J. Harold Clarke
In the July, 1952, issue of the ARS Bulletin, Preliminary Awards to a number of rhododendron varieties were listed. This may have caused some comment as it may seem like a large number of Awards for one year. This discussion of the Award system may help to clear up any misunderstandings and I hope encourage additional breeders to present their varieties for possible Awards.
In the first place, Awards are based entirely on merit and not with respect to any particular number per year. This year there were eight but there will undoubtedly he some year; when no Awards will be given. It must be remembered that a number of breeders have been working on the production of new varieties for at least twelve to fifteen years, and some of the plants given Awards have been in existence for several years although in some cases the Award may have been based on the first year's blooming which is permissible under the rules.
The purpose of Awards is twofold. First, some recognition and honor reflects, through the variety receiving the Award, to the breeder. However, the most important purpose is to provide a method of evaluating varieties which may be of value to prospective rhododendron growers. Rhododendron plants are usually fairly expensive; they are long lived and are bought for a lifetime of enjoyment. Securing an inferior variety, or the wrong variety for a particular spot, may result in many years of unsatisfactory living with a rhododendron plant as contrasted with the same number of years of real enjoyment if the right variety is purchased. It is true that Awards will not prevent people from buying inferior varieties. They do, however, provide one means whereby the amateur may know that a committee of people experienced in the field, has decided that a particular variety is outstanding enough to be worthy of an Award. This, of course, means that the variety at least has a lot of good characteristics, and if planted in the proper relationship to other things in the garden, should be relatively satisfactory.
The American Rhododendron Society has provided for two types of Awards, the first being entitled Preliminary Award (P. A.). This Award may be granted to a single plant growing in a garden or exhibited at an official ARS Show, or under special circumstances to a truss with foliage at a Show. Classes for new seedlings at the Shows offer a desirable place where these new things can be shown in competition and where certain ones which are especially outstanding may be selected by the Awards Committee to receive a Preliminary Award.
The second, or higher, Award is called Test Garden Certificate (T. G. C.). This Award is to be given to worthy plants which have been propagated vegetatively and are growing in a recognized test garden of which we now have three. These test gardens are located at the University of Washington Arboretum in Seattle, at The Morris Arboretum near Philadelphia, and at the Rhododendron Garden in Crystal Lake Springs Park, Portland.
The Committee on Awards, according to the By-laws, at present consists of five members in the Seattle and Tacoma area, five in the Portland and Eugene area, and five in the East. Of course, if rhododendron breeding becomes important enough in other localities, eventually additional local groups of judges may be needed. Members of the Awards Committee are appointed for five year terms with one person on each local group retiring each year. The Committees as constituted this past year have been as follows:
H. H. Harms, D. W. James, P. H. Brydon, E. R. Peterson, George D. Grace
Brian 0. Mulligan, Donald G. Graham, 0. E. Holmdahl, Endre Ostbo, J. Herbert Bowen
Henry T. Skinner, Clement G. Bowers, Harold Epstein, Frederic P. Lee, Donald Hardgrove
Judging for the Preliminary Award in private gardens or shows other than the American Rhododendron Society shows, is by request made as far in advance as possible. Obviously the amount of travel time which may be expected of the judges is limited so there is no guarantee that a judging committee will be able to go to any particular place. However, an effort will be made to see any plants within a reasonable distance if it is possible to do so. The Awards are made by a majority vote of the judges, provided at least three official judges score the entry. Additional information concerning the test gardens and Awards is contained in the Quarterly Bulletin for April 16, 1951.