QBARS - v18n4 Book Reviews

Book Reviews

by Judith Berrisford
Faber and Faber Ltd., London, England, 1964

All phases of rhododendron culture and lore from the origin of the genus, to growing the present varieties, to the breeding of new varieties are discussed. Most of the information in the book is based on growing rhododendrons and azaleas in North Wales and on observing them in other areas of Great Britain.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part is a series of chapters on subjects such as natural history of rhododendrons, cultural information, varieties for different sizes and types of gardens, propagation, hybridizing, and diseases and pests. The second part gives descriptive information, cultural comments and garden usefulness of rhododendron species, of rhododendron hybrids, and of azalea species and hybrids.
Several features make this book particularly interesting. Some of these are the comments on associations or groupings of plants for different effects, the references to fragrance of different varieties, comments on goals in hybridizing, and the excellent photographs used. Another is the chapter on "Rhododendrons and Azaleas on Limy Soils," which contains much valuable information for those people trying to grow these plants where the soils are not naturally acid.
Repetition of information does occur as it does in any book where each chapter is a complete story in itself. The same variety may be mentioned in the chapter on the rock garden, on the smaller garden, and on the larger garden.
The comments on hardiness of the different varieties reflect the relatively mild area in which Miss Berrisford resides. Varieties which she declares hardy will not necessarily be hardy in the colder rhododendron growing areas of the United States.

-- Dr. Robert Ticknor

The Royal Horticultural Society London, England

The 1964 edition of the Rhododendron Handbook, Part 1, Species, represented a major overhauling of the material included in previous editions. It was a bit of a disappointment, therefore, to find that Part II has been changed very little from the 1956 edition. The major change, perhaps, is use of the new hardiness ratings and flower quality ratings for the standard list of varieties of both rhododendrons and azaleas.
American readers will have to remain sharply aware that the British hardiness ratings are in reverse order to those used in this country. In other words, H-1 in this country represents the hardiest type whereas the British H-1 indicates a plant which can usually be grown only in a greenhouse. The symbols are written a little differently which if followed in lists and catalogs, will be a help in keeping the ratings from being confused. There have been some changes in the quality ratings, especially of some of the old time varieties. For instance, 'Fastuosum Flore Pleno' has been raised from *** to ****, 'Mrs. T. H. Lowinsky' from ** to ***,'White Swan' from *** to ****, and 'Vulcan' from ** to***.
One wishes, of course, that more of the newer varieties could be rated as they are the ones with which the rhododendron fancier is particularly concerned. It is realized, of course, that a thorough rating job of a large number of the newer varieties would be very difficult because they are not yet widely grown and not known by a large number of growers. That information, however, would certainly be welcome.
A large part of the book is given to the rhododendron stud book or list of hybrids with the parentage and the name of the raiser or exhibitor. This, of course, is of interest generally where a good clone has been developed which is worthy of being grown in competition with other species and varieties. A large percentage of the names, however, are seldom seen elsewhere in rhododendron literature and show reports which makes one wonder if those clones have persisted and were worthy of having been named in the first place. It would be a real service if, in a future handbook, some indication could be given of the varieties which are still being grown.
As indicated above, those who have the 1956 edition and are expecting a considerable change may be disappointed. However, for those who do not have it, it is a valuable reference handbook. There are some 170 pages which include long lists of the group names given to crosses between different species, and a lesser space to lists of "standard" varieties giving the color and a certain amount of additional information through the use of rating symbols.

-- J. Harold Clarke