JARS v36n3 - Joseph B. Gable Selected as the First Recipient of the Pioneer Achievement Award

Joseph B. Gable Selected as the First Recipient of
the Pioneer Achievement Award

With all our respect and love, we honor Joseph Benson Gable, a great and gentle man, a true pioneer in the Genus Rhododendron by awarding him the Pioneer Achievement Award for:

—  his vision and unswerving conviction of the prodigious potential in the Genus for diverse and untapped beauty and uniqueness.
—  for the creation of beautiful, novel plants adapted to growing conditions in gardens in the eastern United States, and
throughout the world.
—  for his innocent and humble perseverance despite intolerant climate and generally unavailable knowledge.
—  for his keen observation and constantly open mind.
—  for his infinite patience and dedication to the improvement of the Genus.
—  for his accumulation of knowledge heretofore unknown to his part of the world at that time.
—  for his meticulously kept records.
—  for his selfless sharing of knowledge and plants with others.
—  for his understanding and evaluation of the many species, which became his building blocks.
—  for his hybrids which in turn became building blocks for scores of plants in an ever wider and more diverse climate.
—  for the beauty he created.
—  for the many friends he made.

Joe Gable — The Man
This understanding of Joe Gable - The Man comes from excerpts of letters written at the time of his death on July 20, 1972, from an essay written in a school class by his 14 year old granddaughter, and other selected writings.

—  "gentle perceptive seeker after all that is beautiful on God's green earth" (From the bulletin of Mr. Gable's Memorial Service)
—  "so many happy memories. I remember the dinner (or was it the breakfast?) meeting in Chevy Chase when Joe was
given the Rhododendron Society Gold Medal and when he smiled (or giggled) that he didn't know why he should be
given a medal for doing just what he wanted to do" (John and Gertrude Wister, Swarthmore, PA)
—  "to those who knew him, Joseph B. Gable of Stewartstown, Pennsylvania was a slight, shy, gentle man with thinning grey hair, weather beaten and unpretentious in his gardening clothes; not much of a business man, but totally consumed by the desire to create new, better colored strains of azaleas and rhododendrons hardy in the colder parts of the country”"(Edward W. Weingartner - "Gable Azaleas in the Olive W. Lee Memorial Garden" - ARS Quarterly Bulletin)
—  "I must say that Joe had a good, long, wonderful life filled with enthusiasm for people, music, flowers, and family. What more did he have to look forward to other than sharing God's kingdom?" (Ernest Yelton, Rutherfordton, N.C.)
—  "It has been a privilege to walk with Mr. Gable in his gardens, and catch a bit of his quiet enthusiasm for the new plants." (Elizabeth and Lorenzo Kinney, Kingston, R.I.)
—  "he so distinguished himself because he was so dedicated and devoted to his ideal, and that always involves a personal sacrifice and often greater for the family" (David G. Leach, N. Madison, Ohio).
—  "he served as an inspiration to others who have continued this work" (Robert L. Ticknor, Aurora, Oregon, President of the American Rhododendron Society)
—  "for decades I had depended on him more than anyone else for information about Rhododendrons, and I am proud that our names have become so universally linked." (Guy Nearing, Ramsey, N.J.)
—  "In town he is known as a man who helps his neighbors, pays debts, and keeps his word" (Margaret Kantruss — essay written at 14 years.
—  "I am thinking that dad was rich in good friends" (Caroline Gable, Oct 6, 1981, Stewartstown, PA)

Joe Gable — The Plantsman
Some notable events as recorded from some of Mr. Gable's letters, and excerpts from his catalogs will document Mr. Gable - The Plantsman.

  • May 15, 1930 — "Over 200 kinds of rhododendron seed have been received from plant expeditions, friends, and other sources."

  • June 2, 1930 — "Received pollen from England." ( R. haematodes and others — put on catawbiense and maximum .)

  • Jan 30, 1931 — "raising 10,000 racemosum seedlings" Feb 9, 1931 — "Some lapponicums survive in shaded beds". " Impeditum dies in two summers". "First knowledge of Magor's listing"

  • May 12, 1931 — "Rock 59717 small flowers, deepest color, hardiest form”

  • May 6, 1932 — "Some seedlings of cross between Forrest racemosum 19404 and Rock 59717 are tall while others are low and dense”

  • Jul 29, 1932 — "where vigor and habit are good in the first generation, further generations may be justified”

  • Oct 15, 1932 — On subscribing to the Forrest Expedition — "Please don't mention the price of the seeds before my wife as that will surely get me into trouble"

  • Nov 20, 1932 — " neriflorum series will be the source of color and dwarfness in hybrids of the future. No other species with so many brilliant colors"

  • 1932 — Expresses the need for a national rhododendron society, starts a round robin called "The Symposium"

  • May 23, 1933 — "Received 350-400 packets of seed from Rock Collection"

  • Jun 10, 1934 — " R. maximum crossed with a yellow will produce a hardy yellow for the eastern U.S."

  • May 23, 1935 — "B.Y. Morrison visited here"

  • Jan 12, 1936 — " chrysanthum , fauriei , and brachycarpum are but three points in a gradually changing form of a Japanese species"

  • Apr 18, 1936 — "Andre Ostbo sent plants of British hybrids" (Essex Scarlet, Corona, C.B. Van Ness (sic), and R. radicans )

  • Jun 13, 1937 — "Abandon hopelessly tender species and concentrate on hybridizing only with those species which show some promise of hardiness."

  • Jul 26, 1937 — "started using indolebutyric acid for rooting hormone"

  • Apr 17, 1938 — "continue successive generations of crossing using best forms to improve them still further"

  • May 27, 1947 — "Each year it becomes more clear that hybrids cannot be judged by their performance the first year they bloom"

  • Mar 17, 1 941 — "Powell Glass sent seed of white catawbiense" (This was the source of 'Catalgla')

  • Jul 1 8, 1 942 — "species from western Szechwan at low altitudes tend to be hardier in eastern U.S. than other species from China"

  • Dec 16, 1942 — "it doesn't matter what color a hybrid is, as long as it is red"

  • Apr 16, 1944 — Gives his philosophy on (not) making money vs. plant breeding.
  • Joe Gable — His Accomplishments
    —  Catalogs for 1930, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1936, 1940, and 1951 list an almost unbelievable number of species and hybrids. For example, the Fall 1933 and Spring 1934 catalog lists 105 species and 41 hybrids.
    —  Jan 27, 1941 — Mr. Gable reports to a request from Mr. Donald Wyman, Arnold Arboretum, for a list of plants to be introduced. (See Appendix C for copy of Mr. Gable's response and his list). List contains 159 species and hybrids of rhododendrons and 21 azaleas.
    —  Grew seed from 346 species and subspecies as taken from a list compiled by Colonel and Mrs. R. H. Goodrich, Vienna, VA.
    —  A complete listing of all of Mr. Gable's introductions as compiled by the Gable Study Group showed: 111 named rhododendron hybrids
    45 named azalea hybrids 33 named azalea hybrids introduced and named by others "Without doubt, Joseph Gable is the outstanding breeder of hardy rhododendrons and azaleas, not only here in the East but the entire country." (Edmond Amateis, ARS Bulletin, January 1953)

    Joe Gable — His Honors
    The listing below may not be a complete compilation of Mr. Gable's honors, but will serve to show the high esteem to which he was held by the horticultural world.

  • 1938 — Jackson Dawson Medal — Massachusetts Horticultural Society — for original contributions to Horticulture. Caroline Gable says she gave the medal to a grandson. "It was huge, so he got a small fortune in gold")

  • 1953 — Gold Medal — American Rhododendron Society. The citation reads as follows: The American Rhododendron Society awards its highest honor, THE GOLD MEDAL, in grateful acknowledgment of thirty years of accomplishment in the investigation and hybridization of the Rhododendron genus. Your creation of hybrid Azaleas of the obtusum subseries much hardier than any heretofore available, in a complete color range with a diversity of flower forms has been a triumph of the hybridist's art. The Gable hybrid Azaleas have been an important contribution to the horticulture of large areas of the country.

    Your hybrid Rhododendrons represent an enormous advancement in quality for the Northeastern United States. They are the first Rhododendrons commercially introduced since the importation of the Waterer hybrids from England in 1 876 which promise to find a wide acceptance and an enduring place in American gardens.

    The Gold Medal is also made in consideration of your pioneer investigations of a multitude of Asian Rhododendron species and their hybrids to determine their adaptability to the climate of the Eastern United States. The hardy forms isolated in a score of species grown from seeds provided by collectors in Asia have enriched the horticultural resources of the East.

    To Joseph B. Gable, for ethics of the highest standard, for humility of spirit and generosity of act, this Gold Medal formally marks the recognition by the American Rhododendron Society of your many achievements as it also signifies the esteem, affection ‘and appreciation of your associates in the Society.

    By unanimous action of the Board of Directors. Portland, Oregon, February 6, 1953 1954

    — Framed citation from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
    — Certificate of Merit — Awarded to Joseph B. Gable for his distinguished contribution to Horticulture in growing and hybridizing Azaleas —April 1, 1954.

  • 1954 — The March 24, 1954 edition of the Saturday Evening Post featured the article entitled, "The Flowering Forest of Joe Gable." The article had a great impact on stirring up interest in rhododendrons in this country.

  • 1964 — Plaque from the New York Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society dated May 24, 1964 which reads "To Joseph B. Gable — Renowned for your many splendid Rhododendron and Azalea hybrids, treasured and admired throughout the world. Esteemed for your integrity, your vision, and modesty.

  • 1968 — Elected Pennsylvania Nurseryman of the Year by the Pennsylvania Nurserymen's Association.