JARS v60n2 - Let's Talk Hybridizing: Ongoing Work in Ohio

Let's Talk Hybridizing: Ongoing Work in Ohio
Dr. Tom Ring
Bellaire, Ohio

I am writing this article about my rhododendron hybridizing at the request of Annette Pizzino, the newsletter editor of our Great Lakes Chapter.
My interest in plants and nature has been lifelong, from wild flowers to horticulture generally. I always admired rhododendrons but didn't have a source for them, or reliable information about them, until discovering Baldsiefen's Catalog. The catalog had a large section on the culture of rhodos and was dedicated to supplying hardy field grown plants from breeders like Gable, Nearing, Pride, Amateis, and most especially David Leach. One of Baldsiefen's comments about Leach was that "one day his contributions would equal those of Lionel de Rothschild." The arrival of the catalog each spring was a cause of great excitement for me and sometimes a loss of good judgment - as when in the '70s I bought a plant of 'Marybelle' for $40.
The catalog also had information on joining the ARS, which I did. The first chapter meeting after I joined was in Lake County, Ohio, and included a visit in the afternoon to David Leach's new place. I definitely had to attend that meeting and I haven't missed many since.
Other meetings in that general time frame included one in Harrisville, Pennsylvania, where I sat next to, and talked with, Weldon Delp during dinner. He invited me to come to his place the next day. I did that and was sent home with a trunkload of plants. If I hadn't been smitten by the rhodo bug previously, I certainly was then. I soon learned that to associate with Delp was to feel compelled to hybridize.

R. 'Oregon Expressions'
'Oregon Expressions' ('Catalgla' x 'Exotic').
Photo by Tom Ring

The second formative meeting was at Lanny Pride's nursery. There I purchased a plant of 'Catalgla' (a layer). I began crossing everything with 'Catalgla' and some of the successes were 'Oregon Expressions' ('Catalgla' x 'Exotic'), salmon and yellow; 'Christopher Tee'* ('Catalgla' x 'Sir Frederick Moore', Best in Show at Seven Springs; 'World Peace'* ('Catalgla' x 'Graf Zeppelin'), Best in Show at Toledo; 'Hat Trick'*, a sibling of 'World Peace', 2nd Best in Show at Newark; and 'Ring's Early Splendor'* ('Catalgla x R. hyperythrum ).
During another fall meeting in Lake County I walked over to Leach's new place from Strombeeks with Gied and Felix Robinson. We passed one plant that was totally covered with seed pods, obviously open pollinated. I took one cluster of pods, put them in my jacket pocket and forgot them, only to find a pocketful of seed some time later. (Many years after the fact, Don Whitney said I stole the seed - I say I helped Leach deadhead.)

R. 'Golden Harbinger'
'Golden Harbinger' ('Frilled Cream' x ['Mary Garrison' x 'Marybelle']).
Photo by Tom Ring

In any case, the seeds were grown and produced a nice frilled white named 'Frilled White'* (Best New Hybrid, Inniswood Metro Gardens, Ohio) and a cream colored named 'Frilled Cream'*. The latter crossed with ('Mary Garrison' x 'Marybelle') produced many plants with good flower colors including yellows and a light orange. I named the deepest yellow 'Golden Harbinger'* (Best Yellow in Show, Great Lakes Chapter 2005). It is about the same shade as 'Capistrano' but blooms a week later. I have been told that Hank Schannen of Rare Find Nursery says that this is the only yellow he can grow in open fields without having leaf spot problems. It is my belief, and that of others, that certain varieties are superior parents. Two of these are 'Newburyport Belle' and 'Graf Zeppelin'. Crossing these produced sturdy seedlings with thick limbs and heavy textured dark green foliage. One had flowers that caught everyone's attention. It is pink with a gold flare. I called it 'Ring's Monarch' (Best in Show at Erie). It is very floriferous, easy to grow and easy to propagate. Jack Looye believes that this is a better commercial plant for him than 'Scintillation'.

R. 'Ring's Monarch'
'Ring's Monarch' ('Newburyport Belle' x 'Graf Zeppelin').
Photo by Tom Ring

'Princess Elizabeth' x 'Delp's Cindy Lou' produced 'Rougemont'*, a floriferous red hardy to 20F (-29C) (Best New Hybrid at Cambridge Springs). I am evaluating a group of bright red flowered plants from the cross 'Rougemont'* x 'Double Winner'*. Jack Looye of the Niagara Chapter suggested using 'Betty White', and crosses with this have produced small plants with flowers in shades of yellow, orange and bicolors.

R. 'Rougemont'
'Rougemont' ('Princess Elizabeth' x 'Delp's Cindy Lou').
Photo by Tom Ring

'Fiery Orange' (Delp) is tender outside in our climate and fall blooms partially, but when crossed with hardier things is a good source for yellow and oranges and only about 20 percent of its offspring fall bloom. One plant of 'Fiery Orange' x 'Browning's Orlando'* blooms orange with yellow centers.

R. 'Cartwheels'
'Cartwheels' ('Red River' x 'June Fire').
Photo by Tom Ring

Jack Looye, Chris Troutmann of the Great Lakes Chapter and I have exchanged seeds, and from Chris's cross of 'Red River' x 'June Fire'*(Swarthmore) I have obtained several good flowers. One red and white bicolor is tentatively named 'Cartwheels'. From Jack's seed of 'Marybelle' x 'Casanova' I got a nice frilly yellow with a hint of butterscotch (Best New Hybrid at Monroeville). Chris has grown some nice things from my cross of 'Fantastica' x 'Java', one of which he calls 'Big Red Machine'*. Les Smith of the Great Lakes Chapter also got some of that seed and is very happy with a couple of the seedlings he grew.
I find a lot of satisfaction in producing something new and beautiful by hybridizing, and equally satisfying are the friendships that I have made with other hybridizers.

* Name is not registered.

Dr. Ring is a member of the Great Lakes Chapter.