Commentary: Hybridizing Rhododendrons for Fun
Britt M. Smith
What roused your interest in rhododendrons? A friend? Have you attended rhododendron shows? Did you see an unusually beautiful or interesting new cross and wondered to yourself, "Why did he or she use that particular pair of 'parents'?" Or have you ever thought, "I wonder what would be the result if pollen from this rhododendron were put on that rhododendron?" Have you sat in a lecture session, hoping to learn how to develop desired characteristics or to predict the characteristics of a certain cross? Those discussion can be very interesting - but there is a limit and anyhow I was up late last night.
This is not to divert anyone from studied approaches; it is certainly good that rhododendron crosses are made with considerable thought applied. Surely gardens are more beautiful as a result of that extra effort. At the same time, some of us make crosses just for the adventure and fun, for the inner satisfaction of having done it. Desirable results may and do surprise. One might lose some weight and strengthen some muscles, including heart muscles. The bending may improve flexibility. The mind is stimulated also, and that is good. Medics have recently reported that a good laugh introduces something beneficial to the brain. But this is getting too scholarly, so let's just note that some outstanding new hybrids might help to activate the market. Let's go back to just having fun!
In case someone is concerned about exhausting the possibilities of crosses, I think that it was David Leach who wrote that, in the case of a simple cross ([A x B] x [C x D]), it would require raising 40,000 plants to produce all the variants of that cross.
Before we get too serious, it has been reported that Halfdan Lem, when he became bored, would pinch a pretty girl. This has not been completely verified, but I know a lady whom I have heard complain that he never talked to her that way.
Before we get too far from the subject, it might be well to make some suggestions:
Start with only one or two crosses.
Do make crosses that you have not heard of anyone else making.
Be prepared for two or three - maybe three or four, or even five - years of marvelous anticipation and only a few seconds of disappointment.
Anyhow, have fun! And you will be rewarded.