QBARS - v6n1 Rhododendrons on the East Coast

Rhododendrons on the East Coast
by Edward Amateis, Brewster, New York

Relative to hardiness, I would like to express my appreciation for the listings given in the Quarterly. We all know, however, that the thermometer is not the last word and that air-drainage, exposure, timing of warm and cold spells, snow and so-forth all play their part in hardiness so I wondered if comparisons with familiar plant life would not also be a help in guiding us.
As an example, my garden is a glacial deposit seventy-five feet high in a valley through which the Croton River flows. The surrounding hills are from three to four hundred feet higher which puts me in a .very efficient frost pocket. Last winter was a mild one except for one night early in the season when the thermometer went to -12. Although my peach blossoms have stood colder weather on other occasions, not one escaped that night yet neighbors only a hundred feet higher, with the same or lower temperatures, had a good crop. Forsythia showed a few blossoms here and there throughout the neighborhood yet all of mine were killed. Under these conditions the following azaleas lost their flower buds: R. 'Boudoir', R. 'Corsage', R. 'Lao Lumiere', R. 'Chinook', R. 'Hino-Crimson', R. poukhanense , R. kaempferi hybrids, R. 'Mello-glo', R. 'Kirishima' and R. ledifolia alba . R. 'Purple Splendour' lost its buds and R. 'Sweet Simplicity' lost considerable wood. Those that bloomed were azaleas 'Mildred Mae', 'Flame', 'Hinodegir'i, kaempferi , japonica , schlippenbachii and the mollis hybrids. In the rhododendrons most were three years old or generally were too young for flower buds. The following came through beautifully and without leaf burn: R. keiskei , R. oreotrephes , R. racemosum (bloomed), R. discolor , R. decorum , R. fortunei (bloomed), R. auriculatum , R. caucasicum , R. brachycarpum and others. Of course, all our native species and hardy hybrids bloomed with the exception of R. 'Atrosanguineum', which lost its buds. One night of -12 is certainly no test but to the person who wants to plant rhododendrons of questionable hardiness a comparison with plant life of equal hardiness, that winters well under his conditions, might be a help to him in making his selections.
Another article that interested me a great deal was the one on Awards in the April '51 Quarterly. Dr. Clarke said that the awards of our society paralleled those of the R. H. S. but I wonder if both societies are not, at times, confusing true values. Let us not forget that rhododendron is a shrub and not a cut flower. (If you want cut flowers you would do better to raise dahlias-they come as big as cabbages). At the most, it is a plant that is of blossom interest but one month out of twelve. For the other eleven months it has to prove itself as a foliage plant, and all that that implies-manner of growth, shapeliness, thrift, foliage, suitability to the place for which it was bred (if a hybrid) etc. To give, then, 60% for flower characters, 25% for leaf and 15% for bush characters would indicate a distorted sense of values. I have a R. veitchianum , under Bless, that I use for breeding - mine, at least, an arrangement of sticks tipped with leaves. When I think of that miserable, gawky thing being awarded three stars and many magnificent catawbiense hybrids brushed off with Z's, as unworthy of cultivation, I'm convinced there's horticultural snobbery at work.
Might I continue to unburden myself? It's the problem of pronunciation, each man, apparently, a law unto himself. I have heard fortunei pronounced for-tul-nee-eye, for-chow-eye and for-tu-nay'-ee. We could, of course, Anglicize all the names but that would be too simple - the mysticism would vanish and we couldn't impress people with our erudition. If our Quarterly were to publish a list of the more questionable names and their pronunciation, as authoritative, we would be more likely to understand each other. How do you pronounce kyawii ?