Rosebay Index
Rosebay Index

The Rosebay Volume 6 Number 2 Fall 1977

MAX L. RESNICK, Editor
Canton, Ma

PETAL BLIGHT
GRAFTING RHODODENDRONS
THE VENEER SIDE GRAFT
RHODDIES UNDER THE LIGHTS
RHODODENDRONS AT WINDY ACRES
NATURE'S WAYS
1977 SHOW REPORT

Petal Blight-A Threat to Us All

by G. David Lewis, Colts Neck, N.J.

Petal blight, caused by a fungus called Ovulinia, has been present in epidemic proportions in many rhododendron and azalea gardens in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut for the past 2 to 4 years. This disease is perhaps the worst of all since it causes a wet, slimy rot of the flowers of midseason and late blooming plants. Although no other parts of the plants are affected, what good are they if we are to see no flowers? If this disease continues to spread and occur with such severity, we may eventually find ourselves devoting more time to daffodils, iris, African violets, or just crab grass. What happened? We knew that petal blight was a southern problem, and with the exception of a few local outbreaks many years ago, it did not seem to be adapted to northern areas and presented no real threat to our region. Although I certainly do not claim to have all the answers, I think that some light can be shed on the problem and some suggestions for control can be given.

Disease buildup: Petal blight does not sweep a garden and destroy with the rapidity of the Irish potato blight. The first year only a few flowers on a few plants will be affected. Usually, the second year shows scattered fairly severe attacks In various areas, but by the third year total devastation of mid- and late-season blooms is possible. These observations would suggest that the disease spreads fairly slowly within the garden.

Effect of Temperature: Petal blight does not attack the early bloomers. Are they resistant ? I doubt it, since It would be unlikely that the genes for early bloom in all the plants we grow are closely linked to genes for virtual immunity to this disease. It seems apparent that the fungus does not grow well until fairly warm weather arrives. The first attacks are consistently observed just after our earliest evergreen azaleas have bloomed.

Effects of Seasonal Weather Patterns: Prior to the past spring (1977) many gardens in our area experienced three successive years of severe petal blight. Each of these springs was characterized by frequent rains, and was preceded by an abnormally ware winter. This past spring was variable with respect to rainfall, and was preceded by a record-setting cold winter. Petal blight was severe in areas of frequent rainfall (Philadelphia and Long Island) and far less severe in less rainy areas (central New Jersey). This strongly suggests that wet springs are more important than warm winters in favoring disease outbreaks.

Resistance: I have looked at many hundreds of different rhododendrons and azaleas during the past three years with the hope of observing resistant hybrids and species that could be grown in problem areas. I have yet to find the first resistant plant even mountain laurel is affected. All mid- or late-season bloomers are either highly susceptible or very highly susceptible.

Garden Environment: Petal blight is much more likely to be severe in gardens that are densely planted, shady, and well protected from the wind. Why ? Because these gardens dry out more slowly and the Ovulinia spores can germinate and infect only when flowers remain wet for a number of hours (the exact time necessary is not known and undoubtedly is affected by temperature). The faster your blooms can dry, the less possibility that infection can take place.

Fungicide Sprays: Many people have tried various fungicide sprays often with very little success. Drs. Peterson and Davis, working at Rutgers, have reported progress using materials such as Benlate and Daconil. Is partial control the best we can hope for ? I don't think so based on two experiences. First, the Princeton Chapter had severe petal blight in its display garden in 1974. In the spring of 1975 a commercial tree spraying concern was employed to apply a weekly high pressure sprays using a mixture of Benlate and Daconil starting in the first week of May. Control was excellent, while a nearby unsprayed garden was devastated. The Daconil left a visible residue on the foliage. Second, petal blight broke out in our own garden in 1975. My wife and I picked every infected flower we could find and sent them off with the garbage (the fungus overwinters in the dead flowers). The following spring we had agreed to a garden tour from the 1976 national convention of the ARS. In a mood of frantic desperation, I sprayed the garden approximately twice weekly with Benlate applied with a back-pack mist blower sprayer. When the tour arrived in the last week of May I could find no petal blight in our garden of over 1000 plants- but I was tired! This spring I did not spray, and a few infected plants (about 4) were observed, so I plan to start spraying again next year.

Conclusions: Petal blight is a major threat to the genus Rhododendron. and we must learn how to control it. We need competent scientific research if we are to succeed. I think the ARS should support such research.

Considerable control can be achieved by using a combination of control measures: Sanitation - the removal and destruction of diseased flowers from your garden. Cultural Methods - the judicious pruning of your shrubs and trees to allow reasonable ventilation of your garden to promote rapid drying. Chemical Control - at least weekly sprays (more in rainy periods - spray before the rain when possible) using spray equipment that will achieve thorough coverage of the buds and flowers with a recommended fungicide (check with your county agent or state experiment station) that is legally registered for use. Start spraying before the disease appears.

It will also help if you can arrange to have a dry spring.

Editor's Note: Dr. G. David Lewis is a Professor of Plant Pathology at Rutgers University. He is an active hybridizer with a special interest in lepidote hybrids. His home is in Colts Neck, New Jersey, where he with the help of his wife, Cary Ann, has a garden that contains more rhododendrons and azaleas (he says) than most sane persons would try to grow.

Essex County Aggie School Site of Annual Show

by Eveleth Cowles

The annual show and auction of the Massachusetts Chapter was held on May 22, 1977, at the Essex County Agricultural School, Mathorne, Mass The choice of an early date for our truss show this year was most fortuitous, providing a wide variety of both rhododendrons and azaleas. Approximately 420 exhibits were in competition and on display, Dexter rhododendrons and Exbury azaleas particularly well represented. A number of lovely bonsai added to the variety.

We are indebted to the following judges for doing a fine job:

Marian Benima, Louis Cook, Jack Cowles, Bob Doig, John Gwynne, Willard Hunnewell, Laura Nichols, Jon Shaw, and Nonie Slavitz.

Following the show Louis Cook, our perennial auctioneer, conducted an auction of several hundred scarce and desirable plants from many sources,

TROPHY AND BLUE RIBBON AWARDS

Best in Show: Louis Cook Trophy - Mars x yak, Maurice Hall*
Best Ironclad: Willard Hunnewell Trophy - Lady Armstrong, Jon Shaw
Best Dexter: Heritage Plantation Trophy - Mrs. W.R. Coe, Charles Gredler
Best Hybrid: Weston Nurseries Trophy - Unnamed yellow, Louis Cook
Best Azalea: Richard Brooks Trophy - Exbury Hybrid, Stephen Snail

Class 1:Mars x yak, M. Hall*Trophy
Class 2:Boule de Neige, G.H. Carlson
Class 3A:Nova Zembla, J. Shaw*Trophy
Class 3B:Lady Armstrong, J. Shaw
Class 3C:Catawbiense Album, J. Shaw
Class 4:Holden, R. Brooks
Class 5A:Lawton, L. Cook
Class 5B:Homer, C. Gredler
Class 5C:Unknown, M/M R. Doig
Class 5D:Catawbiense Boursault, L. Cook
Class 6:Hello Dolly, C. McMahon
Class 7A:Vulcan, L. Cook
Class 7B:Besse Howells, M/M A. Phillips
Class 7C:Moser's Maroon, L. Cook
Class 7D:Sappho, Dr. M. Resnick
Class 7E:Naomi Stella Maria, J. Gwynne
Class 7F:Maxhaem Salmon, J. Shaw
Class 7G:Diane Titcomb, Willard Hunnewell
Class 7H:Blue Peter, L. Cook
Class 7J:Goldfort, Dr. M. Resnick
Class 7K:Mrs. Furnival, L. Cook
Class 8A:Gigi, Dr. M. Resnick
Class 8B:Mrs. W.R. Coe, C. Gredler*Trophy
Class8C:Dexter White +t18, S. Olafsen
Class8E:Westbury, C. Gredler
Class 8F:Janet Blair, R. Brooks
Class 10: Windbeam, C. Gredler
Class 11A:Red, G. Carlton
Class 11B:Blush, L. Cook
Class 11E:Pink, W. Snow
Class 11D:Yak x Everestianum, S. Olafsen
Class 11E: Lavender, L. Cook
Class 11F: Unnamed Yellow, L. Cook*Trophy
Class 14: R. carolinianum, WM A, Phillips
Class 16: Bonsai-Rukizon, S. Tipton
Class17: Exbury Flamingo, C. Gredler
Class18:Palestrina seedling, J. Cowles
Class19: R. nudiflorum, S. Olafsen
Class 20: Jane Abbott, S, Olafsen
Class 21: Unknown Chent, R. Doig
Class 22A: Exbury hybrid, S Snell
Class 22B: Unknown white hybrid, S. Snell
Class 22C: Sham's Yellow, R. Brooks
Class 22D: Gibraltar, C. Gredler
Class 22E: Unknown hybrid, S. Snell
Class 23A: Wilhelmira, S. SneIl
Class 23B: Mozart, S. Snell
Class 23C: Orange Beauty, J. Gwynne
Class 23D: Vuyk's Rosy Red, S. SneIl
Class 23E: Double Lavender, S. SneIl
Class 27:Specimen rhododendron, Besse Howells, G. Carlton

Grafting Rhododendrons

by Wayne Mezitt, Hopkinton, Mass.

What is Grafting ?

Grafting is the method of asexual propagation where the scion of the desired variety is joined to the roots of another similar plant. This results in a plant identical with the original plant as long as no suckers (shoots from the root stock) are allowed to grow from below the graft union. Grafting (and rooting cuttings) differs from seed propagation (sexual reproduction) in that the latter never produces plants identical with the parent. This distinction should be fully understood in order to appreciate properly the value of grafting. Should you want a comprehensive description of the grafting process please refer to Hartmann and Kester's Plant Propagation Principles and Practices or other authoritative sources.

Why do we Graft Rhododendrons ?

The most common reason is to assure success in propagation. Many varieties are somewhat difficult to root as cuttings, but rarely does one find a type that will not graft successfully.

Another reason is speed of results. A grafted plant will bloom and exhibit adult vigor a year or more before a rooted cutting of the same age. This is of course due to the added strength of the root system.

Still a third reason is to increase more rapidly the supply of a limited amount of propagation material. When one has only a few twigs with which to work, grafting can produce more plants in a given time than rooting cuttings.

A fourth reason is to assure a good root system. Some varieties are notorious for developing

poor roots and are consequently difficult to grow and transplant. Grafting helps solve this problem too.

Types of Grafts

The literature abounds with information on the methods of grafting. The preferred method of grafting rhododendrons is the whip graft or side graft because of their relative ease of grafting. Standard methods apply, and basic bench grafting techniques and proper aftercare should be carefully followed. Any time of year except when plants are in growth is acceptable, although late fall and early winter are preferred.

A newer method which proves successful and economical with rhododendrons is the so-called "bud grafting" technique. Using this method, only a small piece of stem is used, allowing multiple grafts from one scion branch. Each scion must include a leaf and the bud where the leaf attaches to the stem of the scion. Side grafting is usually employed, and the top of the understock is cut back when the callous has matured and the scion bud has begun to grow. This method produces a lot of plants quickly from limited scion wood.

When Grafting is Advisable

You should consider propagating plants by grafting under the following circumstances:

1. The same identical variety is required to be reproduced.

2. Proper facilities and procedural knowledge of the process are available.

3. Stock is in limited supply.

4. A high percentage of success is required.

5. Early blooming is desired for breeding or evaluation.

6. Larger plants are necessary quickly.

7. The variety is proven or suspected to be difficult to root.

8. Other factors limit the feasibility of propagating by cuttings.

Problems with Grafting

The following factors must always be considered when grafting rhododendrons:

I. Proper facilities and knowledge of the grafting techniques are necessary to assure success.

2. Root stock must be properly prepared and of a compatible variety (most rhododendrons will graft on any similar rhododendron root stock, but a vigorous winter-hardy variety is recommended.)

3. Considerably more time, effort, and expense is involved in grafting than in rooting cuttings.

4. Care must be taken to assure proper removal of suckers.

5. In future years suckers may become a serious problem, especially when the rhododendron is planted too shallow or when the understock becomes more vigorous than the scion.

6. A grafted rhododendron cannot regrow from its roots if the top is damaged or destroyed.

7. Whereas the plant produced by grafting is genetically identical to its parent, some variation in speed of growth, winter hardiness and other factors is possible. This is because the roots are not identical with the parent. Thus the term "clone" cannot be properly applied to the grafted plant.

Conclusion

There are many pros and cons for using grafting as a method of asexual propagation. This article has not covered the details of the grafting processes; this should not be construed as meaning proper procedures are unimportant. On the contrary, very little success can be expected unless proper methods are practiced. All the recommended methods for grafting rhododendrons are available in other publications available from the American Rhododendron Society. Even with its many shortcomings, grafting is an essential step in proper propagation of rhododendrons under many circumstances. Although it is an old and tedious method, there are numerous situations where grafting is the only reasonable alternative for getting the job done.

Nature's Ways

by Wayne Henley

Reprinted with permission from the weekly nature column, Massachusetts Audubon Society

It takes gall to stand amid broken branches and shattered trees and accuse all but nature of generalizing.

Nevertheless, the unbelievable May snowstorm that broke every thing from shrubbery to power lines also produced some broad generalizations as explanations of why it was so devastating. The toil was so great, some experts informed us, because the deciduous trees had sprouted their leaves. And that, of course, was true. But not the complete truth.

After all, the larch which wears the needles The so-called evergreens is as deciduous as any Oak tree. Yet larches suffered minor damage. The larch, which is as gold as a sugar maple in the fall, and sheds its needles for winter, nevertheless retains much of the suppleness that enables its evergreen coniferous relatives to shrug off the snows of winter.

So the trees that were shattered were not crushed because they were deciduous.

But, they were smashed, we say, because they have broad leaves. And, again, we have generalized into what appears to be the truth, but is not the total truth. We know a stand of giant rhododendron whose 10-15 feet high plants wear huge broad leaves the year around.

Thankfully, since rhododendron are among our more favored plants, these giant rosebays showed no effects of the storm. Indeed, The only indication that devastation had passed through the grove was the great oak limbs that fell among these broad-leaved evergreens. In fact, there were eight giant limbs which The giant rosebays supported without seeming effort.

So, it was not broad leaves that caused havoc in the spring storm. Then, what did? Perhaps the blame can be laid on a few million years of evolution. Why the larch, the rhododendron and The trees we normally think of as deciduous chose different paths, we cannot know.

But the different life patterns require different strategies for survival. In more Than a century-indeed, there seems no record of anything like the May storm in two centuries-deciduous trees have not had to respond to the snow-laden leaves. To have evolved extra strong branches for such unlikely emergencies would have been a waste of energy. Instead, the deciduous trees have become specialists at repairing damage to their crowns. Even broken from the trunk base, they can regenerate a replacement tree.

Of the other type of specialty - the strategy of surviving winter snows and summer droughts while wearing a dense robe of leaves - this sort of survival seemed to have been mastered most successfully by the rhododendron. To exist year-round as a broad-leaved plant, the rhododendron has become almost as sensitive to the world around it as an animal. It adjusts its leaves to whatever demand the climate makes.

If I were to play a violin to soothe a plant, as has been suggested occasionally by plant fans, it would be for the rhododendron because it's the only one that I feel certain might respond.

THE VENEER SIDE GRAFT

by John and Eveleth Cowles, Wellesley, Mass.

This method can be used for grafting both the normal scion and also for buds. The ideal stock is plump and green to the ground, usually a well-rooted cutting of about a pencil's thickness. This is bent slightly, and a shallow downward and inward cut of 1" to 2" long is made, using a very sharp knife or single-edge razor blade. The most shapely plants result from grafts close to the base of the stock.

The best scion is a stem of the same diameter as the stock. Prepare by making a slanting cut of 1" to 2" long.

The crucial step is to match accurately the cambial layer of the scion to the cambial layer of the stock. The cambium in green-barked material is the thin boundary layer, two cells thick, that separates the cream-colored woody inner tissue from the outer pulpy bark tissue. When bark is pulled off it parts along the cambial layer. In green wood the cambium often appears colorless and translucent.

When the scion is smaller than the stock, match up the cambium on one side of the scion exactly to the cambium on one side of the stock.

A bud graft uses the same technique with slight modification. For the bud scion, select one of the lower leaves from the whorl of the current year's growth. Make a shallow cut along the length of the stem, from 1/2" above the axillary bud next to the stem, coming out 1/2" below it.

Clear excess leaves from the section of stock where you wish to place the graft. Bend the stock slightly and make a shallow downward cut to remove a piece a little larger than the bud scion. Match the cambium layers precisely, sliding the scion upwards to fit the top of the hollow in the stock.

A number of materials can be used to secure scion to stock during the ten weeks required to knit. Thin cotton twine is the most common. Electrical scotch tape, soft wire, elastic bends, and snap-type clothes pins also can be used. Start at the base of the scion. Pass tying material around several times, overlapping to secure it. Make certain that the scion does not shift, and in the case of a bud graft be sure that the string does not damage the axillary bud. Wrap the string, etc. in an upward spiral around the graft to assure firm contact for the full length of the two surfaces. Tie or fasten securely at the top.

Select a polyethylene bag, such as a bread bag, into which the plant will fit comfortably, and sprinkle a small amount of water into it. Sprinkle the scion leaf or leaves lightly and place the plant in the bag. Don't wet the wound area. The inside of the bag should show moisture at all times. Water of condensation at the top of the bag should be in contact with the leaf or leaves of the scion.

Fasten the top of the bag securely with a tie. Place in bright light but never in direct sun. Grafts knit best at 600 to 750F.

A special method of bagging is used when making summer grafts out of doors. In this case the section of the branch with the graft is tightly enclosed in a plastic bag, which in turn is covered with a brown paper bag for shading.

The first sign of successful knitting will be the appearance of cream-colored callous tissue a-long the edge of the cut. Do not untie until the string appears to be strangling the scion, at from 12 to 16 weeks. Before this the union is very weak and snaps off easily. At this time the scion or leaf bud shows active growth. Carefully prune off the top of the stock or rub out the buds on the stock, favoring the scion.

Grafting is most commonly practiced to increase stock that is difficult to root or to propagate during warm weather. There are several other special applications.

It can be a great advantage in a breeding program to hasten the flowering of seedlings. Rapid maturation is accomplished by grafting a seedling high up onto an older plant.

There is potential for improved resistance to cold or heat. Winter-kill in marginally hardy rhododendrons often appears to result from death of the roots. Experimental grafting of these on to hardy stock may prove them adaptable to colder areas.

Some species and hybrids (aureum, 'Carmen') are intolerant of our hot summers. They rapidly fall prey to soil pathogens, from water-molds to Phytophthera. Grafting this type of plant on to a tough root stock should increase its viability.

Something For Everyone Portland Newsletter

Please Note: Those of you who find errors in this issue, consider them placed there on purpose. Some people are always looking for such things - and we wouldn't want to disappoint them.

From the Editor

This issue marks the first under your new editor. To fill the shoes of Jay Slavitz is a formidable challenge - but a challenge that we cheerfully accept. One has but to compare the first issue of The Rosebay (February 1972) with recent ones to realize the maturity accomplished.

However, The Rosebay can no longer be a one man endeavor. It can only continue to succeed with the active participation of the membership. This is an appeal and solicitation for help. Please do not wait to be called. Especially needed will be articles and contributions from the members themselves Neither literary nor technical expertise is a prerequisite, simply the desire to share your experiences and garden with your fellow members.

We are also desirous of reprinting articles of interest from other publications. Obviously, we cannot read everything ourselves. Send along a copy or cite the publication and we will do the rest.

Elsewhere in these pages are presented two articles on the subject of grafting. With the advent of mist and plastic and the refinement in the techniques of their use, propagation by cuttings has become most popular. However, this has in no way made the graft obsolete. Under certain conditions it is still the method of choice, may very well be the only practical method. This subject we feel should be of great interest to our readers.

Wayne Mezitt and Jack Cowles need no introduction to the Massachusetts Chapter. Nor is it necessary to expound upon their expertise. The know-how that comes from long experience is the most valuable and always worth listening to.

We would indeed be remiss if we did not express our gratitude to Fred MacDonald, Jane and Dick Brooks. They are entirely responsible for the typing, layout, and mechanical production of this Issue.

RHODIES UNDER LIGHTS

by Max L. Resnick, Canton, Mass.

For those of you to whom the winter months represent a void in your rhodie gardening, I offer the perfect solution. Grow them under lights and extend your growing season to 12 months! At a very moderate cost, requiring only a minimum of space and the only tools necessary a screwdriver, pair of pliers, and small drill, it is simple to erect an excellent fluorescent light set up. From seed to 4 to 6 inches In 6 - 7 months, cuttings rooted in as little as 4 weeks, 2 or more flushes of growth by early summer --- not only possible, but very common.

My first experience with lights utilized an old 10 gallon fish tank. Such a tank measures 12x12x2 inches long. A standard 2 lamp, 20 watt fluorescent fixture also measures 24 inches and will fit exactly on the top of the tank. If one is a bit careful no securing is necessary. The reflector resting on the fixture completed the set up.

I recall it was January. I took in a half-dozen plants in 4 inch pots from the pit, let them thaw out a few days In the garage, and put them under the lights to see what would happen. To me it was remarkable Literally the plants overnight broke dormancy and new growth was soon evident. One plant of PJM had actually grown enough to touch the lights.

However, such a light set up is not really satisfactory. First, it cannot accommodate a 40 watt fluorescent fixture, more about which later, and then no rhodie enthusiast In his right mind is going to be satisfied with 6 or 8 plants.

The light set up that I find most satisfactory utilizes open industrial shelving with matching end posts and 40 watt fluorescent lamps (almost a must). The shelves are 24 x 48 inches long and will accommodate these lamps which are also 48 inches in length. The end posts Oome In varying heights and are pre-punched at set intervals so that the shelves can be attached at any desired level.

CONSTRUCTION: A unit with 3 tiers of lights will provide 24 square feat of growing space -enough for 120 4-inch pots. Such a unit will require 4 shelves and three sets of lights as described. Steps in its construction are as follows:

1. Line up the top of each light fixture frame to the underside of each of three shelves, drill holes through both, and attach each light to the undersurface of each shelf by means of small stove bolts. The electrical cord must exit from the side of the fixture.

2. The fourth shelf (with no light) is bolted through the bottom hole of each of the 4 end posts, to become the floor of the unit.

3. The remaining three shelves (with lights attached to undersurfaces) are similarly attached at varying desired levels. For example, if the end posts are 69 Inches in height, the shelves may be spaced equidistant, so that there are provided 3 shelves about 23 inches high. Or one may place one shelf higher than the other.

4. Crossbar bracers are then attached to the end posts on three sides by small bolts, diagonally from top to bottom. The bracers are merely narrow strips of metal that serve to brace the set up and prevent it from swaying.

5. The construction is completed by wrapping 4 mil plastic, clear or white, around 3 sides, leaving only the front unenclosed. This is secured by garbage bag type ties pushed through the plastic and end post holes. The plastic Is helpful in the housekeeping, aids in maintaining humidity (more about which later) and reflects light.

I would recommend a few other accessory items, inexpensive yet very helpful : an automatic timer to control the lights, a thermometer, hygrometer to read temperature and humidity, and a small portable humidifier. The latter may be of the table top type and need only have a 1 to 1.5 gallon capacity.

That plants do so well under the lights should really not surprise. Under the lights one can approach and control ideal conditions as concern light, temperature, and humidity. To put it another way - give the plants what they like and they will respond a further discussion of the above may be helpful.

LIGHT: The amount of light that the plants receive varies directly with (I ) the number and intensity of the fluorescent lamps, (2) the length of time the lamps are on, and (3) the distance of the plants from the lights.

Standard size lamps are either 20 watt (24 inches long) or 40 watt (48 inches long). It is recommended that only these be used. Best results will be obtained with the use of 40 watt lamps. Somehow, here is a case where 2-20's do not equal 40. 1 have one light set up that uses 4 20-watt lamps and another set up that has 2 40~att lamps. Although the total wattage is the same in each, empirical observation of the growth shows a distinct difference, favoring the latter, Thus the importance of a set up of sufficient sire to accommodate 48 inch lamps.

Fluorescent lamps are generally lights of two types. These are the common white light and colored light, the so-called plant grow lights. A detailed explanation of the properties of light is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say that white light breaks down into a spectrum of colors. The more important of which for plant growth are the reds and blues. It is in these colors that the grow lights are strong. Several brands are on the market, all probably of equal merit. I happen to use Sylvania's GRO-LUX WIDE SPECTRUM (WS) , reputedly especially strong in the reds and incidentally the least expensive. One other point: the grow lights should be used in conjunction with the white lights. If your fixture has two lamps, use one white light and one colored; if it has four lamps, alternate two white with two colored.

How long do you keep the lights on ? It is generally accepted that 16 hours per day is optimum. Empirically, I can say that my plants do well with that amount. It is essential that the lamps be turned on and off at the same times each day, so that the days and nights for the plants come at the same time - thus the Importance of an automatic timer.

Actually, I have found that the distance of the plant to the light (as far as rhodies are concerned) is not that critical. Obviously, you would not put a germinating seedling 23 inches away, nor a tall plant so that it hits the light. A rule of thumb is the smaller the plant the closer to the light. Not enough light is manifested by straggliness; too much, by leaf burn A simple method of raising a plant closer to the light is to place its pot on another pot, inverted. But really you will find that this is not a problem to be concerned with

TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY: Ideally, daytime temperatures should approach 70-75 degrees F, with a 10 degree drop at night. The latter is of great importance. Under usual household conditions temperature should pose no great problem - improvisation at times. The shutting off of the lights at night will in itself help get the nighttime drop.

Contrasted with the above, a bigger problem can be presented by humidity, or rather lack of humidity. It tends to dry out indoors, especially in the winter time with the heat on. Your plants will not do well under dry conditions. The enclosing plastic will help retain moisture, as will the plants themselves close together. I have two other suggestions. Do not rest the pots directly on the shelves, but In horticultural trays that have been almost tilled with gravel or perlite. By keeping the latter wet a great deal of moisture will be retained. Also, use a humidifier. I use a small portable 1 1/2 gallon size humidifier (cost under $15). When the heat is on, I run it during the daytime hours. It Is necessary to refill the water only every other day. Under these conditions, I can easily maintain a relative humidity of 50% or more - which is just fine for the plants.

What does well under the lights ? Just about anything. One can grow a veritable forest - limited only by space and interest. Azaleas do equally as well. For those of you who have mastered the art of rooting deciduous azaleas, the problem of getting that first flush of growth Is no more. Interested in rooting cuttings ? Make your propagating flat just under 18 inches in length and It will fit perfectly into the shelf. Place it on any but the bottom shelf and you will have "bottom heat" from the underlying fixture. You can expect at least 2 flushes of growth by the following June.

SEEDLINGS! My own interests lean more and more to germinating and growing on plants from seed. The excitement of creating something new - perhaps an ultimate "Winner"- is something I cannot resist. I suspect that sooner or later many of you will be bitten by this same bug. Heretofore, a disadvantage of growing from seed was the longer time period necessary until bloom - in many cases 2 years more than from other propagating methods. Under the lights, this time lag may be markedly decreased. My own record is a seedling of 'Llenroc' a small leaf lepidote) that set bud 14 months from seed.

Germinate by your favorite method. I happen to use a medium of sphagnum moss (brand name "Nodamp-off") in small aluminum "Betty Lee" type food containers with clear plastic tops. I place the containers Immediately near or under the lights. Sow the seed anytime; my advice is the sooner the better.

Upon germination the containers are moved closer to the lights (6-12 inches) and hardened off as soon as possible. From here on the trick is to get them In 4 Inch pots as soon as I can.

When they have 1 or 2 true leaves they are pricked out and moved to plastic seedling flats in which they are spaced 1 inch apart. The growing medium here Is still soil-less - made up of equal parts of peat, perlite, and vermiculite.

After about 1 month the seedlings are ready for 2 Inch pots, into which they are individually transplanted. Here for the first time the mix contains soil. It consists of 1/4 each peat, perlite, vermiculite, and potting soil. To this Is added a sprinkling of superphosphate. The final transplant Is into a 4 Inch pot (same mix) in which they stay until June or later, at which time they are ready to be bedded outdoors.

WATERING, FERTILIZING: The principles that govern watering and fertilizing are no different for plants grown under the lights than for outdoor plants However, because under the lights the plants are in continuous growth, certain adaptations are necessary. A greater amount of watering will be necessary. Never let the pots dry out. On the other hand, a plant that drowns under the lights Is just as much dead. A problem that might come up Is from salt build up. While I cannot offer any set solution, frequent leaching and perhaps an occasional repotting will help

Fertilizing can also be tricky. Every time I think I have it solved something happens to put me in my place. A rule of thumb even under the lights: fertilize less than you think you should. I have run the gamut from the manures to the slow release chemicals. Right now I am back again to weak solutions of fish emulsions. Frequent applications where the medium contains no soil; much less so in other media. Watch your plants and let their appearance be your guide.

This article cannot possibly tell you all you want to know. Its purpose is merely to make you aware of what you can do under the lights and hopefully to whet your appetite. I can only refer you to that cliche of what will happen if you try it. Of that I am certain!

Rhododendrons at Windy Acres

by Charles Gredler, Lexington, Mass.

A gift of a plant of R. 'Roseum Elegans' some fifteen years ago, and a visit to the beautiful garden of Stephen Snell, started me off on my love affair with the rhododendron. Steve's garden had everything the books tell you to look for in a proper planting site - a canopy of thinned out conifers and hardwoods in the midst of a wooded area providing protection from winds and full exposure to sun. Windy Acres (actually under an acre), on the other hand, is a lot situated on a knoll, quite exposed to all gales and without the protection of many trees. Ten thousand square feet of the property to the south was set aside for a vegetable garden and small apiary. An asparagus bed, raspberry, blueberry and blackberry bushes and some thirty fruit and nut trees take up more apace. We grow all of our fruits and vegetables. Some of the area had to be left open for the activities of a growing family. Where could I plant rhododendrons successfully and work them into the landscape? On the front side of the house one of the previous owners had planted a spruce tree, now fifty feet in height. I trimmed off the lower branches and planted four R. 'Caroline' around the base. They have flourished. Along about sixty feet of the driveway was an area shaded by old wild cherry trees, gently sloping in terrain and overgrown with trailing blackberry. I cleaned out the latter pruned branches of the cherries, and started in. Here my plants of 'Dexter's Horizon' and 'Brandygreen' flourish, as well as the few evergreen azaleas I am successful with in this area, such as 'Fedora', 'Carmen', 'Herbert', and 'Springtime', plus plants of Enkianthus, Mountain Andromeda, Kalmia, Leucothoe, the Meserve hollies, magnolias, R. 'Wilsoni', 'Ignatius Sargent', 'County of York', and 'Boule de Neige'. To cut down further on sweeping winter winds I install snow fencing each fall.

I noticed most garden centers around the area carried only those rhododendrons which had been on the market for years. By this time I had joined the American Rhododendron Society and had read a great deal about the work of hybridizers like Leach, Baldseifen, Gable, Nearing, Shammarello, Dexter, Amateis, Mezitt, and Van Veen. I sent for fifty yearlings from Van Veen, five plants of ten hybrids I had not seen in the nurseries around Lexington and described as hardy to H2. This is how I obtained my plants, among others, of 'Janet Blair', 'Vernus', 'Ellie', 'Blue Ensign', 'Scintillation', and 'Dora Amateis'. They spent the first winter in the cold frame and were planted out in the vegetable garden the next spring. They developed well in the full sun, budded up nicely, and gave me plants to use in landscaping. Duplicates were given to friends, or sold, and some large plants went to Stanley Park two years ago for the Chapter's Display Garden. I turned next to the foundation plantings around the house. Huge shrubs of bridal wreath were all we had when we purchased in 1949. These were pulled out with chains and our 1947 Ford. I broke the clumps apart and had enough to make a hedge along the complete north side of our property. It is handsome now, especially in May when in full bloom, and it gives us privacy. The beds around the house were turned over and peat moss incorporated. Over the years small plants of yews, the various ilex, dwarf evergreens, boxwood, and R. 'P.J.M.' were planted on the west side. On the north side plants of R. 'Lee's Dark Purple', R. 'Dorothy Amateis', R. 'President Lincoln', and R. 'Dexter Pink 109' flourish. On the northeast and east sides of the house I have experimented with rhododendrons of questionable hardiness in Lexington. So far I have brought through the winter small plants of R 'Trude Webster','Crest', 'Halfdan Lem', 'Hallelujah', and 'Lem's Monarch'. These are budding for the first time this year. If the snow cover is sufficient this winter perhaps I will have some blooms next spring. On the south side landscaping with Korean boxwood, yews, and R. 'Nova Zembla' has been successful. Through the years, success with propagation in my two Nearing frames gave me additional plants. Since I like to see green in the dead of winter, I turned next to the border of our property on the west, delineated by an old stone wall. I would need shade from the afternoon sun. Two ancient clumps of white and purple lilacs on the property gave me an adequate number of suckers to dig up and plant as a background. Next to these were planted daylilies for bloom in the summer. In front of these, rhododendrons which I knew could take exposure were planted - R. 'Ellie', 'Vernus', 'Janet Blair', 'Blue Ensign', 'Albert Close', 'Caroline', 'Goldfort', 'Harold Amateis', 'Henry Yates', 'Rochelle', 'Scintillation', 'Skyglow', 'Strawberry Swirl', 'Warwick', and 'Cadis'. These are bordered by low-growing impatiens during the summer.

A couple of years ago a new challenge offered itself. A huge bush of the old-fashioned weeping forsythia planted years ago by previous owners continued to spread out from the stone wall some twenty-five feet toward the lawn Its blooming had always been sparse. I had cut it down twice to see if I could shock it into flower, but to no avail. Two of my sons and I cut it down again and dug out the roots. This left a completely bare area in the form of an informal semi-circle with the stone wall as a background. I turned over the soil, incorporating peat moss and well rotted horse manure. To the rear I have a row of two Swiss pines, one weeping spruce, and four blue junipers, interspersed with columnar Japanese crab apples. This provides a windbreak, or will eventually, from the sweeping northwest winds. A small fragrant white dogwood and three small magnolias are strategically placed within the semi-circle. I decided to put in this garden chiefly yakushimanum species and hybrids, filling in with other very dwarf rhododendrons, the color theme to be white to pink. The focal point is a ten year old plant of yakushimanum 'Mist Maiden'. This is surrounded by the various F.C.C. forms, the Exbury form, 'Ken Janek', 'Koichiro Wada', the Prentice and the Whitney forms. Included also are forms of yakushimanum collected in the wild and some of the Bovee crosses, as well as yakushimanum x 'Mars' and the reverse cross ('Mars' x yakushimanum). To carry out the theme of pink and white I have included plants of B. Mezitt's Weston Compact low-growing pastel pink, as well as his R. 'Llenroc', 'Vallya', 'Olga', 'Balta', and 'Laurie'. R. 'Dora Amateis' is planted here, as are plants of R. 'Montchanin', 'Keiskral', 'Anna Baldseifen', 'Conemaugh', 'Conewago', 'Mary Fleming', 'Laurel Pink', 'Windbeam', 'Wyanokie', and 'Pequot'. To the rear, in front of the tall growing evergreens, I have planted some of the Exbury, Knaphill, and Ilam azaleas, pink and white only. All of these plants have taken the full exposure well. Very dwarf evergreens are planted to add interest. Species tulips and miniature daffodils give early spring color in the front while 'Coral Mist' Oriental hybrid lilies give color in the summer in the background. The semi-circle is bordered with heath and heather, miniature roses, and alyssum and pink and white Tausendschoen begonias grown from seed in our cellar under lights. A ground cover of myrtle to the rear and ivy in the front completes the newest garden at Windy Acres.