JARS v54n2 - Commentary: .com

Commentary: .com
Austin C. Kennell
Afton, Virginia

I don't know what ".com" means. But I also don't care.com!

In my book (in all truth I don't have such a book), it falls somewhere between high tech, computers, tissue culture, VCR, FAX, e-mail and test tube babies (somebody's always trying to take the fun out of everything). These are just some of the things I can't understand and don't seem to need .com.

But it seems to be a pretty good way to entitle an article that deals with rhododendron experiences, achievements and disappointments. I'm now four score and two years old (a Lincolnesque expression for over the hill). It is also a good example of how time has passed me by! (It didn't have to do it so damn fast).com

My original goal was to be ranked right up there with Gable, Shammarello, Pride, and Lem so I embarked on a program of experiments and hybridization. My first involved a study of rhodo groupings. I felt that in addition to lepidotes (small leaf) and elepidotes (large leaf) there should be a unlepidote (no leaf) group. I also uncovered a group which I called loosepidotes (loose leaf). These conclusions were based on the plants in my yard over a long time. Although the study was well-documented (which means no proof), the study was largely ignored by taxonomists and nurseries (professional jealousy obviously).com

Then I was struck with a challenging task - to develop a new color. I decided on brown since there were no brown rhodos. I succeeded beyond my fondest dreams. Soon many of my rhodos were brown - not just the flowers but also foliage and limbs and roots. This was done by a procedure which I have never disclosed to anyone. I got great cooperation from the rhodos who seemed to revel (that means fun for me) in their new personalities.com

To discourage unauthorized purloining of cuttings I crossed a 'County of York' with poison ivy which I called 'Itchoides'. To the best of my knowledge (which ain't much) this amazing development which I did from scratch never panned out due to the opposition of the FDA.com

Among the many other accomplishments during my unmatched (sorry I only have a lighter) career, no area of the culture of the genus Rhododendron escaped my inquisitive (polite for nosy) pursuit. A cross of decorum with a dogwood improved the bark. Then there was the Christmas tree crosses with catawbiense to produce blooms that twinkled.com

I dabbled with tissue culture until I found out it didn't concern potty training. I even explored the makeup of the ARS and uncovered the sad truth that despite its name there were no rhododendrons in the society. None had ever even applied for membership. Membership lists included Bushes, Flowers, Pines but no Rhodos, Rhodies, or Rhododendrons.com.

I crossed a keiskei with a dandelion trying to get a rhodo that grew like a weed. It grew well except a susceptibility to losing their head to lawn mowers. A bird crossed with 'Fantastica' was an attempt to get something to crow about.com.

I discovered a sure-fire way to eliminate root rot by a simple procedure to get air movement around the roots. I found that root rot was no problem for rhodos planted upside down, but people who liked flowers didn't take to this solution.com

Rose bushes crossed with minus produced plants immune to damage by cats or dogs. I called it 'Urinenacea' or 'Peeless' for short. Unfortunately the American Kennell Club (that's the snooty branch of my family) boycotted the plants.

These are the highlights of my rhodo career. I will probably never go down in history as a great contributor to the genus. But I gave it all I had.com

The eight decades plus two have written finis to my rhodo experiences but it's been fun.com

I would like to correct one persistent rumor. A rhodo buddy of mine from West Virginia, Harry Wise, had always charged that for the first ten years I grew rhodos as annuals. That's not correct. It was only the first forty-eight months.com

Wait a minute! I just thought of another direction to explore so excuse me as I want to get right on it. It concerns asexual propagation and I've always liked anything sexual but I don't remember why.com