JARS v48n2 - Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor
John Basford
Ellon, Scotland

The following letter from John Basford was written to Karen Morebeck and Mike McCullough, friends of Maurice Sumner, but Mr. Basford has kindly agreed to share the letter with Journal readers.)

It was with great regret that I read of the death of Maurice Sumner in the Journal. I first met the Sumners early in the 1960s when they visited Brodick Castle and Garden where I was head gardener for over 30 years. After showing them around the garden I was asked if it would be possible for the California Chapter of the ARS to have some propagation material from some of the more tender rhododendron species that grow at Brodick. As it is the policy of the National Trust for Scotland who owns Brodick Castle and Garden to circulate good plant material where possible we quickly came by an arrangement that I would send out the material requested in return for a donation to the Trust. The usual documentation was soon sorted out and the cuttings sent, and to my delight as well as the promised donation a small package of cuttings from Maurice's own garden arrived. Among them were some of 'Mi Amor' that rooted easily and grew quickly in an unheated greenhouse. When large enough one was planted in a protected corner of the open garden and another grown on under glass with other tender rhododendrons. I soon had flowering plants of 'Mi Amor' both under glass and in the open garden given a mild winter.
Throughout the time I was at Brodick it was the policy of the National Trust for Scotland to exhibit at various rhododendron shows and occasionally other flower shows. In the early 1970s I was very pleased to be able to take a good spray of R. 'Mi Amor' to the Royal Horticultural Society's Rhododendron Show in London in early May. Quite a few of my friends down there commented on the quality of the blooms and their scent so I decided to put it to the RHS Rhododendron & Camellia Committee for a possible award. At noon on the first day of the show when the exhibits came down from the committee room I found that 'Mi Amor' had been given an Award of Merit as a tender rhododendron suitable for growing under glass or in a protected situation outside.

R. 'Mi Amor'
R. 'Mi Amor'

In the mid 1980s I had a letter from Maurice Sumner saying that he and his wife hoped to be in Britain that summer and hoped to call us and see my wife and myself as well as the castle garden. Just before the day they were due my wife had a telephone call from Maurice saying that as he was over 80 he was unable to hire a car to drive to Scotland but had decided to hire a car and chauffeur so there would be an extra person for lunch that day. We all had a very pleasant walk round the garden on a warm and sunny day. After lunch at my house I was able to present Maurice with the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Merit certificate showing that the National Trust for Scotland had exhibited 'Mi Amor' raised by Maurice Sumner in California.
I am now retired and living in the northeast of Scotland far from the best rhododendron growing area in the west of Scotland. Luckily I am still very much involved with the rhododendron world and the National Trust for Scotland.

Mrs. Sumner reports that 'Mi Amor' last year in Eureka won the Award of Excellence and the blue ribbon for Best White Truss and Best of Show. The plant was owned by Parker Smith.