JARS v41n1 - In Memoriam: Edmund V. Mezitt

In Memoriam: Edmund V. Mezitt

Richard Brooks
Concord, Massachusetts

One who must surely be acknowledged as a pioneer in the popularization of rhododendrons and azaleas in this country is no longer with us. But his work will continue to remind generations to come of the debt they owe him.
Ed Mezitt's name has already been entered in the annals of rhododendron lore as the creator of the versatile and adaptable 'P.J.M.' In the four decades since its introduction, 'P.J.M.' has brought rhododendrons to parts of the country where their successful culture has been believed impossible. But it would be a disservice to the man to remember him for this achievement alone. His work of hybridizing, growing on and selecting superior seedlings continued up to the end of his life, as evidenced by a host of superlative plants already released and by dozens more still waiting in the wings.
In addition to his breeding work, Ed must also be remembered for his efforts in bringing the diversity and usefulness of the genus to the attention of the gardening public. The present surge of interest in rhododendrons and azaleas in the northeast must be credited in no small part to the award-winning exhibits by his Weston Nurseries at the annual Boston Spring Flower Show. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of winter-weary plant lovers have flocked to this March extravaganza, to have their eyes filled and spirits lifted by Ed's superbly staged displays of rhododendrons and azaleas in naturalistic settings. The exhibits featured not only Ed's own hybrids, but many other deserving cultivars, demonstrating the full range of color, leaf and plant habit that is becoming available for northeastern gardens.

Edmund V. Mezitt
Edmund V. Mezitt
Photo from ARS Journal files

As first president of the Massachusetts Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society in 1971-1972, he devoted his time, talent and resources to nurture the fledgling group. His interest in, and enthusiasm for, the work of the maturing organization continued to manifest itself in his generous contributions to the Chapter's display gardens and his organizing of the breeders' round-table when the Chapter hosted the national A.R.S. convention in 1980.
As a lecturer and author, and as a guide around the extensive testing and growing areas of Weston Nurseries, Ed never tired of spreading the rhododendron and azalea gospel among novices and experienced growers alike.
Always modest concerning his own accomplishments, Ed was nevertheless the recipient of many honors recognizing his contributions to horticulture in general and to the genus Rhododendron in particular. Among these were:

1967  Jackson Dawson Gold Medal of the Massachusetts Horticulture Society, for plant breeding and propagation.
1974  Bronze Medal of the American Rhododendron Society, Massachusetts.
1978  Citation and Gold Medal of the American Horticultural Society, for outstanding contributions to commercial horticulture.
1980  Evelyn Mooney Award of the National Council of Garden Clubs, for creative horticultural achievement.
1980  Gold Medal of the American Rhododendron Society.
1986  Linnaeus Award of the Chicago Horticultural Society, in recognition of a career dedicated to outstanding horticulture in industry.

Ed finally succumbed to a long illness on September 29, 1986. His work lives on, a fitting memorial, increasing in beauty and prestige with each passing season.