As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap - And Reap and Reap

Austin C. Kennell
Afton, Virginia

The reaplings are on the way. Thousands and thousands of them.

No, it's not an invasion from another galaxy although it does involve space. Nor is it an infestation from the insect world although it will undoubtedly bug some people. It's not an epidemic of a rare disease either although it may make some sick. And it's not a population explosion although it sure will increase homelessness and overcrowding.

It is an explosion, though. One of gigantic proportions with staggering implications.

Seedlings. That's right, seedlings. The reaplings of rhododendron and azalea seeds.

Seedling, seedlings, and more seedlings. Red, white, pink, yellow, orange, and lavender seedlings. Hardy seedlings. Tender seedlings. Tall, medium, and short seedlings. Spindly seedlings, bushy seedlings, lepidote and elepidote seedlings. Evergreen and deciduous seedlings.

Mighty hopes from little seeds spring and the seeds available from all sources can produce over a quarter of a million hopelings a year. That's a million every four years!

Just a look at a seed list of the ARS Seed Exchange. At a conservative estimate, the seeds from that source alone will produce about 41⅔ seedlings for every member of the ARS. That's per year, per member. And that doesn't even take into consideration the seeds available from many other sources.

There will be more than enough seedlings for every grower to name plants after himself or herself, his or her spouse, daughters, sons, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents, pets and neighbors. Yes, and nicknames, surnames, maiden names and aliases too.

Since it's a fairly recent phenomenon, there are no accurate statistics to give us any good idea of what to expect of all these youngsters. We don't know, for example, the probabilities of runaways, adoptions, abortions, abuse, malformations, retardation or suicides.

We do know that the major problem with seedlings is growitis and unfortunately there is no known cure for it except deseedlingization and few gardeners are equipped with the cull power to take this drastic step. When seedlingmorphosis sets in all those nice little reaplings in their nice neat rows are no longer neat nor little. Crowdingitis follows bringing the trauma of dispositionitis with it.

There is, however, some help available. Harry Wise of Charleston, West Virginia, a real sow and sow, has been studying the problem for many years and has sucseeded in developing effective counter-measures. Mr. Wise, who has raised more seedlings than there are Republicans in his state, will be happy to share his expertise upon request.

Mr. Wise conseeds that persons with overseedlingitis and faced with dispositionitis risks the loss of all his friends and ostracism by his neighbors and that drastic measures are required. Some of his successful techniques born of years of experimentation and fine-tuning are sneaking out when nobody's looking and hiding seedlings in the cars of visitors; or using a dual benefit ploy of putting them openly in the cars of unwelcome visitors; driving to a remote neighborhood and leaving seedlings on the porches or doorsteps of strangers, ringing the bell and taking off in a hurry; and wrapping seedlings up to look like gifts with ribbons and tags and leaving them on the back seat of your car in a shopping center parking lot to be stolen. These are some of the nicer and more legal measures espoused by Mr. Wise.

Just imagine. Some day soon rhododendron and azalea seedlings everywhere as far as the eye can see. No room for trees - or homes or cemeteries or towns, just seedlings.

I guess you have to call this the seedy side of rhododendrons.

Austin Kennell, a member of the Middle Atlantic Chapter, is a past president of the ARS.