In Memoriam: John G. (Jack) Lofthouse
The rhododendron world, in particular those of us who garden in the Pacific Northwest, will miss pioneer hybridizer John G. (Jack) Lofthouse, past president of the Vancouver Rhododendron Society (1968), VRS Bronze medallist (1979) and ARS Silver medallist (1999), who died on January 3rd 2005 in his 90th year. Born in 1915 and raised in Vancouver he began plant hybridizing early but only turned to rhododendrons in the late fifties, creating his first hybrid, a crossing of two post-war introduced Dutch hybrids 'Jan Dekins' and 'Brittania'. It first bloomed in 1964, a frilly full truss of pink flowers that Jack named 'Pink Petticoats'. Jack had a way with evocative alliteration in naming that aptly describes each of his many rhododendron creations.
Jack employed modern scientific propagating technology: heat lamps, timed misting and air circulation with his closed case "Lofthouse Propagator." With it he was able to root his cuttings very quickly and force cuttings to bloom equally quickly, in order to produce a bank of pollen for his crosses. Jack gave full detailed plans for building it in Vol. 41 of the ARS Journal in 1987 and it really did work. All told, Jack registered and named forty-six crosses over four decades of hybridizing. His hybridizing goals paraphrased from The Pacific Coast Rhododendron Story: "...perfect fuller trusses...ruffled flowers of substance with large same colour calyxes…tall conical trusses...longer blooming periods and better foliage." These aims were all achieved in some measure by Jack's hybrids.