The Delp Rhododendron Hybrids, Part II
Collectors Save the Treasures
Dr. Homer Salley
One of the greatest rhododendron collections in America surrounds the beautiful mountainside home of Paul and Barbara James. Under a light canopy of evergreen and deciduous trees the steep slopes have been landscaped with paths that wander about dense plantings of azaleas, lepidote and elepidote rhododendrons among the dogwood trees in a splendid display of color the last week of April and on into May. This enormous, wonderful garden is located southwest of Roanoke in Franklin County, Virginia, near the village of Boones Mill, but you won't find it without knowing where to look. It is guarded by three sleepy dogs; a fourth is very small but a good loud black barking alarm, named "Carcass"!
Paul James at home in his garden in Franklin County, Virginia
Photo by Homer Salley
There are more young, different, named, Delp rhododendron hybrids (385) there than at any other one location, except for the Delp homestead which has 421. Paul is a supreme rhododendron collector; he has also organized a chapter of the Native Plant Society; he has made hiking trails up and into the surrounding mountain forests which have been permanently protected from development. It is no wonder that he turns down most invitations to leave home and go make speeches.
Paul talks of his very close friend, the late Bill Storms (Cardinal Nursery) of State Road, North Carolina, as a significant plant source. Paul purchased all the Delp hybrids he could get from Bill. "Delp's plants get better with age; when you live around them for a time, they become treasures," Paul said. He called Bill a generous man who, like Weldon Delp, often gave away plants he could have sold. Bill later gave Paul many plants (as a back-up) in their original containers. Some were Delp's or the Haag's or Dr. Tom Ring's and had been in their containers too long. Paul nursed them back to new life and planted them out. He found that Haag and Delp hybrids made happy growing companions. Weldon Delp gave his plants and many cuttings of plants to Bill Storms for propagation and distribution. A catalog was published in 1988. As a nurseryman Bill Storms suffered two major disasters: 1) a major flood which floated off hundreds of containers filled with bark chips as growing media. 2) a storm of heavy, wet snow that broke in the roofs of his greenhouses. Cardinal Nursery was closed in 1993.
|Ten Highest Collectors Of Delp Hybrids|
|Dr. Tom Ring||76|
|Dr. Jean Beutler||39|
But Paul James' collection of Delp hybrids is second in numbers only to that of Weldon Delp, their creator (see box "Ten Highest Collectors of Delp Hybrids"). The most beautiful Delp hybrid in flower the day of my visit was the dark red 'Tim Craig'* shown here in color. Rhododendron lovers everywhere will forever feel an appreciation for the friendship of Bill Storms and Paul James. Pause here and think about the philosophy of sharing with others as did Weldon and Bill and now Paul who gives back to Weldon cuttings for propagation of hybrids Weldon created but had lost. In Paul's collection there are now 201 named Delp hybrids that are not known to be in existence any other place. Also there are many unnamed Delp seedlings (with parentage records) growing and flowering which some day may be named and registered as Delp/James hybrids.
Much of what is described above also exists, perhaps on a smaller scale, at many other locations. There are collectors and creators of new rhododendrons who enjoy giving and receiving pollen, cuttings, and seedlings (as well as ideas) as Weldon Delp has done for over 40 years. Most all have a collection of Delp hybrids that may include a few sole survivors not reported by any others. To name just a few: Allan Anderson, Franklin Lakes, N.J.; Bob Blough, Johnstown, Pa.; George Gray, Williams Bay, Wis.; Bob Grenkowitz, Romeo, Mich.; Velma Haag, Brevard, N.C.; John Heinze, Toledo, Ohio; Jack Looye, St. Catharines, Ontario; George Ring, Bent Mountain, Va.; Dr. Tom Ring, Bellaire, Ohio; Chris Trautmann, Cincinnati, Ohio; John Weagle, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
One happy grower of Delp's lepidotes indicated he was not interested in Delp's elepidote hybrids as they were quite complex and untested outside. "There are far too many hybrids named after every dog, cat, and wife in the U.S.A. and most to pass into deserved oblivion," he said. But Delp hybrids haven't yet gone into oblivion. We now have located 741 different, named Delp plants still growing. Less than half, 301, have had registrations published or pending at this time. Only 37 registered hybrids are either dead or not yet located.
|Registration of Delp Raised Hybrids Published or Pending**||
|'Achiever'||'Delp's Freckle Face'||'Heavens Yes'||'Robby'|
|'Alley Oops'||'Delp's Gold Dust'||'Hi Tech'||'Rock Solid'|
|'Angelic'||'Delp's Happy Face'||'Hindsight'||'Ron Fleeger'**|
|'Angel Powder'||'Delp's Megan'||'Homer Salley'||'Ronald Otto Delp'|
|'Anna Almeda'||'Delp's Mighty Mite'||'Honky Tonk'||'Rosy Future'|
|'Anna Banana'||'Delp's Munchkin'||'Hot Hands'||'Roughy'|
|'Anna Delp'||'Delp's Quest'||'Hot Mix'||'Runaway'|
|'Antique White'||'Delp's Red Max'||'Hot Pink'||'Sassy Style'|
|'Aunt Mildred'||'Delp's Red Satin'||'Hot Ziggety'||'Satin Sheen'|
|'Beauty Alert'||'Delp's Redding'||'Hotrodder'||'Saver'|
|'Beauty Stake'||'Delp's Risque'||'Hotsy Totsy'||'Scott Harris'|
|'Bewitching'||'Delp's Showoff'||'Huggy Bear'||'Scotty Lad'|
|'Big Band'**||'Delp's Sizzler'||'Humdinger'||'Serious Pink'|
|'Big Dipper'||'Delp's Small Fry'||'Impressario'**||'Shirlandy'|
|'Big Frill'||'Delp's Tea Time'||'Indian Squaw'**||'Shorty'|
|'Big-0'||'Delp's Tomboy'||'Ivory Palace'||'Showdown'|
|'Big Reward'||'Delp's Whirlwind'||'Jelly Bean Fever'||'Si Barnes'|
|'Big Time'||'Delp's Yankee Doodle'||'Jennifer Harris'||'Sidekick'|
|'Big Wig'||'Diehard'||'Jet Air'||'Si Si'|
|'Billy Boy'||'Digame'||'Jet Force'||'Skeeter Hill'|
|'Blazer'||'Diplomat'||'Jet Stream'||'Slippery Rock'|
|'Blooper'||'Doctor Tom Ring'||'Judith Anne'||'Snappy'|
|'Bob Danik'||'Doggone Delp'||'Keen Machine'||'Snazzy'|
|'Bob Danik, Junior'||'Doorbuster'||'Kenneth David'||'Softview'|
|'Bonus Deal'||'Doozey'||'Harris'||'Sonically Sound'|
|'Born Winner'||'Dotted Swiss'||'Kickoff'||'Source Bank'|
|'Breakthru'||'Double Action'||'Kid Stuff'||'Spinout'|
|'Briefly Said'**||'Double Duty'||'Lady Petite'||'Spirited'|
|'Bright Sight'||'Double Faced'||'Lanny Pride'||'Spotlighter'|
|'Bundle of Joy'||'Dynarim'||'Leading Edge'||'Squeaky'|
|'Buzzer'||'Earth Angel'||'Lemon Joy'||'Stark White'|
|'Can't Lose'||'El Shaddai'||'Light and Easy'||'Station Square'|
|'Captive Color'||'Enchanter'||'Lilac Lagoon'||'Stinger'|
|'Carefree'||'Eye Spy'||'Liquid Gold'||'Stingray'|
|'Carl Shirey'||'Fabulous Five'||'Little Dipper'||'Stokes Bronze Wings'|
|'Carolyn Dana Lewis'||'Fancy Pants'||'Mahogany Leaf'||'Streaker'|
|'Cheerleader'||'Feminique'||'Mary Bean'||'Super Blend'|
|'Chipper'||'Fiery Orange'||'Mary Grystar'||'Survivor'|
|'Christina Delp'||'Firebolt'||'Mass With Class'||'Sweet Jenny'|
|'Classy Lassie'||'Flame Glow'||'Microtones'||'Sweet Lulu'|
|'Clincher'||'Flaming Red'||'Mind Power'||'Tangy'|
|'Color Buster'||'Flapper'||'Mini Mite'||'Teacher's Pet'|
|'Color Coded'**||'Flawless'||'Mint Julep'||'Teardrop'|
|'Color Crusher'||'Flippant'||'Monaca Lad'||'Tickley'|
|'Color Me Pink'||'Flower Power'||'Moonstruck'||'Tiger Paw'|
|'Colorific'||'Foolproof'||'More Twirl'||'Tight End'|
|'Contempo'||'Four Seasons'||'Neat Feat'||'Tipsy'|
|'Cool Chick'**||'Free Spirit'||'Nebula'||'Tols'|
|'Cool Hue'||'Fresh Face'||'New Elegance'||'Tower of Power'|
|'Cool Trend'||'Fresh Heir'||'Paint Magic'||'Trendy Wendy'|
|'Crisp Classic'||'Frosty Pink'||'Pana'||'Tri-State'|
|'Crispy'||'Gay Day'||'Paul Danik'||'Tuitti Fruiti'|
|'Crispy Clear'||'Gene Splash'**||'Picture Perfect'**||'Twinkle Toes'|
|'Crystal Glo'||'Genevieve Schmidt'||'Pink Ink'||'Upbeat'|
|'Cuddles'||'Go Green'||'Pink Truffle'||'Wed'|
|'Cupid Hotline'||'Golly Gee'||'Potent Power'||'Wendy Lyn'|
|'Dashing Beauty'||'Gosh Darn!'||'Prizewinner'||'Whisper Soft'|
|'Dazzling Array'||'Grace and Will'||'Prolific'||'White Heat'|
|'Deadly Force'||'Grand Champ'||'Punchline'||'White Magic'|
|'Deep Thoughts'||'Great Genes'||'Purple Sage'||'White Shadows'**|
|'Delightful Pink'||'Gremlin'||'Qualifier'||'Whoopie Ding!'|
|'Delp's Big Deal'||'Grenade'||'Racy'||'Whopper'**|
|'Delp's Bon Bon'||'Gung Ho'||'Ras'||'Wild Force'**|
|'Delp's Cheers'||'Had'||'Red Dog'||'Wingdinger'|
|'Delp's Chickadee'||'Handsome Ris'||'Red Hot Mamma'||'Winning Edge'|
|'Delp's Cindy Lou'||'Hanky Panky'||'Red Impact'||'Winning One'|
|'Delp's Cupcake'**||'Harrisville'||'Renee Shirey'||'Wise Guy'|
|'Delp's Dream'||'Has Pizzaz'||'Rhodelite'||'Yankee Clipper'|
|'Delp's Excellence'||'Haughty Pink'||'Ritchie'||'Yankee Clover'|
|'Delp's Folly'||'Headstrong'||'Ritzy'||'Yellow Streaker'|
Weldon Delp's reply explained the reason for the use of so many names. To quote Weldon: "Let me clarify the use of names for most plants produced. When they are to be used in further breeding it becomes necessary to put names on them in order to avoid writing long parentages for all tags and in the countless computer entries. I grew thousands of seedlings every year and only the best are named to be used in further breeding, but there are many of these. Numbers are too easily transposed so not the safest method to use. I have been registering names of plants that I don't consider superior because Jay Murray and Dr. Alan Leslie requested that I do so. They feel that if it is to be used in further breeding, it is essential to have a record of it" (see "Registrations of Delp Raised Hybrids Published or Pending).
Weldon also stated, "I am only involved in the research and development of rhododendrons and azaleas to be introduced into the trade by retail nurseries. I do not retail, but I do give away many plants for testing."
'Go Green' ('Ivory Palace' x 'Silvery Moon'*) grex 178
Photo by Weldon Delp
This author agrees about parentage often being complex. As an example see the complete parentage diagram of 'Go Green' that survives in Weldon Delp's "back woods" where it gets very cold. In the winter of 1993-94 the temperature was down to -38°F at Harrisville, Pa. Many very complex Delp hybrids such as this have the potential for great variation in offspring. In this instance there could be germ plasm of 21 different hybrids containing ancestors of 11 different species. Siblings have more possibilities for being very much more unlike each other, but in the case of 'Go Green' Delp's records show no other surviving offspring from the cross ('Ivory Palace' x 'Silvery Moon'*). Nature sometimes makes complex hybrids but not quite as involved as the modern ones created by such breeders as Delp. Further crossing of 'Go Green' with another similarly complex hybrid such as 'Alley Oops' (Tom Ring cross) could possibly create even more variability. (Printing on one page the complete genealogy of such a cross would present a real challenge for the typesetter!)
The reader may recall seeing Delp hybrids listed by grex in Rhododendron Hybrids , Second Edition, 1992. Some named siblings are considered lost. Now with Ginny Delp's computer records and recently compiled information by the Delp Search and Preservation Committee of the Great Lakes Chapter we have a database of all 443 elepidote crosses and their surviving offspring. Siblings having the same parents and similar genetic heritage tend to have similar but not identical traits such as hardiness, color, season of flowering and ease of rooting. Each grex is numbered and each named member of the grex has the same number. For example, this entry shows that three named plants belong to grex No. 150: ('Goody Goody' x self) = 'Color Purple'*, 'Picturesque'*, 'Testy'*. All three of the offspring carry the grex number 150. The 32-page list is available from the author (see Notes at end of article).
|Delp's Most Prolific Seed Parents & No. Of Surviving Offspring|
|Grex No.||Elepidote Seed Parents||Crosses||Offspring|
|223-241||R. maximum & hybrids of R. maximum||20||26|
|316-324||'Ronald Otto Delp' & hybrids of same||11||26|
|242-253||'Midsummer' & hybrids of same||12||22|
|49-61||'Brachycrest'* & hybrids of same||13||21|
|404-414||'Weldy' & hybrids of same||12||21|
|276-291||'Oh My!' & hybrids of same||16||18|
|372-379||'Tony's Gift'* & hybrids of same||8||18|
|429-442a||R. yakushimanum & hybrids of same||15||17|
|109-116||'Delp's Cindy Lou' & hybrids of same||7||17|
|298-303||'Princess Elizabeth' & hybrids of same||14||14|
|07-15||'America' & hybrids of same||9||13|
|343-350||'Si Si' & hybrids of same||7||13|
|335-340||'Sefton' & hybrids of same||6||13|
|385-391||'Vinecrest' & hybrids of same||7||11|
|21-25||R. aureum (chrysanthum) & hybrids of same||5||11|
|358-365||'Stokes Bronze Wings' & hybrids of same||8||10|
|396-402||'Vivacious' & hybrid of same||7||10|
|149-153||'Goody Goody' & hybrids of same||5||9|
|42-48||R. brachycarpum as ssp. tigerstedtii||7||8|
|Average number per cross||1.6|
|There were 236 crosses of the 26 most prolific seed parents and from those crosses there were 386 Delp-raised selections named and now located. Leading this group of most prolific parents was 'Catalgla'; next was R. maximum ; then 'Oh My!'. In terms of most surviving offspring produced, the three leaders were 'Catagla', R. maximum and 'Ronald Otto Delp', with "Midsummer', also a R. maximum hybrid, as a close 4th.|
Published color illustrations with this story show grex numbers, and if there are siblings of those shown they also are listed with that grex under the photo.
A brief note here to recall the role of the well-endowed Dawes Arboretum at Newark, Ohio, that has welcomed the registered Delp cultivars into its collection of plant material to be viewed by the public with no admission charge. The director, Donald Hendricks, considers it a role of the Arboretum to fulfill an institutional purpose in this manner, and the number of mostly small Delp cultivars donated there now has grown from 18 in September 1994, to 193 in May 1995.
One aspect of Delp's work that has been of interest to others is his program that brings rhododendron seedlings into bloom in about 14 months. One year after germination and their fifth new shoot with flower buds set, the seedlings are outside in the natural cold through October for hardening-off, then back inside for greenhouse warming and early spring flowering.
The author wishes to acknowledge with appreciation those who contributed to this report: Virginia and Weldon Delp; Paul James; Registrar Jay Murray; and Editor Sonja Nelson.
A number of lists detailing Weldon Delp's hybridizing are available. They are:
Delp's Most Prolific Seed Parents & No. of Surviving Offspring.
Number of Delp-Raised Elepidotes from Crosses by Delp and Others With Their Surviving Named Seedlings.
Elepidote Rhododendron Crosses by Others With Surviving Offspring.
Delp's Lepidotes: Names and Grex Numbers.
Copies of the lists are available from the author for $5 (cost of mailing and copying).
Dr. Homer Salley, president of the Bluegrass Chapter, co-authored Rhododendron Hybrids and this year received the Gold Medal from the Society for his many contributions.
* Name unregistered.