was received by Mr. George Grace. Fortunately, Mr. Grace was about to depart for the Rhododendron Conference which was held in Great Britain this spring and graciously consented to deliver the dried plant specimens to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh where they were identified by skilled staff of botanists..." Then seed of rhododendrons, primulas and lily bulbs was sent to Portland for the sum of US$2,500. After the seeds and bulbs arrived and the original syndicate who had put up a $250 share each had taken all they wanted the very large remainder was sold to ARS members and others for a dollar a packet. George Grace took the "fruiting wood," pressed herbarium material and seed to the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh where they were identified as to species. On Rock's list that accompanied his last letter there were 193 numbers; 163 were identified only as a species of rhododendron while the other 30 numbers were identified as species of Primula, Meconopsis and magnolia. The numbered rhododendron species were identified to ARS members in the Quarterly Bulletin, Vol. 10, No.4, October 1956, in a seven page table titled: "Rock's Rhododendrons," subtitled "1950 American Rhododendron Society Expedition." There was no explanation of source, presumably the RBG in Edinburgh, so that anyone who had grown that number would finally after seven years have known what rhododendron species or, as it turned out, in what series it was in. For example Rock #6 described on his list as "Rhododendron species - shrub 3ft - alpine region of Mt. Ke-nyi-chum-po, 14,000 ft." turned out to be R. sangineum, with a dark bronzy orange corolla.37 Unfortunately most of the plants raised bearing these numbers were lost in the freezes of 1970 and '71 or had been collected previously by Fr. Soulié and, in particular, George Forrest. My rhododendron association with Rock is the hybrid 'Joe Gable' raised from seed of the cross R. catawbiense 'Catalgla' x R. wardii. Joe Gable raised seed from Rock #18139 and introduced two clones, one named 'Kulu' by the Gable Study Committee after the Muli monastery. Joe's daughter Caroline registered the name in 1979.38
Footnotes (numbering continues from Part III).
26 Jay Murray, personal communication: Sandra McDonald registered twenty-eight; twenty-four are evergreen azaleas and four are rhododendrons (r): 'Alice D' (r), 'Blushing Angel', 'Chessie's Lavender Gem', 'Chessie's Pink', 'Chessie's Purple'*, 'Dainty Angel', 'David's Choice', 'Dreamsicle', 'Fancy Face', 'Hyper George' (r), 'Little Cherub', 'Mademoiselle Amy'*, 'Mademoiselle Bridgette'*, 'Mademoiselle Charlene'*, 'Mademoiselle Gigi'*, 'Mademoiselle Lisette'*, 'Mademoiselle Margot'*, 'Mademoiselle Nanette'*, 'Mademoiselle Yvette'* (the mademoiselle's are described in Fred Galle's Azaleas,1987); 'Mini Carnations', 'Negligee', 'New Generation Red', 'Pearly Pink', 'Pure Perfection', 'Purple Pansy' (r), 'Rosy Frills', 'Salmon Mound', 'Salmon Sunrise', 'Sandra's Fancy', 'Sandra's Green Ice', 'Sandra's Misty Morn', 'Sandra's White Surprise', 'Springtime Blush', 'Strawberry Frills' (r), 'Venus' Baby', 'Williamsburg', 'Williamsburg Rose Bouquet' (syn.: 'Williamsburg Rose').
27 Thetis, Saltspring and Vancouver Island. Hyannis on the south shore of Cape Cod looks out over Nantucket Sound south-southeast to Nantucket Island with closer-in Martha's Vineyard to the southwest a distance of 20 miles and an hour by steamer from Woods Hole.
28 Jay Murray personal communication: Polly Hill registered thirty-nine names; most are evergreen azaleas, some hybridized by Dr. Tsuneshige Rokujo in Japan. Polly Hill's list: 'Airport Red'*, 'Alexander', 'Andante'*, 'Bartlett', 'Big Yak' (r), 'Chalif', 'Corinna Borden', 'Delaware Blue', 'Flaming Mamie', 'Fuzzy', 'Gabrielle Hill', 'Hill's Single Red'*, 'Hot Line', 'Jeff Hill', 'Joan Smith', 'Joseph Hill', 'Lady-locks', 'Late Love', 'Libby', 'Louisa', 'Lydia Richards', 'Marilee', 'Marydel', 'Matsuyo', 'Michael Hill', 'Midori', 'Mount Seven Star', 'Nakami', 'North Tisbury Orange'*, 'Pink Pancake', 'Red Fountain', 'Samisen' (r), 'Seigai', 'Shigi' (syn. For 'Tsuneshige Rokujo'), 'Sizzler', 'Sunlight', 'Susannah Hill', 'Temple Flutes'* (r), 'Trill', 'Tsuneshige Rokujo', 'Wild Wealth' (r), 'Wintergreen', 'Yaye', 'Yuka' (Satsuki), 'Zeke'.
29 Fred Galle writes that the classic treatise on the Japanese evergreen azaleas was published in 1692 in five volumes describing 332 azaleas, 171 Tsutsuji's and 161 Satsuki's. The Brocade Pillow was reprinted in 1733 and again in 1849 with a recent English translation. However, for a thorough treatment of these plants there is none better than Fred Galle's book Azaleas, Timber Press, Portland, 1985.
30 This art of flower and plant description was perfected by Reginald Farrer who wrote the classic The English Rock Garden, London, 1919. His most acid comments were for alpine and rockery plants he didn't like. However, this writer's plant and flower descriptions will never be able to come up to Farrer's, positive or negative. Few can ever match or surpass the following for a poppy he found in Tibet: "Meconopsis quintuplinerva now hovers on the fringe of cultivation and is most eagerly looked for, like the Maestro Jimson's Opera. For it is certain that despite its place in the group M. quintuplinerva is going to prove the soundest perennial in the family; and so beautiful the senses ache at the multitudinous loveliness of its myriad dancing lavender butterflies over the rolling upper Alps of the Da-Tung chain (Northern Kansu-Tibet). In fact, in well-bred exquisiteness of charm, it stands, in my eyes, supreme over its race."
31 Albert Close and his wife Helen came from England. Albert had been trained at Kew Gardens. There is a white flowered Glenn Dale Azalea named 'Helen Close'.
32 I first met Joe Gable at the 1st International Rhododendron Convention in Portland in 1962. On learning that I was from British Columbia, he asked me if I knew of a George Fraser, a nurseryman "up there," who raised heathers and rhodos and had written to him in the twenties and thirties and whether he was still around as he hadn't heard from him since before the war. I answered that I didn't know of him but I would ask around. I first learned from Dr. Bob Rhodes that George Fraser had died in 1939 and that soon after he died Bob Rhode's brother had discovered an abandoned house and a nursery with some rhododendrons that had belonged to George Fraser in Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island. So I wrote to Joe Gable and told him and by return mail received all of George Fraser's letters to Joe Gable beginning in 1926 and ending in 1939. Like Joe Gable, George Fraser was a pioneer rhododendron hybridizer and grower. Through the efforts of ARS members Lillian Hodgson, Dr. Stuart Holland, Ken Gibson, the writer and, most of all, Bill Dale, George Fraser's work with rhododendrons has been brought from relative obscurity into recognition and remembrance. The letters to Joe Gable sent and other George Fraser biographical material have been lodged with the British Columbia Archives. Fraser's few hybrids are being grown and reintroduced to collectors and collections. Both Joe Gable and George Fraser received the ARS Pioneer Award but posthumously as Joe Gable died in 1972.
33 Joseph F. Rock began his career in Hawaii teaching at the College of Hawaii. Using primitive photographic equipment he produced a book titled The Indigenous Trees of the Hawaiian Islands. Reproduced in 1974 from the original privately printed 1913 edition, it is a classic work of dendrology, comparable with E. J. H. Corner's Wayside Trees of Malaya (Malaysia). Dr. Rock was a self-taught linguist who spoke and wrote Mandarin Chinese. As well he studied and wrote on the many diverse languages in western China. Joseph Rock lived in China in the latter years prior to 1949 when the Chinese Communists under Mao Tse Tung took over China.
34 Muli, a religious enclave of ca 9,000 sq. miles in western China (North latitude 28°N-East longitude 101°N) was first visited by Joseph Rock in 1924. It consisted of three large lamaseries, Muli, Wachin and Kulu and fifteen small ones. It was ruled in Rock's time by a king or head Lama who ruled over a population of 20,000 of which 1,200 or so were monks or lamas of the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhists. See National Geographic Society magazine for April, 1925. Joseph Rock was the first to take coloured photographs of this part of China for the NGS. The Lamisery of Kulu is pictured in a landscape panorama at the end of an open wooded spur with surrounding forested mountains, in the NGS for October 1930. Gable's Rhododendron vernicosum aff. Rock 18139 #2, a natural hybrid, was registered as 'Kulu'. See Meldon Kraxhberger, Editor, American Rhododendron Hybrids, ARS, Tigard Oregon, 1980.
35 When I first started collecting the NGS articles written by Joseph Rock, I remember looking at "Geographics" that had all the pages of photographs (Rock was a fine photographer) by him, removed. I was told by the Seattle book seller that such was the paranoia on the West Coast during the early part of the Second World War and that these photos of western China had been removed by the censor from the old NGS magazine issues he and others had for sale. Whether or not this is true I do not know. However, I had to find old 1920s and '30s National Geographics in used bookstores in Canada that were complete with Rock's photographs of the river crossings of the Yangtze and the Salween and mountain peaks, glaciers and hidden valleys of the Minya Tonka-shan range.
36 In a series of five letters written between June and December 1948, to George Grace, reprinted in Vol. 3, No 2, for April 1949 of the ARS Quarterly Bulletin, Joseph Rock negotiated and told of his troubles in bringing about the collection, shipment and receipt of three boxes of seeds consisting of 163 collections of species rhododendron, 30 collections of other plants mainly primula, Meconopsis and magnolia and one box of lily bulbs. George Grace shipped him the cloth bags, paper envelopes and USDA permits Rock had asked for but never received. On December 27th, 1948 having previously shipped the box of bulbs from Likiang to Kunming, he wrote to ARS Secretary Grace: "Owing to the very serious situation - China, although the real Red Army is still way off from here - robber bands have risen to the East, South and in the Central part of this province. I have decided not to await any letters or permits from you, and am sending tomorrow by special courier (caravan) three boxes to Kunming. It is likely that the roads may be closed altogether, and I do not with (sic) to keep the boxes here. They are much to (sic) valuable. One box contains the seeds of all the rhododendrons, Primulas, Lilies, Meconopsis and Magnolias. There is enough rhododendron seed to plant the whole of Oregon...I forward them to the only address I have i.e. that on your stationary. Please deposit the agreed amount to my Bank in New York. The lily bulbs have been sent some time ago. Hoping that all will arrive safely. I remain, Very truly yours, J. F. Rock.
37 There is a pair of black and white photos by Henny and Cecil Smith of rhododendron species with Rock numbers on each page at the bottom of the table. They are Rock's #191& 192 - R. irroratum series - flower trusses; Rock #56 - R. saluenense; Rock #21 - R. trichocladum series; Rock #102 - R. falconeri series; Rock #7 - A small yellow form mixed in with R. chryseum; Rock #58 - a dwarf large flowered form of R. keleticum; Rock #7 - R. lapponicum; Rock #6 - R. sanguineum with dark bronzy orange corolla; Rock #3 - R. crinigerum; Rock #60 - R. sanguineum; Rock #43 - R. chryseum; Rock #147 - R. saluenense series; Rock #135 - R. bullatum; Rock #167 - R. falconeri series; Rock #182 - R. sinogrande; Rock #15 - R. xanthostephanum; and Rock #92 - R. forrestii var repens.
38 Salley and Greer, Rhododendron Hybrids Second Edition, Timber Press, Portland, 1992.