QBARS - v35n3 Rhody Fever - A Medical Report

A. D. McNees, Tuscumbia, AL

RHODY FEVER is without a doubt the most pleasant illness available to mankind today. Prior to the purchase of one 'Trilby' in full bloom, t was satisfied with a periodic cutting of the yard and a total disinterest in the weather. If it rained I could not go out, and if it was not raining I could go hunting, fishing, golfing, or do any of the other outdoor activities that I enjoyed. Needless to say once the FEVER spread, I had no use for guns, boats, or golf sticks and I definitely became very much aware of the rain and the weather reports.
There seem to be various stages of the FEVER and in my case history the following seems to have applied. After enjoying the red flowers, which I later discovered were trusses, I decided that a few more of these plants would be nice and I began to get uncomfortable about how to spell rhododendron correctly. I found a man who was growing a few hybrids, and my next step was the purchase of seventeen rhododendrons; some red, some white, some purple, and some pink. Each had a paper label attached which I promptly disposed of when I dug my deep holes and planted them like a tomato, both of which actions I would later regret. So much for the first stage.
In stage two, I found out that they all have a name - HOW ABOUT THAT! (long after my paper labels had been disposed of). But being a bookkeeper, I had kept the sales slip with all the names; and although some of the plants are too close for me to call, out of the original seventeen, all but four are now identified. Another discovery Is that I am not the only one with this malady. Others have it to various degrees - all ages, all backgrounds, and life styles - yet they all have one thing in common that never ceases to amaze me -the willingness to share their ideas, plants, pictures, and enthusiasm. In this stage, I learned of the rhododendrons available in North Carolina, and my wife and I loaded up in the pickup truck and finally got home with sixty-seven hybrids of all the varieties available which were promptly planted everywhere. From this point on the FEVER is incurable.
Stage three was when it really started to get serious and I stopped calling them rhodies and thereafter only referred to them as rhododendrons. I began to find out there were books, publications, and the American Rhododendron Society. Then my reading began; I ordered all the books available; I found out how to order in pounds instead of dollars to order from England; I got the back issues of the ARS bulletins and found out about all the books referred to in the bibliography of each new book. I found out what pH is, how to plant on top of the ground, correct watering procedures, all about mulches, fertilizer programs, and spraying programs. I even dug a well in order to have water without chemicals, and how about photography! What a wealth of information available.
Stage four - I could tell immediately that I had to have a lath house with proper gravel drainage and hardware cloth around the bottom for protection from harmful animals. Next came the construction of two Nearing frames and the taking of the cuttings this past September. Keeping notes on the dutiful watering, spraying, and observations, I now anxiously wait for late July or early August to see how many have rooted for me. In the two frames, are fifty-seven varieties hopefully just waiting on the warm weather to send out those little roots and say to me and all the world, "I am now ready to do my work and someday I will bloom".
I am sure there is a stage five, six, seven, eight, and so on. Please be advised that I am looking forward to each with great anticipation, and like they say about engineers, five years ago I could not even spell 3-indolebutyric acid.