QBARS - v31n1 Wilson's Fifty Reassembled

Wilson's Fifty Reassembled
Kay Davis & Angus Heeps, Atlanta, Georgia

The famous "Wilson's Fifty" Kurume azalea collection has been reassembled and presented to Fernbank Science Center's botanical garden in Atlanta, Georgia. This collection originally made by Ernest Henry Wilson, a plant explorer for the Arnold Arboretum in Massachusetts, was brought to this country in 1918 from the city of Kurume in Japan whence these evergreen introductions derive their name.

The gift was made by William T. Turner, a retired professional diplomat and avid azalea collector. Mr. Turner's garden is one of Atlanta's most interesting and beautiful springtime azalea displays. Since his retirement in 1960 Mr. Turner, a resident of Atlanta, has made a determined effort to reassemble the famous collection. This led to a search of many of the principal nurseries and collections in this country and abroad. During the 1976 annual convention of the American Rhododendron Society in Philadelphia, Mr. Turner found a source in England for the last missing plants needed to complete the collection. These have now been acquired, and the full collection will be placed in a special section of the Fernbank botanical garden in 1977.

A list of the plants assembled by Wilson may be found in The Azalea Book by Frederic P. Lee, Van Nostrand, 1958, pp. 166-167. The complete collection of these plants has existed in the gardens of azalea enthusiasts in the country at various times in the past, but according to Mr. Turner, who checked every available lead during his search, it is not believed to be complete anywhere else today. Some of the popular varieties, such as 'Hinodegiri' and 'Coral Bells' ('Daybreak'), are to be found everywhere south' of Washington, D.C. but others have completely disappeared, even from the principal arboretums. "I visited many fine azalea collections," Mr. Turner said, "but in every case there were some of the (Wilson's Fifty) cultivars missing. It has been an interesting and worthwhile quest," he continued, "and now I am going to try to put together the original plants in the Domoto collection." The Domoto Brothers, nurserymen of California, were pioneers in the importation of Japanese azaleas and brought to this country many of our now most popular Kurume varieties. Mr. Turner already has a good start on this project.

The Fernbank Science Center is a science and technology center which includes a horticultural complex and museum, operated by the DeKalb County School System in Atlanta. It ranks ninth in attendance among the members of the Association of Science-Technology Centers which includes such giants as the Smithsonian and Chicago's famed Field Museum.