JARS v61n2 - Rhododendron 'Dick Brooks'

Rhododendron 'Dick Brooks'
Sally and John Perkins
Salem, New Hampshire

Rhododendron 'Dick Brooks' (Patterson/Hibben) was introduced on Sunday, November 12, 2006, at the Massachusetts Chapter's Founder's Day Meeting. The Dick Brooks Memorial Speaker for the meeting was Hank Schannen of RareFind Nursery, Jackson, New Jersey.
The Massachusetts Chapter seed exchange is an event held during the November meeting to encourage hybridizing for the New England climate. The chairman of this one-man committee is responsible for the Cross of the Year, a cross that is designed to result in something "different" or "better," and to provide multiple seed packets for distribution to all members who have an interest in growing rhododendrons from seed. Charlie Patterson was the Massachusetts Chapter seed exchange chairman in 1989 when he presented the Cross of the Year, as R. 'Dexter's Giant Red' x R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum 'Whitney's Dwarf'*. Charlie, who is a veterinarian, described this cross as a Great Dane and Chihuahua eliciting laughter at that November chapter meeting.

Rhododendron 'Dick Brooks'
Rhododendron 'Dick Brooks'
Photo by Sally and John Perkins

'Dexter's Giant Red' (P4M [Plants for Members] #240) from the Heritage Plantation Sandwich, Mass., is a large plant producing large red trusses with dark red stippling in the throat. 'Whitney's Dwarf'* (P4M #1167) is a dwarf selection of the species R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum from the West Coast's Whitney Gardens & Nursery. Charlie and C.J. Patterson are well known in the Massachusetts Chapter for their breeding of rhododendrons that have interesting foliage, especially "big leaves." 'Lorry Roeder'*, a Patterson cross of R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum and R. rex , and 'Peggy Lawson'*, a yellow-flowered cross by Lawson who was the chapter seed exchange chair before Charlie, are rhododendrons raised from seed and named by the Pattersons. Rhododendron prunifolium 'Sunset Trail', R. maximum 'Dee Walker'* and a yet to be named R. makinoi selection are species selections they have chosen.
Now the story turns to George Hibben, of Lincoln, Mass., an excellent and avid grower of plants from seed. George has grown seed of rhododendron crosses from many Massachusetts Chapter members including Ian Donovan, Peggy Lawson, Tony Knights, Sally and John Perkins, and Ron Rabideau. As he has for many years, he selected a few packs of rhododendron seed including Charlie's 1989 Cross of the Year. He sowed the seed in early 1990, labeling this particular cross #90134. George grew on plants for Dick Brooks' Kalmia Wood Nursery, a small operation of spring and fall weekend sales, which took place on Dick's driveway. Dick would visit George's propagating beds fairly frequently to select plants for his sale.
For the 2000 ARS convention in Burlington, Mass., Dick selected a plant from George's #90134 seedlings to be propagated for the P4M cuttings sale (P4M #5542). He also photographed a truss and used the image in his article promoting the convention "Rhododendron Diversity: The Challenges of New England" (JARS Vol. 54, No 1, Winter 2000). George's garden was included on tour E of the gardens west of Boston. Other plants featured at this convention were R. 'Crimson Constellation' hybridized by Dick, R. 'Landmark' and R. 'New Century' introduced by Weston Nurseries, and Kalmia 'Madeline' and Dick Jaynes' K. 'Meteor'. While working at the convention plant sale, Dick suggested that we try a plant labeled P4M #5542. So we purchased the plant which is now growing very well in our New Hampshire garden although it has not set flower buds.
Now the history takes a personal turn to how we met Dick. In 1989 Dick was selling azaleas at a New England Wildflower Society plant sale at Garden in the Woods, Framingham, Mass. We purchased a few deciduous azaleas from Dick including a Rhododendron cumberlandense open pollinated seedling we now call 'Canobie Candela'*. Dick suggested we join the American Rhododendron Society; talked about how the Massachusetts Chapter was going to host the Society convention on Cape Cod in May 1990; and told us about the plant sale that was a feature of the convention. Dick put us in contact with C.J. Patterson who was in charge of the convention plant sale. In fact, our first activity as society members was a workday potting up Plane View Nursery's tissue cultured plants at Les Wyman's greenhouse. Moreover, our first official chapter meeting was in November 1989 when Charlie distributed his Cross of the Year, R. 'Dexter's Giant Red' x R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum 'Whitney's Dwarf'*.
Ron Rabideau succeeded Charlie as the Massachusetts Chapter seed exchange chair, and left New England in 1997 to become General Nursery Manager at RareFind Nursery. In 2004 Ron inquired about the possibility of receiving cuttings of some of the better unnamed rhododendrons growing in the Boston and New Hampshire area for evaluation in New Jersey. Having access to numerous chapter members' gardens containing rhododendrons grown from seed, including our own in Salem, N.H., George's in Lincoln, Mass., Joe Bruso's in Hopkinton, Fred Knippel's in Acton, Mass., Jim Welch's in Londonderry, N.H., and Dean Barber's old garden in Contoocook, N.H., we supplied Ron cuttings of several rhododendrons indicating that 'Pressey's Peachy'* (Cowles), 'Canobie Canary'* (Knights), 'Ice Cube' x R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum (Stuart/Barber), and 'Dexter's Giant Red' x R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum 'Whitney's Dwarf '* (Patterson/Hibben) were among the best performers.
In October of 2006 while we were visiting RareFind Nursery on our speaking tour to chapters in Distinct 7, Ron, being impressed by the plant's indumented foliage, suggested that RareFind would consider introducing the Patterson/Hibben plant if the nursery was supplied with 100 cuttings and the plant was named. George responded in his usual proactive manner when we conveyed Ron's offer to him. He contacted Hank Schannen, owner of RareFind, to discuss delivery of the cuttings; Jay Murray, North American Registrar of Plant Names, to check name availability and reserve 'Dick Brooks'; and consulted Dick's widow, Jane, for her approval. On Sunday, November 12, 2006, at the Massachusetts Chapter's Founders Day meeting, George presented 100 cuttings to Hank Schannen for commercial introduction of R. 'Dexter's Giant Red' x R. degronianum ssp. yakushimanum 'Whitney's Dwarf '* which will be registered as 'Dick Brooks' in the spring of 2007.
The late Dick Brooks, an ARS Gold Medal recipient, was a great enthusiast for the genus Rhododendron serving in many capacities over the years at the chapter level and as President of the American Rhododendron Society. It is only fitting that this plant which has so much chapter history would honor him.

Name not registered.

John and Sally Perkins are members of the Massachusetts Chapter.