NEW SMALL LEAFED RHODODENDRONS By R.P.CLARK
HERITAGE SEEKING "LOST" DEXTERS
A VISIT WITH BOB AND PEGGY KING
SEEING RHODODENDRONS IN EUROPE by DOROTHY G. SWIFT
A LOVE AFFAIR WITH A FLOWER by MARGE RUNNION
FOOD FOR THOUGHT by Ed Brown
Editor's Notes: NOTES FROM NANTUCKET
TRUSS SHOW AND AUCTION TO BE JUNE FIRST
NEW SMALL LEAFED RHODODENDRONS By R. P. CLARK BRICKTON, N.J.
Collecting rhododendrons is a fascinating hobby, one that you can never finish. Over the years I have accumulated quite a few. I like them all: dwarfs, lepidotes, elepidotes, species, evergreen and deciduous. However over these years I have found that the one group that has given me more satisfaction, with less effort, and most consistent bloom is the lepidotes.
First, they don't turn into giants a few years later they don't require heavy fertilizer, they always set buds, they seem to resist "child breakage or recover faster" and when I want a few more plants they root easier than "the big leaf beauties".
We are all familiar with such established varieties as 'Ramapo', 'P. J. M.', 'Windbeam', 'Wyanokie', 'Dora Amateis', 'Pioneer', etc. However there are some excellent new hardy varieties now being introduced, that are worthwhile additions to the old standbys. This is the purpose of this article, to make vou aware of some of these newer introductions that should soon be available. All of these plants are hardy to -10 degrees or lower and should do well in New England.
Guy Nearing who has given us so many fine rhododendrons has quietly been introducing several new lepidote hybrids. All have met his high standards of good bloom, shapely plant, and reliable hardiness.
These Nearing plants include:
'Manito'---lf you like 'Windbeam' and dwarfs, this is for you. A dwarf 'Windbeam', 18-20 inches both in height and width in 15 years-A chance seedling from his garden, either of 'Windbeam' or another Carolineum hybrid.
'Cliff Spangles' ---'Cliff Garland' ('Bric-a-Brac' x mucronulatum). I have lumped these two together as they are sisters. They carry as evergreen Pink mucronulatum and are the very first things to bloom. 'Garland' is semi-dwarf; 'Spangles', dwarf, both pink in color.
'Keca' ---(keleticum x carolinianum album). A delightful lavender dwarf with wonderful year round green foliage. 2' x 2' in fifteen years.
'Purple Imp' ---Nearing's best purple dwarf, slightly larger in all parts than 'Purple Gem'. Minus 10 degrees is about maximum hardiness with this one.
'Tom Koenig' (hardy form) (racemosum x keiskei). There are other forms of this semi-dwarf, but they are too tender. This is a fully hardy form, yellow and pink in bud becoming creamy white. It is excellent for two reasons. First, it fills a "bloom gap" between mucronulatum, 'P. J. M.' period and the later period of 'Wyanokie', etc. Second, it is a very fine early white - a rare color at this period.
Leon Yaworsky of Howell, New Jersey has been quietly hybridizing azaleas and small leaved rhododendrons for many years. He is now starting to release some of his plants. Included are:
'Matilda' ---A lavender dwarf of the 'Purple Gem' type. A lovely, shapely plant, a different color for your dwarf bed. Minus 10 degrees.
'Alice Swift' ---(carolinianum x Pink mucronulatum). A rich pink with quite large flowers, upright growing, early blooming, fully evergreen, minus 15 degrees.
'Judy Swift'---An interesting dwarf selected by Rudolph Kluis. A rich purple-mauve, ideal features are this one keeps its green foliage in
winter and is more "ground hugging" in full sun than 'Ramapo' or 'Purple Gem'.
Dorothy Knippenberg has come up with a fine Azalea-Dendron which carries as a lepidote and has the further feature of being a later bloomer, late in May in this area.
Carolinianum Rose-- (carolinianum x Az. roseum). Rich pink, salmon underglow; semi-dwarf, late May blooming, fully evergreen, - 10 degrees.
A few other plants, very fine, not new but not widely distributed, are from Hardgrove. They are deserving of garden space.
Carolinianum x moupinense ---A spectacular white flower, but a somewhat loose truss. Semi-dwarf, white, it is a plant for garden effect, not necessarily for Entry in early shows. Enjoyed from a distance, the flowers and early bloom will catch your eye.
'Spring Song' ---This is the same cross as 'Mary Fleming' and the same color. The truss is slightly larger and the pink holds for the full duration of the bloom. Fading is a fault of 'Mary Fleming', however I have not grown it long enough to evaluate the ultimate size. It has good foliage.
As to availability -- these plants are gradually becoming available, primarily from smaller nurseries in our area. A few may be available shortly from such as Baldsiefen's. (They have the introduction rights to Carolinianum, for example.) if you should find any of these varieties available, at least you will know what they are and whether they are of interest to you.
I have been trading plants with an English grower for several years and have sent most of these varieties over there to try out. He is quite impressed with several of these, even with all the many varieties they have over there. He also likes 'Anna Baldsiefen', 'Mary Fleming', and 'P. J. M.' All have been sent to Windsor Great Park. That in itself speaks highly for our American hybrids.
Dick Clark has been an avid rhododendron hobbyist for about 15 years and presently serves as president of the Princeton Chapter of the A.R.S. He is the proprietor of the Beaver Dam Creek Nursery, a small specialty nursery with "no great quantities of anything, but with a lot of things that I enjoy growing myself". His personal collection includes about 60 small leaved varieties, 200-250 large leaved, 100 species, 100 evergreen azaleas, and "an unnumbered hodgepodge of deciduous azaleas". When Frank Mosher came to the East Coast to check out and rate Dexter hybrids (A. R. S. Quarterly, Oct. 1973, page 258), Dick acted as one of his guides. His years of contact and experience in this area make his observations of special interest.
HERITAGE SEEKING "LOST" DEXTERS
Since 1970 Heritage Plantation of Sandwich, Massachusetts has been making a serious effort to locate sources for the 141 named Dexter Rhododendron cultivars known to be growing in this country. At that time only 18 of those cultivars growing on the property, which you no doubt know, was the estate of Charles 0. Dexter, the originator of the Dexter hybrids.
After four years of searching, they now have 105 of the 141 in sizes varying from rooted cutting to 50-year-old-plants. Their goal for the year 1975 is to complete that collection by obtaining plants or cuttings of the remaining 36 cultivars. The following is a list of the missing varieties and we do hope you will check this list with the plants you are growing. The cultivar name as well as the original code number is indicated for your convenience. If you are growing ANY of these plants, and if you have a plant or plants for sale this spring, or if it would be possible to obtain from one to ten cuttings each fall from any of these cultivars, please contact Heman A. Howard, Heritage Plantation of Sandwich, Sandwich Massachusetts, 02563.
Dexter Cultivar Original Code
Adelphia Sw. 12507-9
Apple Blossom Everitt #3
Aronimink Sw. 12507-3
Barnstable Brown #1
Black Cherry Dexter #105
Brewster Brown #6
Bryantville Brown #7
Delicate Splendor Ross DD
Dexter's Red Morris #2
Edwin Beinecke Beinecke Selection
Elizabeth Poore BPPM #52-i
Emissary Ross EE
Everett Miller U.S. Nat.Arb.#19364
Fairhaven Dexter #44
Festive Feast Ross FF
Forestdale Dexter #128
Halesite Maiden HS #4
Harwich Dexter #108
Hatchville Dexter #121
Huntington Parker #5
Josephine Everitt Everitt #5
Kelley Sw. 12506 12507-11
Lady Decora Sw. 12506-1
Lady of Belfield Sw. 12506-3
Lady of Vernon Sw. 12506-7
Madison Hill Sw. 12500-2
Megansett Dexter #187
Mrs. H.B.Gardner Everitt #8
Nathan Hale HS #10
Oh Joy Ross 00
Peg Coe Parker #7
Red Yard Schwoebel Selection
Robert Coe Parker no #
Rona Pink T. Koeing Selection
Sagamore Bayside Dexter #16
Skerryvore Monarch Beinecke-Goury Sele.
Up Front Ross UU
Wellfleet Dexter #8
Whittenton Willard #5
Wiano Willard #7
William Rogers Coe Parker #8
Winneconnet Willard #8
Winning Ways Ross WW
Zest Ross ZZ
A VISIT WITH BOB AND PEGGY KING
Once upon a time, there moved to Wellesley, a guy and his wife and two daughters. They bought a little ranch house on Great Plain Avenue. in back of this house was a hill, a West facing hill, and on this hill was a thicket in full view of every window in the back of the house. The thicket consisted of Swamp Alders (as the lower part of the hill was wet), some Sumacs, small Elms, and the ever-present Oak seedlings with 7/8 of its growth underground. Interspersed with this tangle were Witch Grass, Golden Rod and a gorgeous stand of wild Blackberries. Of the 983 bushes, the total harvest was about six berries all in the middle of the patch right next to the yellow jackets nest. Now the upper part of the hill, where the sub-soil grows, gets like a desert in midsummer and very little lives there.
Bearing all this in mind, anyone would have to be nuts to disturb such a natural wonder. The owner of this piece of property however, became increasingly annoyed upon coming home and seeing a neat, well landscaped front yard for all the folks driving by to see, only to enter the house to gaze out a back window at the aforementioned prize. One day, about a year after moving in, our friend, obviously having been affected by the mid-summer sun, was heard to exclaim, "Honey, wouldn't it be nice if I could plant some pretty bushes on the hill for us to look at." Thus began the involvement of Bob King with the genus Rhododendron.
The crescent shaped hill was gradually cleared and planted with acid soil type plants. In back were Hemlocks, further down, several Dogwoods, then a few Mountain Laurel, six or so Azaleas, and last but not least, Rhododendrons. Making the typical beginners mistake, I purchased "cheapy" plants from a roadside stand and was quite unhappy when they flowered... un-named hybrids in varying shades of "blah". A trip to Weston Nurseries, suggested by a friend. soon put me on the right track and from then on Rhodys became more and more important to me.
In the several years that followed more plants were added along with several books and pamphlets on the subject. The original plants were culled out and instead of being set out in small holes surrounded by hard soil, plants were moved above ground in suitable soil surrounded by large rocks. This method has worked extremely well. As my knowledge grew so did my interest, and I began to seek out more unusual plants Unfortunately, many of the local nurseries have a small and repetitious selection so it was with great interest that I went through a nurseryman's list found in a Brooklyn Botanic Gardens publications and thus was introduced to Warren Baldsiefen, Tony Shammarello, the West Coast and many others.
As the catalogs and price lists began to flow in with their impressive selections and wealth of information, a whole new world began to open up. Now, no longer dependant upon a few local sources, I began to order plants through the mail, and with U. P.S. and Parcel Post Special Handling to thank, the plants almost always arrived in excellent shape. A word at this point is in order about buying plants in this manner. With a very few exceptions, plants have proven to be well grown, healthy and robust. As for the people growing them, they are the greatest. Correspondence with them has been friendly and very informative.
At about this time, my interest in doing some breeding took root. I became involved with a small group of fanciers and about 15 months ago, joined the A. R. S. At my first Mass. Chapter meeting, I was fortunate enough to meet Jack and Evie Cowles and my Rhody breeding was further spurred. Jack proclaims himself to be "The World's Largest Bumblebee", and he has the seedlings to prove it.
Together with my own breeding, I have grown seed from H. L. Larson, the A. R. S. Seed Exchange and several friends. At present I have about 1,000 seedlings in various stages of development. Although it has been only six or so years since my Rhody interest began, these have been busy years and as with any avid Rhody buff, much studying has been done on all phases of the subject.
As for plans for the future, they include a great deal of breeding with prime objectives being; hardiness, smaller sized denser plants with better foliage and more colors for this area of the country.
I owe a debt of gratitude to many people too numerous to mention in this short article, but I do wish to especially thank Harold Greer, Ted Van Veen, Tony Shammarello, Jack Cowles and Ed Cary for going out of their way on many occasions to answer questions and supply plants when it would have been easier for them not to.
At present this is a list of most of the plants I am growing: 'Vulcan', 'Mrs.P.den Ouden', 'Anna Baldaiefen', 'Mary Kittel', 'Nova Zembla', 'P.J. M.', 'Chionoides', 'Purple Gem', 'Dora Amateis', 'Purpureum Elegans', 'Caractacus', 'Goldsworth Yellow', 'Purple Splendour', 'Yaku Prince', 'Mist Maiden', 'Spring Frolic', 'Bengal', 'Baden Baden', 'Scarlet Wonder', 'Olin 0. Dobbs', 'Royal Star', 'Donna Hardgrove', 'Barbara Hardgrove', 'Cary's Red', (Shrimp x Yaku x Fabia Tangerine) and several unnamed hybrids which look good.
As for species, they include R. carolinianum, four forms of yakushimanum, R. brachycarpum, R. metternichii, R. carolinianum - cream phase, R. degronianum A.M., R. keiskei, R. impeditum.
Bear in mind that some of these plants are quite small and some are in pots, as they need winter protection. It is amazing what one can accumulate in just a few years.
Now that our "Back 40" as it has come to be known is starting to really look good, guess what? You guessed it, we are moving and get to 'start all over again.'
Here's to an early spring.
SEEING RHODODENDRONS IN EUROPE by DOROTHY G. SWIFT
I recently showed the Massachusetts Chapter slides of plants and gardens I saw in the spring of 1974 when I embarked on my first trip to Europe. Some people were interested in the travel information that I had included in my talk. Those aspects are expanded here to help some of you plan your own trips. It was a long awaited adventure, as I had watched my husband come and go in travel all over the world for his work as an oceanographer I had been working. on my Ph.D. thesis in oceanography, but my travels had taken me only as far as the Gulf of Maine for research material.
When I finally finished in the fall of 1973 the desire to travel, long-stifled, was immediately upon me. I started reading the Official Airline Guide, International Edition, for fares and schedules. Several weeks later on a trip to New York I took in SAS, British Airways, Scandinavia House, and the British Tourist Authority (BTA). When I inquired about gardens at the BTA, the women brought me several files of general and specific tourist brochures and clippings. They showed me "Historic Castles, Houses and Gardens in Great Britain and Ireland" which I then ordered (1). This lists every place in those categories regularly open to the public. In addition I was given the previous year a copy of "Gardens of England and Wales Open to the Public"(2). These guides to gardens (mostly private ones) opened one or more special days in the season to benefit charity. For example the garden of Beverley Nichols, the gardening writer is open under these auspices. In a bookstore I found the book A Guide to Gardens of Europe by Dorothy McFadden(3). This was particularly useful for countries other than England,. and it led me to the Copenhagen Botanic Garden in the earlier part of my journey; it was also the first listing I had found in any literature for the Bremen Rhododendron Park and Dietrich Hobbie's garden.
The cost of the trip depends on many factors. First is the question of whether a tour is possible. I wanted to stop in Oslo, Trondheim, Stockholm and Copenhagen and then go to England.
There were no package tours covering such an itinerary in April-May, so I really had no choice to make. There were garden tours (expensive) within England, but I felt I wanted to have freedom for general sightseeing and to concentrate on the several rhododendron gardens of greatest interest to me.
The major choice of airfare types is between the 14-21 day ticket which allows two stopovers in each direction and a 22-45 day ticket which allows no stopovers and is considerably less. The SAS agent recommended the latter if I could take more than 21 days since by using ground or sea transportation between points you can see more of the countries and it will cost less. The 22-45 day fares are separated into low, shoulder (rhododendron), and high seasons. The ticket can be written to fly to one city and return from another for a fare which is the average of the two. In my case the ticket was $337.50, average of the $320 fare to London and $355 fare to Norway.
The fares for 1975 April departures on a Boston-London round trip are $504 for 14-21 day, $389 for 22-45 day and $304 for 22-45 day with 60 day advance reservation and deposit.
There are also packages for group departures and independent travel on arrival offering 5, 14, or 21 day trips and requiring advance purchase of ground arrangements (hotels, meals, car rental and/or rail pass) for at least $10 a day. There are limited choices, so the desirability depends on whether useful ground arrangements are offered. The 14 or 21-day trip is $417 from New York plus ground arrangements. The 8-day package is definitely the one to have if your trip must be very short. You would probably stay mostly in the London region and the air transportation and hotel arrangements is $400 and up.
Charter flights can offer a savings. Besides those arranged by organizations, some larger travel agencies can legally assemble groups for travel on supplemental or regular air lines The main problem with charters is finding one the appropriate time of year and length of stay.
The best bet for economy and freedom is one of the regularly scheduled airlines 22-45 day tickets. You can choose or change airlines, alter your travel date and plan your own itinerary and hotel stops.
My travel between Scandinavia and England was via ship on the Fred Olsen Line from Esbjerg, Denmark, to Harwich, England. It cost about $50, minimum fare, in a 4-person cabin, which was comfortable. The connecting trains from Copenhagen and to London added about $18 more. if you're further south, the crossing from the Hook of Holland to Harwich is convenient and shorter. My land travel within Scandinavia was via comfortable 2nd class trains on a Circle Tour ticket, one of the many to choose from at a savings of 1/3 over separate tickets. Travel in England was by train or bus; expeditions to Exbury and Bodnant from London cost about $35.
I wrote in advance to hotels chosen from Frommer's Europe on $10 a Day (4), selecting ones in middle range giving and asking for a room without private bath. I always enclosed an International Postage Reply coupon so the hotel would answer promptly by air. Most rooms were $8-$10, and all had a wash basin. (To get the private facilities and comfort of the Holiday Inn type will cost about $40-$70 in European cities. It's worth it to settle for plainer facilities which are abundant and more reasonable there than they are here.)
Now I'll mention specific details. The Copenhagen Botanic Garden had some rhododendrons in bloom, May 3-6, and I would like to see it again later in the season. The director, Mr. Olaf Olsen, is president of the Danish Rhododendron Society and is particularly interested in rhododendron species grown from seed taken in natural stands. Perhaps some of you might be able to help him with species from the American continent. He recommends visiting the Botanic Garden at Goteborg, Sweden also.
Once in England to get to Exbury Gardens, the most reasonable route is to take the train from London to Brockenhurst (about 4 stops, slightly over an hour). From there a taxi for the 6 miles to Beaulieu, the village nearest Exbury, costs less than $3.50. The Montague Arms in Beaulieu is convenient. (Single w/o bath, inc. breakfast, tax, and service charge is $10.70; slightly less for each person in a double room). Rooms are comfortable and the dining room and pub offer food and refreshment. You could get out to Exbury by taxi or, especially if you had scheduled it in advance, the people at the estate might arrange for someone to take you. Exbury is open from 2-6 every day but Saturday, April-June, but I can testify that foreign guests who have written in advance are most welcome in the morning as well. Because it is not open routinely year-round, Exbury is not included in the guidebooks I listed, but the owner and the manager were helpful in answering my inquiry and letting me know how to get there. The plants are just as beautiful as in Peter Barber's book, The Rothschild Rhododendrons (5)1.
The next garden on my list was Bodnant in north Wales. It is located on Eglysbach Rd., which makes a loop off the highway between Coiwyn Bay (which has a rail terminal) and Liandudno. Buses between these two towns stop at the Bodnant Garden entrance. You can find hotels at either town mentioned or at the village of Tal-y-Cafn about two miles north of Bodnant towards Colwyn Bay. Bodnant is open 1:30-4:45 on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday (plus Fridays from May through August in 1975). For a rhododendron enthusiast, one afternoon is not enough for Bodnant. Much has been written about Bodnant as landscape design so there is more than just the rhododendrons to examine, although you'll be awed by the ravine plantings.
Wisley Gardens of the Royal Horticulture Society are located in Surrey. The Green Line bus #715 goes past the entrance. It is about an hour and 20 minutes from one of the several marked bus stops in the Oxford Circus area of London. You can get a time-table in many of the train stations or tourist information facilities. Wisley is open 10-7 every day, with members only from 10-2 on Sunday. There is a lot to see there besides rhododendrons and azaleas, and the restaurant offers good food, although it closes after late afternoon tea.
Kew Gardens is on the London subway system, open every day and easy to reach. The rhododendrons were not so impressive in 1974, but I understand that the species collection had recently been transplanted. Kew had the best large plant of R.yakushimanum in full bloom (May 21) that I have seen.
If you belong to the R.H. S., your membership offers you free admission to Wisley and Bodnant. You also receive the monthly journal and a choice of excess seeds from Wisley. In addition your card is currently accepted for admission to Leonardslee (the garden of Sir Giles and Lady Loder in Horsham, to which you would travel by train and then bus or taxi) and for the Members' View the first day (May 20 in 1975) of the Chelsea Flower Show. The show opens at 8:30a.m. and by about 11:00, most of the 60,000 members seem to have arrived(6). You can enter free and at will on successive days but only once for Members' View. The exhibits are lovely and the garden equipment and book stalls will make you wish you could fill a truck and drive home.
Savill Garden and the Valley Gardens (one of the finest species collections anywhere) are in Windsor Great Park. They are located a good distance from Windsor Castle, Windsor Station and the nearest Green Line Bus Stop on Wick Road. If, like me, you lack a car and wish to do your walking in the gardens rather than going to them, you'll have to solve the transportation problem to save six miles or more of walking. I think train to Virginia Water Station and taxi from there is the best way, but better check with R.H.S. or the Crown Estate Office (Tel. Windsor 60222). If you belong to the R.H.S. or plan to, you might be interested that it has a Rhododendron Group whose major function is a garden tour one day a year. The 1975 tour is on May 10 to Savill and Valley gardens.
Optimum scheduling of a trip would probably be to have part of it within the April 20-May 15 period. If you are going to visit gardens in the very mild climate of Cornwall and Devon (Caerhays, Trengwainton, Tregothnan, and Trelissiok), go there first. The Rhododendron Show of the R.H.S. is held April 29-30 in 1975 at their London headquarters. Thus optimum scheduling for the gardens may cause you to miss the Chelsea Show. Exbury on May 9, Bodnant on May 11 and Wisley on May 14 all had splendid display, particularly of the hybrids. Obviously many plants had bloomed already including species so early they are not common in the U.S.
The total cost for all transportation, hotel and meals for my 35-day trip to Scandinavia and England was $875. If I add an amount to compensate for meals and lodging furnished by English and Norwegian friends, the total would be about $1025. You can see that these are less than a tour would have cost, and I went everywhere I really wanted to visit. Daily meals and lodging averaged $14.50. I often purchased cheese, bread and fruit for one meal. The complete breakfast offered with most rooms in England will give you a lot of energy to start the day. As a solo traveler I usually went to the plainer restaurants and splurged on ballet tickets rather than meals. I would urge any of you who hesitate to travel alone to go and see European gardens if you have some time and money available. The only time you'll really miss company is at dinnertime. However, by traveling alone you are likely to meet more people and to experience being submerged in a different culture.
1. G.H.S. Import Co., Box 515-Aliwood Sta. Clifton, N.J. 07012. $1.90 postpaid.
2. The National Gardens Scheme, 67 Lower Belgrave St., London SW1W OLR. About $1.75 airmail.
3. 1965, 306 pages. David McKay Co., Inc. New York. $5.95.
4. Published yearly by Arthur Frommer, New York. About $3.95.
5. Lucas Phillips, C. E. and Barber, Peter N. The Rothschild Rhododendrons. Caswell &Co. Ltd. London. 138 pp. 1967.
6. Actually the journal of the society reports attendance at just under 40, 000 the day I was there.
A LOVE AFFAIR WITH A FLOWER by MARGE RUNNION
reprinted with permission from VERMONT LIFE, summer 1973)
It all started one day in the early 1920s when he went fishing in Marlboro and saw Vermont's native azalea: the azalea roseum, or mountain pink. Its fragile beauty fascinated and delighted him, and the fascination has never ceased. Now 85 years old, Abbott has bred, hybridized, nurtured and grown more than 30,000 seedlings. Every summer, some 3, 000 of his azaleas blossom and flourish on a rough two-acre plot in Grafton. Hundreds more surround his home in Saxtons River and are scattered throughout the whole community.
One of his dreams, in fact, is for Saxtons River to be known as the "Azalea Village" of New England, and a drive through the gracious old town on a spring day at the height of the azalea season indicates that the dream is already close to reality. "That's one of mine." Abbott will exclaim, pointing to a cluster of pink by a black wrought-iron fence. "That's 'Jane Abbott'," he continues, indicating another group of blossoms. His voice has the tone of someone greeting an old friend, and indeed he is, for 'Jane Abbott' (in addition to being his daughter) is one of his own unique hybrid azaleas, which has been bred and developed over the years.
"Actually," he says, "it's nothing but a glorified roseum," hut then he agrees that this is something of an understatement. The native roseum, or mountain pink, is a hardy plant which grows wild and has delicate and usually quite small blossoms. By crossing it with a hybrid, the 'Louise Hunneywell', he has created a plant which has the hardiness of the native combined with the more luxuriant bloom of azaleas which normally flourish only in more gentle climates.
Equally hardy but considerably more unusual than the rose-shaded "Jane Abbott" is the delicate "Margaret Abbott", which he named after his wife. " That's a great lady you just talked to," he says, indicating the lively, and attractive Mrs. Abbott who has just served icod tea with mint leaves fresh from the garden. "Now let me show you the 'Margaret Abbott' azalea."
This is Abbott's pride, an almost ethereal-looking flower with white blossoms except for one pure lemon-colored spot and a yellow throat. He achieved it by crossing the sturdy roseum with the azalea calendulaceum, and still marvels that the "roseum is always different shades of pink, not white, and the calendulaceum is salmon colored, not white, but the 'Margaret Abbott' is white with a yellow throat."
As every informed gardener knows, azaleas are members of the Rhododendron family.
Logically enough, the third member of Abbott's rhododendron-azalea family is a rhododendron hybrid that he also has bred to be both tough and beautiful. Named 'Virgin,' one of its parents was a white rhododendron from the Carolinas and the other was a Japanese species: the result, Abbott says, "is the toughest of them all."
Reflecting on the literally thousands of plants with which he has experimented in order to produce these three special hybrids, he explains: "I could have named about 20 different varieties I've come up with, but unless you've got something really special, there's no point in fussing with names."
In a sense, Abbott doesn't believe in fussing with his flowers either, despite the years he has spent nurturing and developing them. His aim throughout has been to develop an azalea that is worthy of being called a Vermonter: sturdy, hardy, and able to enjoy life and give pleasure without special coddling or protection.
"I don't do anything to protect them in the winter." he says. "If they can't take it, goodbye. I've seen too many people from down country bring their tender azaleas up here and expect them to bloom, and they just die. What's the use of planting something that won't grow? I've lost thousands of plants myself, but not a single one for the last ten years."
Similarly, most of Abbott's azaleas grow semi-wild, as delicately hued as a fine watercolor, surrounded by grasses, weeds and shrubs, reminding one of a dainty Goldilocks who has wandered inadvertently into a rough, unfriendly woods. Others grace the homes of Saxton River and nearby villages in the more traditional decorative manner: but many more grow like the hardy Vermonters they are, in the open fields.
"I've tried to keep them all natural." Abbott says. "They have to compete with the grass. Wild things are the most beautiful. For instance, I've often thought how much you could do with hybridizing some of our wild flowers, like buttercup and goldenrod."
However, just the rhododendron family has been enough to keep Abbott more than busy during these past 45 years. He is not a botanist by either training or profession, and in fact comes, he says, from a race of mechanics. And when it comes to anything mechanical, we just seem to instinctively know about it. He has been in the gas burner business throughout his career, both in manufacturing and sales, and is active in his Abbott Equipment Company in Bellows Falls.
Originally from Maine, where he was born during the famous blizzard of 1888, he met his wife more than 50 years ago while selling appliances in Vermont. They lived in the Saxtons River area for a while, and then spent some 30 years in Worcester, Mass., before returning to Vermont and building their present home.
Throughout this time, Abbott was learning more and more about azaleas and rhododendrons. He had a summer camp in Athens, Vt., and a "little backyard greenhouse" in Worcester, and paid frequent visits to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, where some of his plants now grow. A number of his large azaleas and rhododendrons date back to these earlier periods, and have been transplanted four or five times.
"The older they are, the better they bloom," he says. "It takes a lifetime to do anything like this."
Reminiscing about his lifetime through the years, Abbott says, "I was just a dumbbell amateur. I didn't know anything about flowers until I was 35 years old." His many admirers agree that since then, he has made up for lost time, and his wife adds, "If he gets interested in something, he goes overboard. He can't do anything in a small way."
Proof of that abounds in the Abbott home, which he designed and helped build himself. Tables, mantelpiece, and bookcases are filled with the result of another hobby wood-carving - which he pursues in the winter when the azaleas and rhododendrons are out in the snow looking after themselves.
During the past 15 years or so, Abbott has carved hundreds of birds and animals, painting them meticulously himself. One particularly striking piece is a lamp base on which miniature heath hens are carved. These extinct birds, Abbott explains, were the Eastern counterparts of the prairie chicken.
Abbott does not sell either his carvings or his azaleas commercially, but if someone sees his plants and wants to buy some, he is willing to oblige. "That field in Grafton is our advertisement." Mrs. Abbott says. "People see it and ask around locally to find out who owns it, and then they call us. But I don't think anyone ever realizes the effort that has gone into those plants."
If Abbott is proud of his azalea-rhododendron family and his rapidly growing colony of carved birds, he is even prouder of his real family, which includes three children, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. His daughter, Mrs. Jane Abbott Bussey, lives next door; one son, Frank Jr., lives in Europe where he is a sales representative for a large machine tool company, and another son, Richard F., is advertising manager for the same company in Worcester, Mass.
As for himself, Abbott finds nothing particularly remarkable about the fact that at 85 he still actively cares for his azaleas, his business, his home, and his workshop. After all, as he points out, two uncles in Maine attained the ages of 104 and 107. And furthermore, perhaps people are like azaleas: the older they get, the better they grow.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT by Ed Brown
This article is being written as a list of projects and or ideas that might be organized or planned by the members in the future. To name a few projects: research on native rhododendrons and azaleas in Mass., collection by a group of members of native rhododendrons and azaleas, the organizing of a seed, cutting and plant exchange among members, the organization of workshops at regular meetings, say for half an hour, showing techniques on such things as rhododendron hybridization, seed collection, seed planting, etc. Group projects could be written up and reported in the ROSEBAY for the benefit of all chapter members.
Another project that all the members could participate in would be for each member to list all the rhododendron and azaleas that he is growing in his garden. A composite of this list could be used as the basis of many future projects in hybridizing and cutting programs.
NOTES FROM NANTUCKET
As we write this, the March wind here on Nantucket Island is gusting to over 50 mph. As a matter of fact, our electricity just went out, and we are scribbling away by the light of our fireplace. Outside our window, our "imported" rhododendrons are withstanding the blow in various states of undress. Some plants have been stripped leafless while others show no effects at all, their flower buds growing larger every day. Why this is will bear close analysis but we will be ready with a preliminary report in an upcoming issue (if the lights come back on).
At our regular meeting in May, our Chapter will play host to a group of horticulture enthusiasts from New Zealand who will be in the Boston area as part of a two-month round-the-world tour. An exciting program is being planned which will feature slides of rhododendron culture "down under". We hope to see a large turnout for this international event.
As this issue goes to press, Massachusetts is being seriously considered as a possible site for the 1980 National Convention. Heman Howard is representing the Chapter in at-tempts to bring this about. Certainly Massachusetts has much to offer, and we wish Heman success.
We would be remiss at this point if we neglected to mention that one of our own members has been serving with great distinction as president of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Congratulations, Willard Hunnewell.
The staff of the ROSEBAY has grown. We now include in our family Nancy and Jack Alexander and Dr. Max Resnick. Nancy and Jack have volunteered to help with production and distribution. Max, of course, has provided invaluable assistance behind the scenes in the past and we are delighted to officially include him on the masthead.
The ROSEBAY will be, at least for the immediate future, a twice-a-year publication, appearing on or about the first weeks of April and October. It is our hope to be able to supplement these two issues occasionally as material becomes available and as resources permit. While on that tack, may we again say that we are constantly looking for new material to print? We sincerely invite your participation.
What can we say? The response to the last issue of the ROSEBAY was overwhelming. We received many nice notes, not only from within our chapter but from people all over the country. We were gratified and more than a bit surprised when we learned our readership extended so far. To the many nice people who wrote, a sincere, Thank you.
TRUSS SHOW AND AUCTION TO BE JUNE FIRST
Plans are rapidly nearing completion for our fifth annual truss show and auction to be held this year at the Waltham Field Station on June 1. According to Dick Brooks and Bob King, show chairmen, this year's show promises to surpass even last year's at Heritage Plantation. Members of the Chapter will be kept informed as show day approaches.
An item in a recent issue of the newsletter sent to us by the Portland Chapter mentions the success of their mini-auctions held during their meetings. Obviously this innovation, begun by our own past-president Louis Cook, has now spread coast to coast. Incidentally, in addition to the auctions that he conducts for our chapter, Louis also sells rhododendrons to the public by this method at his own auction gallery. (A fine source of plants at bargain prices. Ed.)
We have a very limited supply of back issues of the ROSEBAY. We would be glad to send out these on a first come, first serve basis. Please send a large self-addressed stamped envelope along with your requests.