American Rhododendron Society Awards
J. Harold Clarke
The rhododendron varieties we grow in our American gardens have a history covering many years and wide distances. From the high valleys and plateaus of the Himalayan region and the mountains of Asia to the East and Southeast, hardy botanists and plant explorers collected the original species. Most of these were sent as seeds to England whence came a large part of the money to finance the costly expeditions of Hooker, Forrest, Farrer, Kingdon Ward, Rock and others.
Breeders in the British Isles crossed and re-crossed these species to produce the hybrids we have today, introducing in an important group the hardy characteristics of an American species, R. catawbiense, which had been imported into England about 100 years ago. Many of these hybrids went to Holland and breeders there contributed their share of new varieties.
Americans Slow To Start
American plant breeders were rather slow to take hold of this group which has such great possibilities because of the very large number of species to work with, their great variation, and the excellent garden use which can be made of the resulting new varieties. Plant breeders are a modest lot for the most part, and rhododendron breeders are no exception. However, the Committee on Nomenclature and Registration knew that a lot of good American seedlings were coming along and so a plan for special awards to encourage the breeding of rhododendrons in this country was adopted by the American Rhododendron Society in September, 1949. In connection with the awards, arrangements have been made to establish Test Gardens at the University of Washington Arboretum in Seattle, The Morris Arboretum near Philadelphia, and in Portland. So far the response has been rather disappointing, and the purpose of this article is to urge readers to take advantage of the provisions which have been made by the Society.
The American Rhododendron Society awards are somewhat similar to those of the Royal Horticultural Society, and are awarded to the variety and not to a person, although the originator naturally receives the credit. One Preliminary Award has already been made to R. 'King of Shrubs' grown by Mr. Endre Ostbo of Bellevue, Washington.
Two Types Of Awards
The first award is entitled "Preliminary Award" (P. A.) This award may be granted to a single complete plant growing in a garden or exhibited at a show, or under special circumstances to a truss with foliage at a show.
The second, and higher, award is called "Test Garden Certificate" (T. G. C.) and will be awarded to worthy plants which have been propagated vegetatively and are growing in a recognized test garden. A variety must have been observed in bloom in a test garden by the judges for at least two years before the T. G. C. is awarded.
Judging for the P. A. in private gardens or shows, other than American Rhododendron Society shows, must be by request as far in advance as possible. There is no guarantee that the judges will be able to see any particular plant at a given time, because of travel problems, but an effort will be made to take care of requests. It is suggested that growers who cannot be reached by official judges should propagate their plants and send them to one of the test gardens where they can be scored.
The origin of a plant must be certified by the person entering the variety in a special award class or test garden.
Judging By Score Card Basis
Judging will be on a score card basis, as follows:
Flower characters 60%
Leaf characters 25%
Bush characters 15%
Judges will consider the distinctiveness of a variety in making awards and will be critical of seedlings which are almost identical with some other named variety. If a number of seedlings of the same parentage and of very similar characteristics are entered, probably not more than one would receive an award. The awards are made by a majority vote of the judges provided at least three official judges score the entry.
There is a Committee on Awards at the present time including five members in the Portland-Eugene area, five in the Seattle-Tacoma area, and five in the East.
There is an entry fee of $2.50 per variety. Varieties to be entered in Test Gardens must be accepted by the Committee and the Test Garden management because of possible limitations of space. The exhibitor may specify the Test Garden in which he wants to enter a variety but it is suggested that in some cases, at least, plants should be sent to more than one.
Plants submitted to a Test Garden should be approaching flowering size. It is suggested that three plants of dwarf varieties be submitted, or one of a large variety. Plants entered for awards shall become the property of the Test Garden (or the institution at which it is located) but stock may not be disposed of without permission of exhibitor. There is no objection to the entering of recent foreign varieties in the Test Gardens if the originators wish to send them and they are acceptable to the Committee on Awards and to the Test Garden.
Breeders will realize, of course, that a variety, to be outstanding, does not have to be of mammoth size. It may be worthy of consideration because of very early or very late flowering, unusual color, fragrance, foliage characters, or other very distinctive qualities. The judges and the Test Gardens are ready. It is hoped that many new good seedlings will be exhibited and sent to the Test Gardens this year. Test gardens are located at the Morris Arboretum Foundation, Philadelphia, Penna., University of Washington Arboretum Foundation, Seattle, and A. R. S. Trial Garden, Portland, Oregon.