JARS v47n4 - In Memoriam: Maurice Sumner

In Memoriam: Maurice Sumner

Karen Morebeck
San Francisco, California

ARS Gold Medal winner, Cal Chapter charter member and hybridizer extraordinaire Maurice Sumner died July 19 in the arms of his wife of 67 years, Frances.

Two hundred people gathered to pay tribute to "Maurie" the attorney, the hilltop neighbor on San Francisco's Edgehill Drive, the church member at Temple United Methodist, the friend of the younger generation (of which he often considered himself a member) and the man and his rhododendron world.

In a letter written for the memorial, Owen Pearce praised Maurie's work and fascination with rhododendrons. It was back in 1962 when his most noted hybrid, R. 'Mi Amor', was registered. In 1975 it became the second American hybrid rhododendron to receive the Royal Horticultural Society's prestigious Award of Merit.

Maurie and Fran have grown hundreds of plants at their home as well as at Monte Toyon, their 3-acre "41-year-old rhododendron project" in Aptos, Calif. Up until about three years ago they spent weekends there camping on the property while watering their plants, a three day job.

Maurie served the ARS in a wide range of capacities. He contributed articles to the Journal and in 1968 (Vol. 22, No. 3) wrote of his expedition to New Guinea. He served as Cal Chapter president, show judge, speaker and member of numerous committees and the board of directors. In 1972 Maurie received the ARS Gold Medal. It praised his years of dedication and added, "You have, it must be admitted, had the advantage of having your remarkable wife at your side throughout your service."

Mike McCullough
San Jose, California

In less than a year, two of the leading hybridizers of Maddenii series rhododendrons passed away. Last year Bob Scott; in mid-July 1993, Maurice Sumner at the age of 93.

Maurice & Fran Summer with 'My Lady'
Maurice & Fran Summer with 'My Lady'.

In the 1950s, Maurice Sumner of San Francisco established the two-acre Monte Toyon garden in Aptos. This garden was featured in the garden tours of the San Francisco and Oakland conventions of the American Rhododendron Society. Since the 1950s, he was active in the hybridization of rhododendrons, including the common elepidote types, vireyas, and the maddeniis for which he is most noted. Some of the Maddenii series hybrids he created include:

'Mi Amor' - The most fragrant rhododendron with large April-May blooming white flowers; won the trophy for Best Truss at the 1993 ARS Annual Convention in Tacoma, Wash., and has won many trophies and ribbons at Bay Area rhododendron shows.

'My Lady' - Fragrant March blooming white, pink and yellow flowers; excellent glossy dark green foliage.

'My Guy' - Large April blooming yellow flowers.

'Saffron Prince' and 'Owen Pearce' - Sister seedlings with bell-shaped April blooming yellow flowers.

'Martha Wright' - It has been said that it is impossible to take a bad photo of the April blooming creamy yellow flowers.

Sumner hybrids can be seen at the Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco, the Gilkey Garden at the Lake Merritt Garden Center in Oakland and at Monte Toyon.