QBARS - v29n1 Rhododendron Breeding - Rewarding Hobby

Rhododendron Breeding - Rewarding Hobby
B. C. Potter, Port Ewen, New York

I would like to suggest that rhododendron breeding could be a most fascinating and rewarding hobby for some retired men and women. They can look forward to a good many years of pleasant participation in a creative activity, and those who wish to pursue this will find the ways and means come surprisingly easy.
There are books available that describe briefly the methods used, but for the most part by those living in the so-called favorable climates. However, generally speaking most rhododendron books do not devote much space to breeding, but the new breeder will, with ingenuity, develop techniques and methods suitable to his own particular environment.
As one progresses, the quest for knowledge grows, fired on by the realization that we actually know very little about rhododendron breeding. The opportunity to investigate and experiment with nature's phenomenon is rewarding in itself. We are rich in man-made words to describe what we think we know, but all this is overwhelmed by the unsolved mysteries of nature. Breeding rhododendrons had been and still is more of an art, than a science.
It could be described as an individual effort by doers who are willing to test their creative theories and continuously explore the unknown searching for improvement. The reward is a plant or plants that measure up to or exceed the standard of perfection sought by the breeder, also the inner satisfaction that comes from bringing into being a rhododendron of enduring beauty and the knowledge gained from its creation.
The need for new and different rhododendron hybrids throughout our land is of enormous magnitude. A look at your own locale will verify this need. Regardless of your geographic location, if you can grow one rhododendron and flower it you can breed more and more that will adapt themselves to the same environment.
If your locale is in the Northeast, your creations may not all compete with the tender Pacific coast beauties, but they can be most beautiful garden plants with delightful year-round ornamental beauty.
The time will come when rhododendrons may well become one of America's foremost hobbies, with collectors, fanciers and breeders exhibiting their plants in shows held in auditoriums across our land, vying for ribbons and prizes.
These shows could differ from truss shows, in that they could display the complete plant in "b & b" and containers in sizes three feet and under with classifications that include plants with partly open buds in one classification and those in flower in another. This type of show would be of great public interest.
This may be a far out prediction for some to visualize but an organized effort on the part of our Society's leadership to seriously foster rhododendron breeding could bring into being the interest and enthusiasm that it takes for such a show in the future. At no time in our history has the opportunity for leadership in rhododendron expansion been greater than now.
And don't let anyone tell you that you are too old to breed rhododendrons and actively participate in the expansion of rhododendrons, so more Americans can share in the pleasure we derive from a rhododendron garden no matter where they live in America.