Rhododendron 'Jock's Cairn'
San Francisco, California
In the Register of Plant Names, Summer 1994 Journal, there appeared what may have seemed an enigma to many readers: the registration of 'Jock's Cairn', representing what, I trust, is the end of a 32-year trail of perplexity and trial.
In 1962 the Strybing Arboretum received a shipment from the National Arboretum that included one clone labeled Rhododendron longiflorum . When this plant bloomed it was evident to P.H. "Jock" Brydon, the director of the Arboretum, that it was not keying out; it was not R. longiflorum . Herbarium material was sent to Dr. Hermann Sleumer for correct identification. He, or someone on his staff, identified it as R. brookeanum var. gracile . The plot darkens! It was not properly identified at Strybing as that species either. If this clone was not of significance and of considerable horticultural promise, the whole issue would have then and there been properly finished off by depositing the mess in what Jock Brydon was prone to call "the midden."
Of course, it was not then and there terminated but carried on under the wrong name at the Arboretum and in the hands of many interested growers who obtained cutting material. Over the years Bill Moynier and myself procrastinated over straightening this situation out by the means of a "radical" solution. Bill had been on the way to register the clone as "Peck of Trouble," a name that it properly had earned. Instead it has been registered as above, its name appearing in the Summer 1994 Journal.
(For information and guidance to the considerable number of people who may still have in their possession this cultivar, having received it from Bill and Bette Moynier when they operated the Vireya Specialties Nursery, it was shipped out under Number H002, R. brookeanum hybrid.)
We could have played sleuth, I suppose, and retraced the clone back to England and possibly the records of the Veitch Nursery from whence it possibly may have originated...but fatigue had set in. We did it the radical way, the quick way - and we are glad! "Peck of Trouble" has been dignified with a name - an enigmatic name to many, of course, but let me explain.
It is named for P.H. Brydon, "Jock" to his friends, and he had many. I will leave the poetry of the name to you, but why it was named for Jock Brydon should be explained. I want to give Jock his due, to parade out in justice the record.
When I arrived, as propagator at Strybing in 1965, Jock had about three years left as director. It was under his direction and with his contacts and with his enthusiasm that vireya rhododendrons were ushered into America. He assured me that "to some degree and in some manner these magnificent plants will find a place in the gardens of temperate America." His enthusiasm peeled off on me, and we worked together until his retirement three years later. It was he who made contacts with the gardens of Australia and Europe. It was he who obtained so many seed sources and cutting shipments. It was he who spelled out Strybing as the place where vireyas were finding the place of dramatic start in America.
Photo by Bill Moynier
I say this with justice in mind because my name has been overrated in all of the above. I will admit that Divinity had sent the right man to the right place at the right time to continue the work - work that I have found consuming and fascinating and very rewarding. But don't underrate Jock's part.
Now, where does this place us? What have we in this clone? To many, including myself, this cultivar is the finest of the pastel themes that came out of England in the last century. What it is, what its antecedents are, is up for grabs. Let us all speculate. We have done so too long here in this "part of the colonies."
Plant Name Register, Summer 1994: 'Jock's Cairn': Vireya. (Parentage uncertain, thought to be [ brookeanum x possibly javanicum ]; maybe an old Veitch hybrid). Obtained from US National Arboretum; R and I: Strybing Arboretum, San Francisco, CA; N: Peter Sullivan, San Francisco, CA; REB (1994): William Moynier, Los Angeles, CA. Flowers are 2" across x 2.25" long with 5 smooth-edged lobes, narrowly tubular funnel-shaped with tube narrowly cylindrical for lower 0.9"; strong red (41B) lobes with strong pink (52D) throat and a narrow, star-shaped band of darker color between the two; calyx lacking. Dome truss of 10-14 flowers is 6" wide x 4" high.
Peter Sullivan is a member of the California Chapter.