JARS v46n2 - The Sandwich Club

The Sandwich Club
A Little Known Committee of the ARS Hard at Work and Having Fun
Donald S. Kellam
Charlotte, North Carolina

All of us on the East Coast know of the work of the Dexter Committee which in the 1940s attempted successfully to sort out many of the Dexter seedlings, test the plants, propagate them and name the best of these attractive rhododendron varieties. This committee consisted of Herman Howard, Dr. Henry Skinner, Dr. John Wister, David Leach and Clement Bowers, and others. The invaluable work of these men is manifest to all of us who have the named Dexter plants in our gardens. In the late 1980s, Marshall Stilwell and others from the Southeast realized that the Dexter plants did really well for us.

Marshall Stilwell at Heritage Garden
Marshall Stilwell, a charter member of the Sandwich Club,
with Consolini # p 142.
Photo by Donald S. Kellam

In travels to Cape Cod, and particularly to Dexter's farm in Sandwich, Mass., we realized that there were many plants out in the woods there which were equally as good or better than the named Dexters we were growing. Unfortunately, none were named, and most had no identification at all. Some clones were fortunate enough to be numbered by Herman Howard during his tenure at Heritage. Many were not Dexter hybrids at all but were second generation Dexter hybrids, hybridized by Jack Cowles, who was the horticulturist on the property from 1959 to 1967.

This matter was brought up at the Board of Directors of the ARS meeting in 1988 in Williamsburg, Va. Then President Harold Greer appointed Dick Gustafson and myself to co-chair a committee to identify, test, name, and register the best of these plants. The committee was a little slow getting off the ground, publishing its first newsletter in late 1989, but we finally met at the Hyannis meeting in 1990 and started our work.

We now have about 50 clones under study and up for rating when they bloom. Individually and as a committee we have registered six or seven varieties including three Consolini plants of great merit. These were 'Bellringer', 'Pride-of-Cape-Cod', and 'Big Dome', Individuals in the groups have registered and named several more varieties including Jonathon Leonard's registration of' Consolini's Windmill', a beautiful bicolor behind the windmill at Heritage Plantation. Also Dick Gustafson has registered 'Don Kellam', an orange hybrid of Cowles origin, found about six years ago behind the maintenance shed in a veritable jungle of briers. Several more plants have applications pending or will be registered in the near future. They all represent breaks in color, and flower formation, rather unique to the group. We've had two programs going on for rating these plants, both from the plant hardiness and vigor standpoint and beauty of bloom. This testing is in progress from Boston, Mass., to Atlanta, Ga.

R. 'Bellringer'
Original plant of 'Bellringer'.
Photo by Donald S. Kellam

The committee regularly publishes a newsletter (perhaps not too regularly) in which information is shared by members of the group regarding ease of growth and whether the plant is a "happy camper" as well as ratings of the flower and foliage and habit of the clone, from Boston to Atlanta. The future of the committee and its work appears bright, as we are an enthusiastic bunch, willing to search for new varieties in the pouring rain, and then come inside to look at slides of them all over again. We also enjoy excellent cooperation of the director of Heritage Plantation, Gene Schott, and its horticulturist, Jeannie Gillis. Three nurseries are propagating the Heritage and Consolini plants in a comprehensive manner. While no one these days could equal the work of the Dexter Committee of the 1940s, we hope to leave behind us a little less confusion in the names of these valuable additions to our gardens.

Don Kellam , a charter member of the Piedmont Chapter, received the ARS Gold Medal Award in 1991 for his service as "plantsman, author, speaker, innovator and leader."