Some More Thoughts on Judging Rhododendrons
Frederic R. Kirkland, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania
I would like to commend in the highest terms Mr. Hoyt S. Haddock's article on standards of judging rhododendrons in the April number of the Quarterly Bulletin.* I have already adopted this system in a much smaller way, and would go along largely with the one that he has laid out, with the exception of No. 9-Fragrance. I don't think this is too important. Certainly I don't cut my blooms to take in the house, and, furthermore, there are not very many plants outside of the fortunei series that have a real fragrance. With the exception of decorum, I don't think this series would stack up in any way with a great many other plants.
I would substitute "versatility" for "fragrance." By Versatility I mean a plant that will grow equally well in the sun and the shade. Obviously, I don't mean full sun, because there are very, very few that will grow in the full sun, as there are very few that will bloom in the full shade. I have two R. 'Cynthia' plants, one in the sun and one in. the shade. Of course, the one in the sun has more blooms, but the one in the shade has lovelier foliage and larger blooms, so I assume this is what I mean by versatility. Another case in point is R. 'Lee's Dark Purple' which, by and large, I consider just as fine a plant as R. 'Purple Splendor', although it does need much more care. I have never given R. 'Purple Splendor' anything like the amount of sun I have given R. 'Cynthia' and R. 'Lee's Dark Purple', and I feel very sure it would not take it.
In No. 6--Profuseness-I think Mr. Haddock is asking a good deal to have the foliage covered from view. I only have one plant, a Dexter, which does this, although I believe in Oregon they are too uncommon. Consequently, I would substitute for "Profuseness" the general appearance of the bloom against the foliage. In other words, the foliage must come up very near the bloom, or, if you prefer it, the bloom must come down very near the foliage. Consequently, I would substitute "bloom" for "profuseness," and, in addition, would include in this the size of the bloom, giving five for his term "profuseness," and five for the size and stability of the bloom. I am leaving out color because that is covered separately.
In order to get a comparison with his R. 'Purple Splendor', I have taken R. 'Lee's Dark Purple', not because I really consider it a better plant, but it has some of the advantages that R. 'Lee's Dark Purple' does not have, and some of the disadvantages. To my mind, R. 'Cynthia', R. 'Pink Pearl', or R. 'Mrs. G. W. Leak' are all superior plants in every way to either R. 'Purple Splendor' or R. 'Lee's Dark Purple'.
It seems to me that it will be very difficult to really get a successful rating system, because the location of the plant and the individual attention given must make a tremendous difference. In my case, I have beautiful specimens of both R. 'Lee's Dark Purple' and R. 'Purple Splendor'. R. 'Purple Splendor' is in the best place in the garden-three-quarters shade and requires no attention. R. 'Lee's Dark Purple' gets half shade and half sun, and requires continual attention because it is tall, and during the winter gets badly buffeted by the wind. Now if I transplanted the two, I am sure neither of them would do as well, except the foliage on the 'Lee's Dark Purple' would be very much better.
My point is that there are very few places in any garden that are ideal. I have enough room for four plants in as nearly perfect a location as you can get. Here I have R. 'Purple Splendor', R. 'Cynthia', R. griersonianum and R. decorum. I would like very much to move decorum, but I have tried it several other places, and I generally succeed in having the buds winter killed. However, I agree entirely with Mr. Haddock that any system is better than the present one of four (xxxx) x's, which mean nothing.
I have taken the liberty of submitting my rating system for someone to tear to pieces as I have torn Mr. Haddock's.
25 1. Attractiveness - 25 points. 5-Cylindrical trunk, growing straight and branches evenly distributed, starting two feet from ground. (R. 'Mrs. Terry', R. 'Madame Carvalho' and R. 'Pink Pearl') 5-Foliage evergreen, new and old growth clean and hardy for at least three years. (I cut the fourth year growth off anyway). 5-Blooms must be an attractive color (no one can like Catawbiense magenta) and should open in full. (R. 'Alice' sometimes only opens three-quarters of the way). 5-Growth should not be so great that some years trunk is subject to breakage, and symmetry also is spoiled. (R. 'Luciferum' is an excellent example.) 5-Plant must not have September flowering (R. 'Cunningham's White') and should bloom pretty much on schedule-two days difference at the most. 15 2. Vigor and Strength-15 points. I would go along with Haddock. 10 3. Resistance to disease and strength-10 points. I would go along with Haddock. 50 0 4. Hardiness-I would go along with Haddock. 15 5. Color-15 points. I would go along with Haddock. 10 6. General appearance-By this I mean the "tout ensemble," closeness of the bloom to the foliage. Where the foliage appears it seems part of the bloom-5 points. I would also give 5 points for the size of the bloom, leaving out the color entirely. As an example, the blooms on my R. 'Dr. Dresselhuys' practically cover the whole plant, but they are small, and in no way compare with my R. Dexter or my R. 'Boule de Neige' where you can hardly see any green. 10 7. Form-I would go along with Haddock. 5 8. Substance-5 points. 5 9. Versatility-By versatility I mean a plant that will grow equally well in the sun, and the shade. Obviously, I don't mean full sun, because there are very, very few that will grow in the full sun, as there are very few that will grow in the full shade. I have two Cynthia plants, one in the sun and one in the shade. Of course the one in the sun has more blooms, but the one in the shade has lovelier foliage and larger blooms, so I assume this is what I mean by versatility. Another case in point is R. 'Lee's Dark Purple', which, by and large, I consider just as fine a plant as R. 'Purple Splendor', although it does need much more care. I have never given R. 'Purple Splendor' anything like the amount of sun I have given R. 'Cynthia' and R. 'Lee's Dark Purple', and I feel very sure it would not take it. 5 10. Size-I would go along with Haddock. 100
I can only cite my experience with 'Lee's Dark Purple'. Others will have different experiences. However, it serves my purpose as a rating system.
Taking R. 'Lee's Dark Purple' as an example, it would secure a rating of 71, arrived at as follows, according to my system:
I 1. Cylindrical trunk, O.K. 2 points branches irregular 0 branches, very low, either have to cut them or tie them up 0 branches drop down on each other 0 2. Foliage eaten by spiders and caterpillars, needs continual spraying in May.
(I realize there are many people who may not have this trouble)
0 3. Lovely color, blotch not as attractive as R. 'Purple Splendor', but very good 4 points 4. Growth regular 5 points 5. Blooms May 25th on schedule, and holds its blooms for two weeks 5 points out of 16 points 25 II I bought a R. 'Purple Splendor' and R. 'Lee's Dark Purple' from Westbury in 1947, both 3 feet tall. My Lee is now 6 ft. and Purple Splendor 4 ft. 15 points 15 III Resistance to disease and insects 5 points 10 IV Good V Color excellent, but splotch not too good 10 points 15 VI 1. "Tout ensemble" not too good 2 points 5 2. Size of blooms excellent, not as large as Cynthia or Pink Pearl but better than average 4 points 5 VII Not rounded, too loose 5 points 10 VIII Substance good 4 points 5 IX Versatility excellent 5 points 5 X Size, excellent 5 points 5 71 points 100
* "Standards for Judging Rhododendrons", Hoyt S. Haddock, American Rhododendron Society Bulletin, Vol. 8, No. 2