JARS v37n2 - "Don't Throw out the Baby with the Bath Water"

"Don't Throw out the Baby with the Bath Water"
Wallace Marley, Waynesville, N.C.

An Alternative to Dropping The Plant Awards Program

Background: The Fall issue of the ARS Journal contained an article entitled "Plant Awards - Are They Worth It?" This article provides a history of the Plant Awards Program and points out the reasons why the Program has experienced problems over the years and why the Board of Directors passed a motion to consider dropping the Plant Awards Program entirely. There is a request at the close of the article for each ARS Chapter to discuss the matter and determine the majority opinion of its membership.
An Alternative: An alternative to dropping the Plant Awards Program is to develop a new Hybridizer Awards Program which will honor ARS members who have been successful in growing an outstanding new rhododendron or azalea variety. Such a program could be structured within the Society's new Regional Concept with the District Directors actively involved. The employment of a single management concept at the District level would eliminate the need for Chapter Committees. However, every member of the Society would have access to the Hybridizer Awards Program and no one would be deprived of participation because of the lack of chapter interest. The Program would be designed to motivate our membership to higher achievement and could be patterned after the Motion Picture Industry's "Oscar" award which is presented to an actor, director, writer etc. for his work on a specific production. The Hybridizer Award should be of a new design, visually attractive and highly coveted. A special Committee could be appointed by the Society President to develop and define the details of the Program which would finally be presented to the Board of Directors for approval and implementation.
Main points of the proposed program are as follows:

1. Eliminate The Confusion:
Confusion between plant awards and plant ratings could be eliminated in the future by honoring a person for his achievement rather than giving the plant a Conditional Award, an Award of Excellence, or a Special Plant Award. People are motivated by recognition of their achievements. Plants are not. Since the basic purpose of our Society is to stimulate and sustain interest in the culture of rhododendrons, an awards program that recognizes the achievements of its members directly contributes to the objectives of the Society.
2. A Pattern For Success:
The ARS Seed Exchange has always been a popular and profitable activity of the Society. The interest shown in this program by contributors and purchasers of seed is indicative of the hybridizing interests of the Society. What could be more appropriate than to have a follow-on program of awards which recognize the many years of work involved in developing a single outstanding new variety. The Seed Exchange now offers a cup, for chapter level award, to the best truss grown from seed distributed by the Seed Exchange. Let's now develop an awards program that will give better recognition to the achievements of seed growing members of our Society.
3. Difference In Society Awards:
The Society presently has the Gold Medal Award for distinguished service on a national or international scale, the Silver Medal for outstanding regional service, the Bronze Medal for outstanding contribution to a chapter and the new Pioneer Achievement Award (presented last year to the Joseph B. Gable family) which encompasses a life time of work. An award for the development of a single new variety of rhododendron has a limited scope which would clearly separate the Hybridizer Award from existing awards mentioned above.
4. Organizational Concept:
A national Committee would be necessary to oversee the Hybridizer Award Program, however each District Director and/or the Assistant District Director would be the Program Coordinator for his District. Special committees would not be needed at the chapter level and any ARS member could enter the program by contacting the District Director. Direct access to the program is important so that ARS members are not deprived of participation in the program through the lack of chapter interest or committee action.
5. Evaluation Concept:
In order for a member to receive the Hybridizer Award it is necessary for his newly developed variety to undergo an evaluation and comparison with other varieties being grown in the region. The various environmental conditions found in each district shall be included in the evaluation process. Plants for evaluation would be contributed by the participant in the awards program (size and number of plants to be specified) and would be distributed to previously selected and qualified members for growing in their garden, and comparison with other varieties. A condition of accepting plants would be the submission of a completed evaluation form each June (number of years to be specified). A standard form for plant evaluation would be adopted and used through out the Society and could be patterned after others in use today.
6. Distribution Of New Varieties:
In addition to honoring members for their achievement in producing an outstanding new variety, this program would also provide a means of distributing new varieties among ARS members and would ultimately improve the quality of plants available in the various regions. Presently, the many subscribers to the Seed Exchange who are producing new hybrids have no Society sponsored system of distribution and evaluation available to them. For this reason, many superior new hybrids may never be recognized and made available to the general membership for the lack of an organized system of distribution. The Hybridizer Awards Program would provide such a system.
7. Commercial Considerations:
The commercial growers of rhododendrons are continually on the look out for new varieties that can be grown profitably. For several years, Harold Greer has offered test plants for sale in an effort to determine how well these new plants would grow in other environments. The proposed program could be formulated to be advantageous to all commercial growers so that information on new varieties would be available to them as well as plant material for propagation and distribution sale.
8. Summary:
The information presented in this proposal represents a concept for a Hybridizer Awards Program which is intended to be used for the development of a detailed finalized plan. The Society President can appoint a committee from our membership, with appropriate background and experience to undertake the task of further development. The Plant Awards Program needs to be replaced with an improved system of recognition, whether it be this plan, a modification of this proposal or a completely different approach. You, as a member of the ARS are encouraged to express your views in this matter.