QBARS - v6n4 What Has Happened to the Sander Hybrid Azaleas?

What Has Happened to the Sander Hybrid Azaleas?
Thomas Wheeldon, Richmond, Virginia

The Sander hybrids were described by E. H. Wilson as a race of beautiful azaleas of compact twiggy habit with flowers from 2.5 cm. to 4.5 cm. in diameter in varying shades of rose-pink, salmon, red, scarlet and fiery crimson. They are the result of hybrids obtained from crosses of Rhododendron simsii Garnet with Rhododendron obtusum Planchon being crossed with Rhododendron obtusum f. album and later 'Hinodegiri'. It is probable that the Indian azalea 'Decora' was a parent of R. 'Garnet'.

In 1885 Otto Forster of Lebenhof, Austria, introduced the azalea 'Hexe' which is a hybrid between Rhododendron obtusum f. amoenun and Rhododendron simsii 'Duc de Nassau'. This azalea is frequently considered to be a Sander hybrid. It should be catalogued only as resembling the Sander hybrids.

The azalea 'Hiawatha' which is known as such today is probably not of Sander creation. As a matter of fact, two varieties are around which are called R. 'Hiawatha' and probably neither of these is the old Sander 'Hiawatha', which was salmon rose.

It seems inconceivable that a group of some nineteen or more clones listed as late as 1921 by Wilson should have so nearly disappeared. At that time Wilson said of these "...it needs no expert knowledge to predict for X R. 'Sanderi' a great future." Such, however, seems to be the case.

The following are probably among the best forms:

'Alice Sargent', bright salmon rose 'Muriel', rose-red
'Brookline', carmine 'Natalie', salmon
'Havemeyer', rose-red 'Rose Queen', deep rose
'Hebe', white-striped red 'Ruby', crimson maroon, richest red
'Helena', rose pink 'Suzuki', scarlet maroon
'Hermoine', deep salmon red 'Uncas', dark scarlet
'Hilda Hedlund', deep pink 'Venus', cerise
'Holm Len', crimson maroon 'Vivid', scarlet
'Jupiter', fiery red 'Vulcan', salmon red
'Mars', intense scarlet

In developing an azalea garden, Gladsgay Garden, it was felt that there was a need of a rendezvous where the flower lover might satiate his desire of color and form where the horticulturist might observe the effect of mass planting; where the botanist might pursue his study; and where the collector might find his missing item.

The garden contains over 1100 species, varieties, forms and clones but in this number there is not listed a single Sander. Within the current month the garden has received 71 cuttings from 5 plants known to be Sander. These cuttings were presented by one who has an extensive collection of azaleas. The clones are not identified, however, so if these cuttings strike it will be necessary to make an effort to do so. At present it is known that three forms are represented, which are described only as "Red," "Dark Red," "Large Red." Over a period of three years more than a hundred sources have been contacted for information without success. It has been reported that there is a collection in a private estate. The owner of this estate denies this. The clones R. 'Mars', R. 'Ruby' and R. 'Vivid' have been said to have been located at certain places. Follow up of these leads has been fruitless so far. A R. 'Vivid' is available which is not a Sander.

Such a state of affairs has at least two unfortunate aspects, the second of which is almost tragic. First, a garden of the sort above described is certainly not complete without at least a goodly representation from this group. Second, it is hard to believe that the fine work performed by a hybridizer such as Mr. Sander over a period of years should have been lost in such a short time. It is interesting that the identity of important plants could disappear in a span of years which may be less than a quarter of the expected life of the plants themselves. By the same token, could this occur to others beside the Sanders? Has it not already occurred? Mr. John Wister evidently recognizes the possibility of this for he is trying to perpetuate the older varieties of his beloved daffodils by suggesting that gardeners plant a few of those becoming neglected, thereby stimulating growers and nurserymen to keep at least some of each of these old friends in their catalogues of identified material.

If the above is an incorrect evaluation of the situation, the writer will he happy to be set straight by receiving information of surviving clones of Sander hybrids and Gladsgay Garden will be all the richer if sources where any clones may be obtained are supplied.