JARS v52n4 - Pacific Northwest Hybridizers Highlight

Pacific Northwest Hybridizers Highlight
1999 ARS Annual Convention, April 28 - May 3
Hosted by the Seattle Rhododendron Society and ARS District Two Chapters

Kristi O'Donnell
Greenbank, Washington

The 1999 ARS Annual Convention, "100 Years of Rhododendrons: Mirrors to the Past; Windows to the Future," will reflect on the past accomplishments of plant explorers while visualizing the new horticultural treasures to be discovered and hybridizing feats accomplished.

This article takes a peak at the future via Pacific Northwest Hybridizers: those dedicated, sometimes fanatical group of growers who dabble in pollen and dreams. The '99 Convention tours showcase several hybridizers' gardens during the peak bloom in "Rhododendron Mecca," the Pacific Northwest.

Jim Barlup

Jim Barlup is one of the Northwest's finest active hybridizers. His background in illustration and professional photography and his eighteen years in the retail nursery business have been instrumental in polishing his ability to visualize a new plant. In Jim's earlier plant breeding days, his objective was to create more plants with superior apricot and orange flowers. He then learned the value of excellent foliage characteristics and compact growth. Additionally, Jim has been working with Eastern hybrids for over ten years to create a wider range of colors and foliage able to withstand harsh winter conditions.

Rhododendron 'Coral Mist', selected to represent the '99 Convention, is one of Jim's most recent introductions. Jim has received ARS Conditional Awards for his hybridizing achievements for rhododendrons: 'Fire Rim', 'Windsong', 'Invitation', 'Silk Ribbon' and 'Mindy's Love'.

R. 'Coral Mist'
'Coral Mist' ('Nancy Evans' x 'Mrs. Furnival'), a cross by Jim Barlup.
Photo by Jim Barlup

Jim is the author of the ARS Journal series "Hybridizing Notes" and is an active participant in the ARS Seed Exchange. As a promoter of hybridizing rhododendrons, Jim has traveled to Great Britain and is scheduled to speak in France in September of 1999.

Jim Barlup's working garden is small, compact and select. Less that one acre in size, it houses new hybrids from year to year. Located in Bellevue, Wash., this garden will allow visitors to view the process of growing plants from seed to maturity in a small area with minimal equipment. Up to 4,000 seedlings from six months to twenty years of age are undergoing evaluation, surrounded by a mature collection of Jim's own crosses.

Frank Fujioka garden
The west side of the garden of Frank Fujioka, Whidbey Island, Washington.
Photo by Frank Fujioka

Frank Fujioka

Frank Fujioka has been hybridizing for generations! Recommendations he gives to budding hybridizers include: "Spend time researching genetic backgrounds of hybrids to look for characteristics you want. Plan on long-term results, two-three-four generations down. Experiment with species which have rarely or never been used."

Frank's garden is a hybridizer's working garden containing most of his own hybrid rhododendrons. On the west side of his garden, Frank landscapes with lepidotes, weaving them into a carpet of bloom, strong enough to withstand the harsh, island winds and sun from the west. The vista to the east of the garden integrates Japanese maples, dwarf conifers and sculpted plant materials which provide year-long interest. Frank's artistic eye orchestrates the colors of stems, leaf buds and blossoms to create a symphony of hues whether the garden is in spring bloom or its autumn cloak. This 7-year-old garden is a fine example of using mature specimens to create a well-developed landscape.

A visit to Frank's garden is testimony to his diligent adherence to his sage advice! Rhododendrons that have passed his stringent reviewing processes include: 'Cranberry Lace', 'Starbright Champagne', 'Elsie Watson', 'Midnight Mystique' and 'Seaview Sunset'. He has received Best New Hybrid awards from the Seattle Chapter for 'Primary Pink' and 'Cranberry Lace'. Additionally, Mr. Fujioka has been awarded the ARS Bronze Metal and has served on the Board of Directors for the Whidbey Island Chapter.

Across the road is the "farm," where he and his partner Greg Kesterson operate Smuggler's Cove Rhododendrons, a wholesale growing business. Frank claims the nursery is just a disguise since most of his own seedlings are also grown there. Insiders know that the "farm operation" helps fund Frank's hybridizing habit.

Frank's garden will be a part of the Whidbey Island tour in conjunction with hybridizer Bill Stipe's garden, Jim Ramsey's garden and the ten-acre display and hybrid test garden at Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens.

Ned Brockenbrough

One of the United States' most well known hybridizers, Dr. Ned Brockenbrough, is credited with superb varieties, many of which are available commercially world-wide. Famed for stellar rhododendrons, such as, 'Nancy Evans', 'Horizon Monarch', 'Horizon Lakeside' and 'Horizon Dawn', he describes his breeding goals: "Making second generation yakushimanum crosses, improving yellows and orange-reds, and producing tetraploids that will breed with one another with the goal of achieving a new race of rhododendron hybrids with many of the desirable characteristics that often are embodied in plants with increased numbers of chromosomes."

Ned is an active member of the Cascade and Seattle ARS chapters, has served as ARS president and chairman of the ARS awards program, and is the recipient of the ARS Silver Medal.

Ned's "three rules for success" are: 1. Selection 2. Selection 3. Selection. A visit to his Bellevue, Wash., garden will display his outstanding results!

Hank Hanssen

The Hanssen Garden, located in Woodinville, Wash., is nestled among an acre of tall firs and has evolved as a result of Hank's extensive hybridizing program over the past eighteen years. Visitors will find many new and unusual hybrids, as over the years the standard varieties have gradually given way to the fruits of each successive year's crop of new hybrids. Today, well over half the plants in the garden are Hank's own crosses. Most of the colors are in the warmer or more exotic hues, as Hank's emphasis has been toward breeding deep yellows and occasional oranges. Recent crosses exhibit many bi- and tricolors and flowers with exotic calyxes. Visitors are sure to find something new and rewarding during the blooming season.

{[('Whopper' x 'Cameo') x
'Whitney's Late Yellow] x ('Jingle Bells' x lacteum)}
A cross by Hank Hanssen,
{[('Whopper' x 'Cameo') x 'Whitney's Late Yellow]
x ('Jingle Bells' x lacteum )}.
Photo by Hank Hanssen

This "turn of the century convention" explores the past history and future of rhododendrons. The tours encapsulate the now! Join us in celebrating these horticultural achievements during the 1999 ARS Convention in Seattle.

Kristi O'Donnell, a member of the Seattle and Whidbey chapters, is the garden manager of Meerkerk Rhododendron Gardens on Whidbey Island, Wash.