EVERGREEN AZALEAS Up From Inferiority
EVERGREEN AZALEAS At The Arnold Arboretum
THOUGHTS ON HYBRIDIZING For the Neophyte
Concerning An Azalea Study Group
New Evergreen Azaleas For The New England Area
The Vuykiana Azaleas
The Evergreen Azalea Its Role In The Landscape
Azalea Species Native To North America
PLANTS FOR MEMBERS
Evergreen Azaleas-Up From Inferiority
BY FRANKLIN H. WEST, M.D., GLADWYNE, PA.
No doubt about it - evergreen azaleas are the most frequently planted members of the rhododendron family in the eastern United States. Today, we easterners have a greater advantage in azaleas over Pacific Northwest gardeners then they used to have over us in rhododendrons. Dexter, Gable, Nearing, and Shamarello helped even things up in that department. This eastern superiority in azaleas is simply due to the fact that most evergreen azalea developments, beginning with E.H. Wilson's Kurume introductions to Morrison's 454 Glenn Dale hybrids, have occurred in the eastern United States. The trouble is, we easterners have failed to give awards to azaleas the way westerners did for rhododendrons. Most of these eastern azalea selections do not perform in the Pacific Northwest as gloriously as they do for us. Azaleas have such a climate-specific genetic endowment (as do rhododendrons) that it will take at least a generation of intensive breeding out there before Northwesterners can witness the same spectacular azalea displays that we are privileged to enjoy every Spring. Bill Guttormsen has made a start in this direction at Canby, Oregon, with his Greenwood hybrids, which are derived in large part from Gable's legacy.
Recent eastern developments in evergreen azaleas have come from continued breeding efforts and extensive testing of azalea clones for adaptability. Many dedicated people have been working not only in the eastern megalopolis, but also in Georgia, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, western Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Ontario.
Azalea study groups are currently active in three eastern Chapters. Other groups will be forming, thanks to the imaginative leadership of Betty Hager of the New York Chapter. She described her Study Group's activities to the A.R.S. Convention in 1976, and in an article in the Quarterly Bulletin of A.R.S. in 1975 Her letter to a group in South Carolina, chock full of suggestions, follows this report.
Azalea hybridizing has been going on at many eastern locations. Popular attention is presently focused on at least three major groups of new evergreen azaleas. Host of these have appeared since the last edition of Lee's Azalea Book:
(1) Hardier Satsuki type hybrids. The Robin Hill azaleas, bred in northern New Jersey by Robert Gartrell, are proving to have wide adaptability and are every bit as lovely at the tender Satsukis. Another group, bred in Georgia by the late Ralph W. Pennington, is being distributed by several nurseries. (2) Hardy greenhouse-type large double flowered azaleas, were developed for outdoor use at Linwood, New Jersey (near Atlantic City) by G. Albert Reid, who calls them his "Linwood Hardies". They made a dazzling display at the '76 Convention and at the Philadelphia Flower Show in 1976 and 1977. (3) Hardier evergreen azaleas for the rigors of the Great Lakes region, have been produced by Orlando S. Pride, at Butler, Pennsylvania, Tony Shammarello at South Euclid, Ohio,and Peter H. Girard at Geneva, Ohio. These, too, were developed from Gable clones primarily. Only local testing will reveal which of these newer selections will perform well in Massachusetts.
Not yet available, but awaited with great interest, are two other sets of evergreen azaleas: (1) W.L. Tolstead's West Virginia breeding project, using simsii and nakaharai genes, could pro vide valuable late bloomers for a wide region where frosts clobber early and mid-season azaleas. (2) A group of new Japanese azalea selections, imported by David G. Leach, is being propagated by John Ravestein at the Herman Losely and Son Nursery in Perry, Ohio, and will be available in a year or so.
Help for mail order buyers of azaleas and rhododendrons is coming soon from the American Rhododendron Society. All ratings and awards are being given regional designations. In this way, the buyer can tell where the award or rating was given and thereby tell where it can be counted on to perform best. Azalea ratings are not yet generally established, despite our preliminary efforts in the Philadelphia area. Study groups could help make azalea ratings a reality by developing ratings and recommended lists of azalea varieties for each Chapter area. In this way, the best per formers will be quickly identified. Awards should be proposed for the best of the newer varieties. Superior older varieties are eligible for special recognition given by the Ratings committee of A.R.S. - a citation know as "Garden Gem". The future Massachusetts Chapter Study Group could perform a real service hero.
For several years there was an Evergreen Azalea Committee in the National Society, which functioned to stir up interest and publication of azalea information in the Quarterly Bulletin. As of this year, the Committee is being reassigned to the Awards and Ratings Committees, in hopes of gaining recognition for azaleas from within the regular A.R.S. committees, instead of from with out. One of the most active azaleas enthusiasts in the East is George W. Harding of Germantown, Maryland, who served on the Azalea Committee. He has a superb collection and is a knowledgeable speaker on azaleas.
Further good news for the azalea hobbyist: Several nurseries have published impressive lists of available clones -enough to satisfy the hungriest appetite A few to consult after Weston Nurseries: Carlson's Gardens, South Salem, N.Y. 10590; Holly Hills Inc., 1216 Hillsdale Road, Evansville, Indiana 47711; Sweet Gum Farms, Route #2, Alma, Georgia 31510; and Frank B. White, 6419 Princess Garden Parkway, Lanham, Maryland 20801.
And the best to last, the third edition of the Lee Azalea Book should be published before 1980, under the editorship of David G. Leach, sponsored by the American Horticultural Society. If you can't wait for Leach's Lee, there will be a good bit of azalea information of value in our book, "Hybrids and Hybridizers" which should be available from your Chapter Book Committee by the time you are reading this.
The azalea inferiority complex is on the wane with a lot more effort by azalea enthusiasts in every eastern Chapter, it could be wiped out once and for all. Will you help?
Editor's Note: Dr. Franklin H. West is a member of the Philadelphia Chapter and a member of the board of directors of the A.R.S. While his interests are in no way limited to the evergreen azalea, to many on the east coast his name is synonymous with that plant. He is a frequent contributor to the literature and is the author of "On The Azalea Inferiority Complex and Rhododendronitis" which may be found in the Quarterly Bulletin, A.R.S. issue of Jan. 1973 (Vol. 27, No. 1). "Up From Inferiority" is a sequel to that article.
Evergreen Azaleas At The Arnold Arboretum
John H. Alexander III, Jamaica Plain, Mass.
Plant Propagator, The Arnold Arboretum
The Arnold Arboretum is credited with introducing a number of evergreen azalea species into the United States. Rhododendron kaempferi and R. yedoense var. poukhanense are two examples. Charles Sprague Sargent, the first Director, is credited with the introduction of the familiar torch azalea, Rhododendron kaempferi, in 1892. Seeds of the poukhan azalea arrived at the Arnold Arboretum in 1905, shipped from Korea by J.G. Jack. Plants from both of these original introductions are still growing there today. According to Sargent's "The First Fifty Years..." some other evergreen azaleas introduced to cultivation in the United States by the Arnold Arboretum include Rhododendron linearifolium var. macrosepalum, R. oldhamii, R. rubropilosum, R. scabrum, R. tosaense and R. tschonoskii.
About 1910 the R. x arnoldianum hybrids were selected by Jackson Thornton Dawaen, who served jointly as Superintendent and Propagator of the Arnold Arboretum. We selected a number of chance seedlings of a cross between R. obtusum 'Amoenum' and R. kaempferi. These hybrids, although very hardy, have flowers of a violet-red color that is not generally popular. Several of the original seedlings from this cross are still among the living collections of the Arnold Arboretum.
E.H. Wilson, famed Arnold Arboretum plant hunter, is credited with the introduction of evergreen azalea species R. oldhamii and R. tosaense. In 1919, a selection of fifty Kurume azaleas arrived at the Arnold Arboretum from Wilson, who was visiting Japan at the time. These selections, made from a Japanese nursery, later became known as Wilson's Fifty.
In Table I are listed those species and cultivars currently in the living collections of the Arnold Arboretum. Those cultivars from important hybrid groups are coded in parentheses after the cultivar name (see Key). Table II is a list of cultivars that were grown at the Arnold Arboretum for at least ten years. Undoubtedly, some died due to the rigors of New England weather, hut a few were killed by a fire and others died for reasons we cannot now ascertain. Many from this list are worthy of trial and should not be discounted simply because they are no longer among the living collections. Many other evergreen azaleas have been tested at the Arnold Arboretum and have failed. They do not appear on any of these tables.
Evergreen azaleas vary widely in their evergreen qualities. In Boston, many are so slightly evergreen, that only a few leaves may be found adhering to the very tips of the branches. In warmer climates, many of these shrubs are considerably more evergreen. While observing the evergreen azaleas at the Arnold Arboretum, I noted certain cultivars as having superior foliage characteristics, both in foliage retention and coloration. These are listed in Table III.
Recently, cultivars of the North Tisbury hybrids of R. nakahari were propagated at the Arnold Arboretum to be tested for hardiness. Two cultivars of this group, 'Alexander' and 'Michael Hill', have been growing at the Arnold Arboretum for more than five years. They are low growing and display good winter foliage.
Although the New England climate is not generally conducive to the growth of evergreen azaleas, the Arnold Arboretum has been instrumental in testing and introducing new species and hybrids. By using the accompanying tables as a guide, one may readily select a number of hardy and beautiful evergreen azaleas for use in New England and similar climates.
TABLE I: Plants in the Living Collections
KEY- TO HYBRID GROUPS:
A x arnoldianum
GD Glen Dale
KI obtusum kaempferi
NT North Tisbury
Flowers single unless otherwise stated
'Alexander' (NT) red
'Boudoir' (G) violet-red
'Buccaneer' (GD) orange-red
'Campfire' (G) red; hose-in-hose
'Delaware Valley White' white
'Early Dawn' (A) violet-red
'Elizabeth Gable' (G) red
'Eureka' (YP) lavender-pink; hose-in-hose
'Favorite' (KI) pink
'Fedora' (KI) violet-red
'Greeting' (GD) coral-rose
'Guy Yerkes' (YP) salmon-pink
'Hahn's Red' red
'Hershey's Red' red; hose-in-hose
'Hinode-girl' (K) crimson
'Hino Scarlet' red; hose-in-hose
'James Gable' (G) red; hose-in-hose
kaempferi x yedoense
'Lakme' (KI) red
linearifolium var. macrosepalum red-violet
'Lorna' (G) double violet-red
'Louise Gable' (GY double violet-red
'Mello-Glo' (A) violet-red
'Michael Hill' (NT) pink
'Mother's Day' rose-red
'Mrs. C.C. Miller' double
'Mrs. L.C. Fischer' pink;
'Othello' (KI) red
'Peggy Ann' pink
'Pink Progress' pink
'Polar Bear' (YP) white
'Purple Splendor' (G) purple; hose-in-hose
'Roehr's Tradition' pink; hose-in-hose
'Rosebud '(G) double pink
'Stewartstonian' (G) red
'Sunrise' (KI) orange-red
'Treasure' (GD) white
'Vuyk's Rosyred' red
'Vuyk's Scarlet' red
'Wilhemina Vuyk' (syn. 'Palestrina') white with chartreuse blotch
'Willy' (KI) pink x arnoldianum violet-red
yedoense double purple
yedoense var. poukhanense lilac-purple
TABLE II: Plants Which Survived More Than Ten
'Arcadia' (GD) pink
'Betty' (KI) red
'Big Joe' (G) reddish-violet
'Carmen' (KI) reddish-violet
'Charlotte' (G) reddish-violet
'Cleopatra' (KI) red
'Dexter's Pink' (A) violet-red
'Elizabeth Gable' (G) red
'Ethelwyn' (G) pink
'Herbert' (G) reddish-violet; hose-in-hose
'La Premiere' (G) violet-red
'Louise' (KI) red
'Marjorie' (GD) rose
'Mary Dalton' (G) orange-red; hose-in hose
'Mauve Queen' (NI)
kaempferi f. mikawanum reddish-violet
'Mildred Mae' (G) reddish-violet
'Miriam' (G) violet-red
'Purple King' (KI) violet-red
'Rose Greeley' (G) white; hose-in-hose
'Royalty' (G) reddish-violet
'Snow' white; hose-in-hose
'Springtime' (G) violet-red
'Zampa' (KI) violet-red
TABLE III: Best Winter Foliage
'Elizabeth Gable' red
'Guy Yerkes' salmon-pink
'Hino Scarlet' red; hose-in-hose
'Michael Hill' pink
'Mother's Day' rose-red
'Mrs. C.C. Miller' double
'Roehr's Tradition' pink;
'Vuyk's Rosyred' red
'Vuyk's Scarlet' red
Bean, N.J. 1976. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles.Vol. III, M. Bean and John Murray, Ltd., London.
Hill, Mrs. J.W. 1974. R. nakaharai and some North Tisbury hybrids. Quarterly Bulletin of the American Rhododendron Society, Vol. 29(2): 106-lOB.
Hortus Third. 1976. MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc.
Lee, Frederic P. 1959. The Azalea Book.Van Nostrand Co., Princeton, New Jersey.
Sargent, C.S. 1922. The first fifty years of the Arnold Arboretum. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum, 3: 157, 159.
Wilson, N.H. and Rehder, A. 1921. A Monograph of Azaleas. The University Press, Cambridge.
Wyman, 0. 1957. Broad-leaved evergreens in the Arnold Arboretum. Arnoldia 17: 61-76.
Wyman, 0. 1966. The hardiest azaleas. Arnoldia 26: 17-32.
Wyman, B. 1953. Two months of azalea bloom. Arnoldia 13: 29-35.
Thoughts on Hybridizing For The Neophyte
I start off with, just what are your aims? It is very important to keep that thought in the forefront of any cross that you contemplate. I don't think that many of us have the room or the time to duplicate the work of a Mr. Joe Gable, or Mr. Nearing or Mr. Dexter.
If you want to work with the lepidotes well and good, but just stay in those bounds. Should your choice be the wide range of the elepidotes, break it down to the size and type of plant you would like to come out. And going a step further I would stay within a color range, be it red, yellow, white, or pink. By narrowing your wishes down to certain confines you will make the program much easier and more meaningful. Of course the main background in all the hybridizing will rest on hardiness, which is one of the hard facts to overcome-- especially when we are looking for clear, bright and fresh color. However with enough people hybridizing and growing seedlings something good must eventually come out.
There is available plant material that could help out the hybridizers of the N.E. area. Unfortunately that is unknown to us as yet. A case in point: I happen to be getting pollen from Dr. Phetteplace (on the West Coast) for several years, particularly looking for pollen of a dwarf bright red. The doctor has been most generous with my re quests and with information he has given me. It so happens the year I had asked for the pollen was when they had the disastrous freeze. I really did not expect to get any pollen. He wrote a very tragic letter explaining what had happened. He had lost rhodies that he was growing for twenty-five years or more. Yet through it all valuable in formation was confirmed--namely, that R. 'Elizabeth' was a grex cross. He lost 6 or 7 plants that he had growing for many years. He had however recently received a plant of R. 'Elizabeth' which came from Mr. Cox of Scotland which proved to be a very hardy plant and of better color quality. THAT SAME PLANT BLOOMED WHEN EVERYTHING ELSE WAS LOST! I think he recorded minus 13 F. during that calamity. It was pollen of this plant that he sent me. The 'Elizabeth' cross that you are growing is of this plant. These seedlings may prove to be very valuable.
Dr. Phetteplace is very knowledgeable about rhodies. Yet he never realized that there were several forms of R. 'Elizabeth'. Sometimes I wonder how many more plants there are that could help in the hybridization for the New England area that as yet we are unaware of!
Editor's note: The foregoing is from a personal letter from Mr. Jacob Rosenthal of Holliswoods, N.Y. Jack has been hybridizing for many many years and belongs to that select group of extremely knowledgeable and devoted 'amateurs' whose efforts have and continue to add so much to the world of Rhododendron. He has unselfishly shared seed, pollen, plants and information with people as far away as Japan. We consider ourselves fortunate to be included in this group.
Concerning An Azalea Study Group
EXCERPTS FROM A BETTY HAGER LETTER
There are two ingredients necessary for a successful study group--first, an enthusiastic chairman who is willing to put in some extra time and set up some planned activity for each meeting. Second, a compatible group of members who are anxious to contribute to the sessions (share their knowledge and experiences freely). No one need have great knowledge of azaleas but should have the desire to find out as much as possible about these marvelous plants. The incentive probably is the opportunity to collect unusual plants, cuttings, seeds, and during this process, develop warm friendships.
In my opinion, the continuity of the group will be assured if each member agrees right from the beginning to accept responsibility for some assignment at a future meeting. This could be a mini-talk (10 minutes or less), a short paper (to be read by someone else if the person is shy), agreement to make all arrangements for one day' a garden tours, writing to as many nurseries as possible for an azalea catalogue file, researching a specific group of azaleas, propagating one flat full of a rare azalea for distribution to the members, promising to photograph a specific gar den come next Spring, demonstrating the propagation by cuttings of native azaleas, talking a landscape artist into giving a short talk on the use of azaleas in gardens, preparing a short slide program on azaleas growing in famous gardens, etc..
Have each person in the group do something at some meeting. This keeps up the interest, even if it is a delegation to pour the coffee and cut the cake!
You might use Lee's Azalea Book as your guide. Take a chapter at a time. Encourage digging into old horticultural books in the libraries, old RHS and ARS bulletins, old nursery catalogues to find references to azaleas. Check back issues of American Nurseryman magazine for articles on soils, container growing, greenhouse structures, disease prevention, propagation. Check U.S. Government Yearbooks of Agriculture for information.
Have someone from a local university speak to you on basic botany, entomology, genetics, etc..
Plan to establish a test garden or gardens in more than one place. Have an azalea show at a local library, natives and hybrids on display on tables as they come into bloom. Get azaleas some publicity in local papers.
Find out from your members what they are interested in doing. Speak to each individually and ask them to take care of part of a program. Most of us do not like to volunteer but will gladly pitch in if requested to do so. Make them feel important to the success of a particular project. It is not imperative to hold meetings every month--space them to suit the group's schedule of time. But always have something planned to do.
The chairman who leads the group should act as a catalyst. He should agitate and stir the pot once in a while, add an ingredient now and then, activate processes along certain lines, urge the group to do the homework--to study whatever the current topic happens to be, specify places to get information for research, ask members to do jobs (do not be afraid of rejection, some will say NO, but those that say YES will benefit the most)
Some meetings will be more fruitful than others. Sometimes you cannot stimulate a response and an assignment will fall flat, and one of the members will let you down, but he will be the loser. It's still true--the more you put in the more you get out. A few days before a meeting, it sometimes helps to phone those members who agreed to give reports reminding them how much you appreciate their efforts.
The above are just suggestions and I hope will be of help. Believe me, an azalea group is worth all the effort as the personal satisfaction is great and friendships deepened.
Editor's note: Betty Hager, "Mrs. Azalea" her self, is a member of the N.Y. Chapter and has been an enthusiastic grower of rhododendron and azalea for more than 25 years. She was instrumental in the formation of the N.Y. Chapter Azalea Study Group, as well as being active in many other projects from local to national level. To us in the Mass. Chapter, she is well remembered for her dynamic presentation as guest speaker at the annual meeting in April, 1975.
New Evergreen Azaleas For The New England Area
BY EDMUND V. MEZITT, HOPKINTON, MASS.
The evergreen azalea, like rhododendrons are dual purpose plants having attractive foliage and showy flowers. The limiting factor for their more popular use in our area has been their lack of hardiness. We have not experienced a really severe winter for long time and many varieties have bee-planted locally that are now doing well and yet have been severely injured in years past. It was during these harsh winters, that I started selecting and breeding for hardier varieties.
The search for hardier and better forms of azaleas starts with gathering seeds of the species we raise, particularly Azalea kuisianum, Azalea kaempferi and Azalea poukhanensis. These azaleas sell well in our area and we grow thousands of them in up-to-landscape size. Thus, we are able to select good plants for purposes of seed stock and breeding before too many are sold.
Azalea kuisianum has not been very bud-hardy since we started growing it years ago. Its scattered bloom produce occasional seeds but the offspring of each generation are becoming more floriferous. Open-pollinated seeds produce considerable variation of leaf and flower forms but a good percentage continue to show the true form. I have yet to discover any other color than lavender in the dwarf form although this has been accomplished in Japan with many named varieties now reaching the market. I am growing a few of these in hopes they will be bud-hardy.
Azalea poukhanensis has certainly been a good parent for breeding hardy evergreen azaleas. Its hardiness is variable and selecting hardy bud forms, as with Azalea kuisianum, does produce hardier plants. One of the most interesting variations Occurs once in about two to three thousand plants of our Azalea poukhanensis seedlings. A good pink form of slightly more upright growth has startled us on about eight different crops. These bloom a little earlier than Azalea poukhanensis. The clone I have named is 'Pink Discovery' and is similar to but with pinker, larger flowers and later blooming than variety 'Springtime'.
Seedlings of Azalea 'Pink Discovery' have been very exciting. Pink shades are dominant and heavier-textured plants and flowers are the rule. I have named one 'Pink Clusters'. The more informal growth with resulting flowers in clusters make this a very interesting new hardy evergreen azalea.
We came upon Azalea 'Vuyk Scarlet' and 'Vuyk Rosy Red' many years ago and noted its uniqueness compared to all other Vuyk introductions. Their low habit and heavy-textured, long-lasting flowers are both good features. However, they are not reliably bud-hardy here, and we have discontinued growing them. I crossed 'Vuyk Scarlet' with a good pink form of Azalea arnoldiama and the resulting hybrid is a deep rose red flower and exceptional glossy evergreen foliage. I have named it 'Viking'. The growth habit is semi-spreading Seedlings of 'Viking' are many-colored, some toward orange, and interesting because of their low habit of growth.
Azalea 'Vuyk Rosy Red' x Azalea poukhanensis produced a semi-hardy low purple of fairly good flower texture and seeds of this hybrid have given us several outstanding hardy forms. The heavy-textured rich magenta flowers last a long time on a beautiful mounded plant. I am naming one clone 'Royal Pillow'. Again, as in so many crosses of Azalea hybrids, second generation seedlings show strong characteristics of their parents Seedlings of 'Royal Pillow' produce very low plants of many colors. We now need a good cold, open winter to test their hardiness.
Several years ago we discovered a white form of Azalea poukhanensis in our lining-out plants. Its flowers have a characteristic of splitting petals. I have made a number of crosses with this form, none of which have flowered as yet.
Although I feel I have had some success with selecting and breeding ever green azaleas, I somehow prefer to reserve judgment until if and when we get one of those old fashioned open-winters and they have survived intact. I an sure some progress has been made by others beside myself and all of us, amateurs and professionals alike, should keep alert during flowering time to observe hardiness characteristics in ever green azaleas.
The breeding of plants by a commercial grower like us provides distinct advantages over the amateur breeder. We can grow on and flower out many plants and thus increase our percentage of success However, we are also aware of the already-too-many named varieties in existence. Therefore, we are slow in registering new names, even if we have grown and observed them for several years.
From the Editor
Except for Dorothy Swift's contribution, this issue of The Rosebay is devoted to the evergreen azalea. Frankly one of the purposes of the issue is to create among our readers a greater awareness of and interest in the azalea, specifically the evergreen form.
As Betty Hager, referring to the azalea, in her discussion of the development of the N.Y. Chapter Azalea Study Group, so aptly put it, "here was a magnificent series in the Genus Rhododendron whose beauty, grace, and remarkable diversity in flower and plant form as well as versatility in land soaps use had never been fully recognized." With this statement we fully concur.
Fortunately, as Dr. West notes, the situation is changing and deservedly so. To be sure, credit must be given to the hybridizers through whose efforts, there are now available to us a greater number of more beautiful varieties. Yet that cannot tell the entire story. It is a fact of human nature, that in order to recognize anything, we must appreciate it. Before we can appreciate anything, we must know about it- see it, hear of it and learn more about it. What better way than through our own azalea study group?
The Rosebay extends its congratulations to Dorothy Swift and Andy Paton and all of the members of the Plants For Members Committee. This Chapter project is the result of a simple-yet brilliant idea. Even in its infancy, its success far exceeds the fondest of hopes and expectations. Al ready one chapter has emulated the program and certainly as it becomes better known, more will (or should) follow. Dorothy's recounting of how it all began and of its progress to date we are sure, will be of great interest to all of The Rosebay's readers.
The basic strength of any group such as ours depends upon its membership and their contributions on its behalf. To our contributors--for your time, efforts, and for sharing your experience--The Rosebay is indeed grateful.
The Vuykiana Azaleas
By Matthew A. Nosal, Wading River, N.Y.
Joseph Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and Johann Strauss. Do these names bring thoughts of symphonic splendor to your mind? Or perhaps thoughts of Old Vienna, when it was synonymous with the grandeur and elegance of the Hapsburg Monarchy. To many people they are alive and well in their gardens, along with Chopin, Palestrina, Sibelius, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Mahler: for they are cultivar names of evergreen azaleas that belong to the group known as Vuykiana Hybrids.
They are of diverse parentage, the result of a breeding project started in 1921 by Aart Vuyk of Vuyk van Nes Nurseries of Boskoop, Holland. His goal was to produce a group of very hardy evergreen azaleas with large flowers. Me used as female parents a Kaempferi Hybrid, Azalea phoeniceum cv. 'Maxwell', and A. mucronatum. For the male parent he used 'van Tol', a Mollis Hybrid, presumably to instill hardiness into the strain. The history of the Vuykiana Hybrids is filled with controversy, since many horticulturists consider the cultivars are the result of apomixis, not hybridization. Vuyk, however, considered them to be true hybrids of evergreen and deciduous azaleas. The original group was introduced in 1925, and included 'Beethoven', 'Geraldine Vuyk', 'Helena Vuyk', 'Johann Sebastian Bach', Johann Strauss', 'Joseph Haydn', 'Mozart', 'Schubert', 'Sibelius', and 'Wilbelmina Vuyk'. Several of the group were imported into the United States around 1928, but they were relatively unknown in this country until large scale importations in the late 1940's.
Unfortunately, confusion entered the scene since two of the varieties were introduced and established in the trade with synonymous names: 'Helena Vuyk' was often cataloged as 'P.W. Hardijzer' and 'Wilhelnina Vuyk' as 'Palestrina'. Vuyk van Nes eventually selected 'Helena Vuyk' and 'Palestrina' as the approved names, but it is not uncommon to find 'P.W. Hardijzer' still listed in English and Dutch catalogs.
The next step in the breeding program was to cross a Belgian Indica Hybrid with the existing cultivars to produce hardy azaleas with good forcing characteristics. This resulted in the "Orange Series", four cultivars that were introduced during the 1940's. They were named 'Koningin Wilhelmina', 'Prins Bernhard', 'Prinses Irene', and 'Prinses Juliana'. They were all orange-red or salmon-orange except 'Koningin Wilhelmina', which was a deep red. They were called the "Orange Series" to differentiate then from the earlier group, which was dubbed the "Composer Series" by nurserymen. However, most Dutch nurserymen referred to this new group of cultivars as the "Royal Family Series". According to Vuyk van Nes, they were not as hardy as the earlier introductions, and at present are no longer being grown by that firm. Several Dutch nurseries are still growing them, and two cultivars have proved hardy on Long Island, 'Koningin Wilbelmina', and 'Prins Bernhard'.
So far, the Vuykiana Hybrids consisted of the "Composer Series", a group of fairly large growing cultivars having either upright or mounded growth habits, and the "Orange Series", which were primarily plants for the greenhouse trade. In 1950 two cultivars were introduced that Vuyk van Nes called "Miniature Vuykianas": these were the result of crossing A. obtusum var. amoenum with the Kaempferi Hybrid 'Favorite'. Named 'Little Beauty' and 'Little Princess', they both had hose-in-hose flowers. Some confusion arose in the United States, since Vuyk van Nes advertised these to the trade as "Double Miniature Vuykiana Novelties", and many nurserymen were fooled by the term "Double". In Holland and Germany, what we call hose-in-hose is considered double; and the azaleas that we consider as having double flowers are called filled. A good example would be the Gable Hybrid 'Rosebud', which is described in THE INTERNATIONAL RHODODENDRON REGISTER as having double, hose-in-hose flowers would be referred to as filled, double. 'Louise Gable' is considered half-filled in their terminology. In 1950 another large growing cultivar was introduced; 'Mrs. Vuyk van Nes' as it became known in this country, but 'Chopin' to the European nursery trade.
'Purple Triumph' was introduced in 1951. This cultivar was from a cross of 'Beethoven' with an unnamed seedling. Being more compact than the others in the "Composer Series", it was an indication of what was soon to come. Aart Vuyk had continued crossing the named Vuykiana Hybrids with many hybrids that had a greater amount of evergreen foliage. He was particularly interested in hybrids that had 'Macrantha' as one parent. From one cross he got a batch of seedlings that had exceptionally shiny foliage, and after proving to be very hardy during several open winters, the best seedling from this group was selected for breeding. He selected what he felt was the best in hardiness, habit, beauty of foliage, and flower texture and shape. He crossed this plant with the cultivars of the "Orange Series" , which resulted in hundreds of seedlings lined out for trial. From these, only two were selected and introduced to the trade, 'Vuyk's Scarlet', and 'Vuyk's Rosyred'
Vuyk van Nes thought so highly of these azaleas that they secured United States Plant Patents for them. As soon as the patents expired, they were being propagated by the majority of azalea growers. Later in the decade, they introduced 'Florida', a hybrid of 'Vuyk's Scarlet'. This cultivar had similar flower color and form, but a mounded habit of growth. Therefore it was a better garden plant, and of course a much better commercial item. 'Florida' was heralded by nurserymen, particularly in Germany where red is an extremely popular flower color, as a better plant than Vuyk's Scarlet'. In 1953 'Little Ruby' was introduced, similar to 'Little Beauty', and 'Little Princess' in stature and flower. The basic difference between the three was their flower color. Only 'Little Beauty' became a successful commercial variety; the others waning in the popularity of 'Vuyk's Scarlet', 'Vuyk's Rosyred', and 'Florida'.
To a great number of azalea fanciers, the Vuykiana story stops here. Suddenly our attention was centered on azaleas bred on this side of the Atlantic, for the beautiful hybrids of Joseph Gable and Ben Morrison were available and European growers were looking to America for new varieties:
As the breeding continued, the 1960's saw the introduction of some very fine cultivars; the first fully double Vuykiana Hybrid was introduced, appropriately named 'Double Beauty'. 'Vuyk's Scarlet' played an important role in the breeding program, being one of the parents of 'Double Beauty'. 'Florida' was one of the parents of the beautiful 'Johanna' and also of 'Christina'. Incidentally, the male parent of 'Christina' was Louise Gable'. Other recent introductions are 'Lily Marleen', 'Arabesk', and 'Mahler'
The aforementioned varieties should be considered Vuyk cultivars of the Vuykiana Hybrids, as there is another small group known as Feldyk cultivars They are of similar parentage of the first introductions of Vuyk van Nes Nurseries and were bred and introduced by Felix and Dijkhuis Nursery, of Boskoop. They are considered Vuykiana Hybrids in THE INTERNATIONAL RHODODENDRON REGISTFR, and are named 'Aartje', 'Hanny', 'Jeanne', 'Margo', and 'Truus'. They are occasionally referred to as the "Sweet Pea Strain" of Vuykiana Hybrids. The Feldyk cultivars are tall growing plants, assuming the stature of Kaempferi Hybrids, and have large flowers of good substance.
Two recently introduced cultivars that can be considered as belonging to the Vuykiana Group are 'Janka'; and 'Tina'. These are not hybrids, but resulted from witches'-brooms found growing on the Vuyk cultivars, 'Johanna' and 'Christina'. Both are stable in their dwarfness, and the names chosen was an attempt to portray the diminutive form they have in relation to the mother plants. 'Janka' is very slow growing, about an inch per year, and is perhaps best suited for the alpine enthusiast. 'Tina' will grow two to three inches a year, and while suited for the rockery, can also be used with other dwarf plants in the garden.
Listed in HILLIERS' MANUAL OF TREES AND SHRUBS in the section entitled Evergreen Hybrid Azaleas is 'Blue Danube'. It is described as bluish-violet; a most striking and distinctive colour, and is listed as a Vuykiana Hybrid. It has appeared in several American catalogs, usually described as bright purple, which it really is. It is a very good garden plant but certainly not approaching the shade of blue that one is apt to think of when hearing the term "Blue Danube". Usually the blue of the Danube is a state of mind. It may be true blue in the Black Forest and Bavaria, but as scenic as it is after entering Austria it may only be blue if one sits in the dress circle and looks down on the aqua marine gowns of the Vienna State Opera Ballet Corps, as they dance to the strains of "An der schonen Donau", known to many as simply "The Blue Danube Waltz".
Just how this azalea came to be considered a Vuykiana Hybrid is unknown. It has been grown in Duakoop by several nurseries for many years, and apparently originated in Belgium. The Boskoop nurseries catalog it as a Kurume Hybrid, and it is not considered a Vuykiana Hy brid in the additions to THE INTERNATIONAL RHODODENDRON REGISTER (R.H.S. RHODODENDRON AND CAMYLLIA YEAR BOOK 1969).
Many gardeners know the Vuykiana Group by only a few cultivars; perhaps 'Beethoven', 'Palestrina', or 'Vuyk's Scarlet'. They have been diminishing in attention in recent years, no doubt because of the great popularity of the Gable and Glenn Dale Hybrids, and all the recent introductions from many other American hybridizers. Nevertheless, in many situations the Vuykianas are very valuable garden subjects. They should be used in colder areas where many newer hybrids may have border-line hardiness, and certainly some of the newer cultivars deserve more exposure in our gardens. To be sure they have been referred to as those"non-descript rosy pinks" by some; "large growing Dutch varieties" by others; end some gardeners find the stronger colors as being too overpowering. However, from this hardy group, one can choose strong or soft color tones; large, moderate, or compact growth habits; large flowers, small flowers' single, hose-in-hose, or double flowers. To state it simply, some are old, and some are new; one is double, but none is blue.
Descriptive Data of The Vuykiana Hybrids
In the following descriptions, RHS refers to the Royal Horticultural Society Colour Chart, and HCC refers to the Horticultural Colour Chart of the British Colour Council. Year of introduction and parentage where known is stated in parenthesis. The cultivar names are those that were accepted for registration by the R.H.S.. After the author's comments are the synonyms that are used by nurseries in various countries.
Vuyk Cultivars - Vuyk van Nes Nurseries
ARABESE: compact, mounded habit; heavy, coarse foliage;
flowers single, 2 1/2; - 3", occasionally semi-double; deep red,
BEETHOVEN (1925; 'Haxwell' x 'J.C. van Tol') large growing, somewhat upright habit; flowers single, 2 1/2"; deep lilac, HCC 31/1 with darker blotch and wavy margins A striking plant when mature; because of wavy margins and blotch will give different appearance as sunlight is reflected; outstanding under high shade but sometimes difficult to combine with reds and strong pinks.
CHOPIN (1950; 'Schubert' X Vuyk seedling) : upright growing; flowers single, 2 1/2", bright rose pink, HCC 24/1 with wavy margins. Color plates in Dutch nursery catalogs consistently show this cultivar with semi-double flowers, how ever, it is never listed as being semi-double. (MRS. VUYK VAN NES).
CHRISTINA (1966; 'Florida' X 'Louise Gable'): mounded growth; flowers hose-in-hose and irregularly semi-double, 2"; bright deep rose pink, RHS 52A.
DOUBLE BEAUTY (1965; Vuyk seedling 37 X 'Vuyk's Scarlet') : large, mounded growth habit; flowers double 2 1/2 - 3"; pink, PBS 55B with slight blotch of deeper pink, RHS 53D. A large, fast grower, this can soon become a loose, sprawling plant. Needs attention when young, but pruning and pinching are well worth the effort.
GERALDINE VUYK (1925; Kaempferi Hybrid 'J.C. van Tol') : mounded habit; flowers single, 2"; deep pink, HCC 24/2.
FLORIDA (1958; Vuyk seedling X 'Vuyk's Scarlet') : compact, upright habit; heavy, dense foliage; flowers semi-double and irregularly double and single, 2 1/2", bright red, HCC 821/3. An exceptional plant flower-wise, and also for habit end foliage.
HELENA VUYK (1925; 'Maxwell'; X 'J.C. van Tol') : large, spreading habit; flowers single, 2 1/2"; deep rose pink RHS 58B with darker blotch, RHS 57A. (P.W. HARDIJZER).
JOHANNA (1966; 'Florida' X Vuyk seedling):spreading habit, compact; flowers single, 2"; bright red, HCC 721/1. This is truly an azalea for all seasons. The flower color is far superior to most of the red azaleas currently available, and the foliage is very deep green and glossy, and has a bronze tint during summer. In autumn, the foliage turns deep maroon, holding the gloss, and re mains so during the winter. Combined with the compact habit it is truly one of the outstanding Vuyk van Nes introductions.
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH (1925; 'Maxwell' X 'J.C. van Tol'): compact, upright habit; flowers single, 2 1/2", bright purple, HCC 30/1
JOHANN STRAUSS (1925; Kaempferi Hybrid X 'J.C. van Tol') : mounded habit; flowers single, 2 1/2'; bright pink, HCC 25/2 with deeper blotch.
JOSEPH HAYDN (1925; A. mucronatum X 'J. C. van Tol'): habit typical of A. mucronatum; flowers single, 2 1/2 - 3'; lavender, RHS 770 with distinct purple blotch, RHS 58A. This cultivar should be in every collection where space will allow for it.
KONINGIN WILHELMINA (1941): spreading habit; flowers single, 2 1/2", dark red, RHS 45B with darker blotch, RHS 46A. Sunscalds very easily; requires shade for good garden effect.
LILY MARLEEN (1965; 'Little Ruby' x 'Dr. Wary'): compact, spreading habit; flowers hose-in-hose, 1 1/2", slightly ruffled margins; bright pink, HCC 25. (MARLENE VUYK).
LITTLE BEAUTY (1950; 'Amoenum' X 'Favorite') : compact; flowers hose-in-hose, 1 1/2": bright rose pink, HCC 24/1.
LITTLE PRINCESS (1950; 'Amoenum' X 'Favorite') : compact; flowers hose-in-hose, 1 1/2"; red, HCC 024.
LITTLE RUBY (1953; 'Amoenum' x 'Favorite') ; compact; flowers hose-in-hose, 1 1/2": scarlet red.
MAHLER (1965; Vuyk seedling 37 x 'Vuyk's Rosyred'): upright habit when young, later assuming a mounded habit; somewhat compact; flowers single, 2 1/2"; purple, HCC 32/1 with slightly darker shading. While the flower color is similar to that of 'Beethoven', lacking the heavy blotch and without the wavy margins, this gives a more subdued color for use in the landscape.
MOZART (1925; Kaempferi Hybrid X 'J.C. van Tol'): spreading habit; flowers single 2 1/2"; violet red, HCC 627/2.
PALESTRINA (1925; Kaempferi Hybrid X 'J.C. van Tol'): upright, compact growth;
growing broader with age; flowers single, 2.25 white with chartreuse blotch. Certainly one of the better whites available, this one replaced A. mucronatum in popularity when it became readily available. It was hailed by nurserymen and gardeners in colder regions as the finest white azalea, however, recently it has been overlooked in favor of Gable's 'Rose Greeley' and the Mucronatum Hybrid 'Delaware Valley White'. (WILHELMINA VUYK).
PRINS BERNHARD (1945) : low growing; flowers single, 2"; orange-red, RHS 42B, shaded darker, RHS 42A.
PRINSES IRENE (1941): compact; flowers single; deep salmon-orange.
PRINSES JULIANA (1941): low growing; flowers single; pale salmon orange.
PURPLE TRIUMPH (1951; 'Beethoven' X Vuyk seedling): upright, compact habit; flowers single, 2 1/2"; bright purple, HCC 730/1.
SCHUBERT (1925; Kaempferi Hybrid K 'J.C. van Tol'): upright, compact habit, growing broader with age; flowers single, 2"; clear pink, HCC 625/2
SIBELIUS (1925; 'Maxwell' X 'J.C. van Tol'): mounded habit; flowers single, 2"; orange-red, HCC 018/1 with very slight blotch. This is a brilliant specimen in light shade; as with 'Beethoven', the sunlight creates additional color tones at various times of the day, ranging from almost true orange to pale red. As described in THE INTERNATIONAL RHODODENDRON REGISTER, the blotch is called chocolate-purple; however, plants received from Vuyk van Nes and several other Boskoop nurseries show only a light specking of pale brown. Mature plants at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia which were planted out in the 1940's also lack the blotch of chocolate-purple, so this description remains a mystery to me.
VUYK'S ROSYRED (1954): spreading, compact habit; flowers single with occasional branches with semi-double flowers 2 1/2 - 3"; bright rose pink, HCC 024/1 with slightly darker throat. The description from Vuyk van Nes is hard to beat: "smooth, classic petals, a lush and mellow Dutch rose color; a rare harmony of form and color."
VUYK'S SCARLET (1954): spreading, compact habit; flowers single, 2 1/2 - 3", vivid scarlet, HCC 722 with ruffled margins. A plant not only beautiful in flower, but also in foliage; large, glossy bright green leaves that turn dark red in autumn. Flowers of this color usually sunscald easily, but this plant has good flower substance and resists fading.
Feldyk Cultivars: Felix and Dijkhuis Nursery
AARTJE: upright growth; flowers single, 2 3/4"; carmine rose, RHS 54B, slightly darker blotch.
NANNY: upright growth; flowers single, 2 1/2"; orange-red.
JEANNE: mounded compact habit; flowers single, 2 1/4"; violet purple. Sturdy flower texture affords blooming over a very long period.
MARGO: mounded habit; flowers single; carmine rose.
TRUUS: mounded habit; flowers single; white.
Witches'-broom Cultivars - Holly Heath Nursery
JANKA (1977; branch sport of 'Johanna'): growth of 1 - 1 1/2" per year; foliage very small, leaves from 1/2 to 3/4" long and 1/4" wide; deep green in summer, turning bright red in autumn; flowers single, very small, 1/2 - 3/4"; bright red, HCC 721/1.
TINA (1977; branch sport of 'Christina'): compact mounded habit, growth a-bout 2 to 3" per year; leaves 3/4" long and 3/8" wide; flowers single, irregularly hose-in-hose, 3/4", bright deep rose pink RHS 52A.
Editor's note: Matt Nosal, a second generation nurseryman, is the proprietor of the Holly Heath Nursery, highly specialized for Holly, Rhododendron end Azalea. Its catalogue lists no less than 400 varieties of Azalea. Amassed from original sources and personal experience, this information is of authentic value.
The Evergreen Azalea Its Role In The Landscape
BY T. RICHARD LEONARD, RAYNHAM, MASS.
In our preoccupation with acquiring, growing and hybridizing rhododendrons for their spectacular truss size and color or for their glossy or indumented foliage, we sometimes for get or neglect their less majestic cousins, the evergreen azaleas. This is rather unfortunate since they can occupy an important place in the home landscape and much more work needs to be done to develop new hybrids which will adapt to our rigorous climate.
Although evergreen in name, these azaleas do lose a portion of their foliage each fall---some types such as the kaempferi lose all but a wee tuft at the tip of each shoot. However, before dropping there is considerable fall color to enjoy-either yellow or orange.
Unlike most of the large-leaf rhododendrons, the evergreen azaleas hardly ever outgrow their location. By nature they require very little pruning except to head-in an occasional exuberant sprout. Exceptions to the rule are some R. kaempferi clones which tend to stretch upward as young plants and need pruning back to encourage more dense growth.
Naturally compact and densely twiggy, the rather angular branching structure lends itself to the art of dwarfing by pruning or bonsai. The same effect can be accomplished outside in the garden, if so desired, by careful thinning to reveal the interesting arrangement of branches, a result especially pleasing where the plant can be silhouetted against a bare wall or snuggled against a boulder or a small pool. Almost as beautiful as an azalea in full bloom is the picture created in winter by puffs of snow held in the clutch of these fingerlike branches.
Many people prefer a dense, compact type of plant. Since the evergreen azalea does not resent heavy pruning (the Japanese shear them severely to achieve their desired effect), it nay be pruned right after blooming there by permitting time for development of flower buds for the next season.
Because of their moderate size, masses of color, fine textured foliage evergreen azaleas are well adapted to foundation plantings, accent plantings in small intimate gardens, mass plantings or in transition plantings between lawns and taller groups of shrubs or trees. When used in the foundation planting it is better, I believe, to include other evergreens, both broad leaf and needle type, thus providing contrast of foliage texture as well as color (many azaleas turn deep red or bronze during the winter months) . For many years I was "turned off" on evergreen azaleas following a college trip to Long Island to observe their parkway system. There, row on row, street on street, mile on mile of pink or yellow brick houses were ablaze with red ('Hinodegirl') and magenta (amoena) azaleas punctuated all too frequently with flashes of flame orange. I am sure that's where I started losing my hair; I know my teeth still curl at the recollection of that spectacle. Fortunately, there are many more varieties and colors available to us today ranging from clear bright reds and oranges through pink shades, rose, coral, soft orange and white. However because certain of the stronger reds and oranges do not blend happily with other colors, it is well to select plants when in bloom.
Many need some protection against our winters winds and cold unless a deep snow cover is assured in your locale. Azaleas ask little when it comes to soil--doing well in the sandy loam of Cape Cod as well as in good garden loam--provided that it be slightly acid and that it not be allowed to dry out. Heavy clay soils should be made more friable by the introduction of sand and/ or humus. Adding peat moss or other organic matter and mixing well at planting time, as well as adding small quantities of organic mulch from time to time is very beneficial. A light feeding of fertilizer (formulated for ericaceous plants) on the surface around each plant will greatly aid the plant's general health and well being.
Like all growing things, azaleas are subject to attacks by insects and disease. Generally speaking, if the plants are healthy and happy in their location, the attacks are of minor importance. However, A. ledifolia album, is almost certain to be infested with White Fly. Often clouds of them will fly out from the plant if disturbed. DiSysten applied as granules to the surrounding soil gives good systemic control. Other insect pests occasionally of bother are the Azalea Stem Borer and the Azalea Leaf-Miner. Malathion will help control the Leaf-Miner if sprayed on the foliage in early and mid-season, as will the before mentioned DiSysten. The Stem Borers are best treated by removal of infested stems. Cut back to below any signs of tunneling and burn or otherwise destroy the prunings.
Some fungus diseases may present a problem from time to time--more so in hot humid weather or extremely wet periods. Bud and Twig Blight, Pinxter Gall and Flower Spot (see Rosebay, Fall, 1977 issue) can be best controlled by removal of the infected parts. Leaf Spot can be controlled by Ferbam or Benlate, powdery Mildew by Benlate.
While we cannot at this time duplicate the spectacular azalea gardens of the south, we can create areas of real beauty on our own "plantations". Perhaps you have a large boulder or rock outcropping. Group some low spready types beside or below it, perhaps some taller growing kaempferi behind. If you are fortunate enough to own a stream, natural or man made pool, place groups of azaleas where they will reflect in the water or use them to face taller rhododendrons, other shrubs or small trees in the background. Those of you who have high-branched trees can drift masses of small flowers masses of azaleas among the trunks. Kaempferi azaleas will bloom in moderate shade. The Kurume types require more light so should be planted nearer the purple, low growing sunny margins. Generally speaking the softer colors wear better in the landscape--especially in large groupings. The more spectacular reds, etc. may be used as accents or where only a few plants can be grown.
VARIETIES WORTHY OF TRIAL IN EASTERN AND SOUTHEASTERN MASSACHUSETTSWhite or Ivory
Azalea Species Native To North America
ED BROWN, LAKEVILLE, MASS.
These plants are deciduous, and all but one, native to Eastern North America. As a landscape plant, they tend to break up the heaviness of broad leaf evergreens. The hardiness of some are questionable, but well worth trying in a sheltered location. The hybridizing of these plants offers many new possibilities. I would like to see some test gardens set up to display and test the hardiness of these native plants. The following is a list of those native azaleas with a brief description.
NAME/NUMBER of FLOWERS/COLOR
R. canadense 3-6 flrs. Rose-purple, rarely white
R. canescens 6-15 flrs. Pink tonearly white, with pink tube
R. nudiflorum 6-12 flrs. Light pink, whitish pink tube, rarely white
R. vaseyi 5-8 flrs. Light rose
R. oblongifolium 7-12 flrs. White orange-red dots, white
R. occidentale 6-12 flrs. White, pink with yellow blotch
R. alabamense 6-10 flrs. White
R. arborescens 3-6 flrs. White or pinkish
R. atlanticum 4-10 flrs. White flushed pink or purple outside
R. serrulatum 6-10 flrs. White
R. austrinum 9-15 flrs. Yellow,orange purplish tubes
R. speciosum 6-15 flrs. Scarlet,bright red with lge. orange blotch
R. calendulaceum 5-7 flrs. Yellow, orange, scarlet, salmon pink orange blotch
R. viscosum 4-9 flrs. White, suffused with pink, rarely deep pink
R. prunifolium 4-5 flrs. Crimson
R. roseum 5-9 flrs. Bright pink, rarely whitish
Plants For Members A Preliminary Report
Massachusetts Chapter Plants for Members Committee
THE ROOTED CUTTING PROGRAM
by Dorothy G. Swift, Saunderstown, R.I.
It began in summer 1976 when 3 people had individual ideas which fitted together to start a project bigger than any of us had imagined individually. I myself had decided that there were a lot of interesting rhododendrons not available commercially, that it might make best use of scarce cutting material to organize a chapter project to ask people outside our chapter for cuttings and to share somehow the process of rooting them and the resulting plants. Jon Shaw, new chapter president, had been thinking that our chapter had grown and established itself well in 6 years (150 members). It was a suitable time to think of more projects to serve and educate our members. Andy Paton owns a home greenhouse and had developed a strong interest in rhododendrons and in plant propagation which he planned to expand by clearing out other plants from the greenhouse and equipping the benches solely for propagating rhododendrons and azaleas.
During our June 1976 visit to Polly Hill's Barnard's Inn Farm on Martha's vineyard; Mrs. Hill, was very generous to members with cuttings of the North Tisbury hybrid azaleas she has grown from seed, selected for desired qualities and named. I couldn't resist bringing up my idea to Jon, so that we could enable the rest of the members to grow Mrs. Hill's new plants. Andy had just suggested to Jon, that he could root more cuttings, so Jon immediately appointed me chairman of a committee and Andy and J started talking and writing to each other to organize the project. I started seeking other sources of cuttings.
Mrs. Hill was most willing to furnish another batch of cuttings, which she mailed (parcel post special handling) in September. She and we were eager for more people in the Mass.-Conn.-R.I. region to try her azalea hybrids and species selections. They are just becoming available at some nurseries. We know they will be popular in the N.Y. to Virginia coastal regions, but the New England mainland near Martha's Vineyard has a more severe climate. The only way to have a good trial of the North Tisbury azaleas is to make them available in significant quantity at low coat, and this is what we have started to do. These are lovely low-growing evergreen azaleas, and many of them bloom very late. For Example, in late June, we saw Mrs. Hill's pink nakaharai x satsuki azalea Chinyeyi crosses, 'Michael Hill' and 'Pink Pancake' in bloom, and several satsuki-type azaleas, among which 'Yuka' is already a favorite with those who have seen it (all white flowers with an occasional pink touch).
I had met Dr. Frederick Serbin of Bloomfield, Conn., at the 1976 A.R.S. National Convention. He had offered me cuttings of hardy forms of several species in which I had a special interest. Dr. Serbin has a fine rhododendron species collection grown from seeds, cuttings or plants which he has acquired from all over the world. And his tough climate of the Hartford, Conn., region is similar to that of many of our chapter members north and west of Boston. We were amazed at the variety of plants in Dr. Serbin's collection, including a spectacular group of R. yakusimanum grown from seed he had collected and which showed variations in leaf shape and plant habit.
Dick Murcott, a member of the national A.R.S. board, and a hybridizer active in the New York Chapter, was co-chairman of the 1975 Eastern Hybridizers Symposium which I attended. At the 1975 N.Y. Botanic Garden Scottish-American Rhododendron Day, he spoke on "Rhododendrons for Tomorrow." He spoke of many worthwhile species and hybrids unavailable commercially--plants such as R. makinoi, R. metternichii, R. yakusimanum, which would sell themselves immediately if available in blooming size, but which have to be searched out with difficulty for a tiny plant to grow on. When I learned Dick was going to speak at our November 1976 meeting, I wrote to ask if he would be willing to bring cuttings for our project. He contributed a number of plants not common here, such as many Hardgrove hybrids, some Dexter hybrids, and some Murcott hybrids.
Rudy Berg, an associate member of our chapter and former president of the Connecticut Chapter, has a large collection of rhododendrons beautifully displayed in a terraced garden with many Ilex. He particularly enjoys collecting species and prefers hybrids which are compact in habit. He has a mild climate and has grown and compared many H-3 yellows, which do well there. He has acquired a number of plants from Greer, Garden Valley, and the Species Foundation. Andy and I visited Rudy to get advice on rooting cuttings, and we left with a large supply of cuttings to root, both rhododendrons and hollies.
I had been impressed by Dr. Franklin West's descriptions of Dr. John Wister's hybridizing through articles in the A.R.S. Quarterly Bulletin and his talk at the Eastern Hybridizers Symposium about Wister's work to achieve late blooming hybrids (work which Dr. West wishes to continue). At the Valley Forge A.R.S. National Convention, the late blooming hybrids were not in flower, but we viewed some 'Scintillation'
X haematodes hybrids and some blotched flower pink hybrids among the work of Wister at Tyler Arboretum and at the Wister's own garden. I felt sure there was a demand for late-blooming hybrids in New England, because so much of the use of rhododendrons is still with large, late-blooming R. maximum. In my area a-round Kingston, R.I., late plants would fit in perfectly. In addition, our interest in Dexter hybrids should be carried on to try growing some of the hybrids resulting from crosses using Dexter plants. As a Swarthmore College graduate, I couldn't resist trying to work for wider distribution of fine plants developed by Swarthmore's distinguished horticulturist. The college's 1977 calendar for alumni honored Dr. Wister with a description of his career on the cover and a small photograph of a plant each month. But I wish we could have told them to use a Wister hybrid instead of 'Cynthia' when they used a rhododendron illustration I have to confess when I was at Swarthmore, I was aware of rhododendrons and azaleas only as bright patches of pink and salmon in the woods in May and was much more impressed by the thousands of daffodils.
We had been privileged to have Capt. Richard Steele from Nova Scotia as the speaker at one of our chapter meetings in the fall of 1974. He told about some of the work in Canada to select hardy forms of species by growing many seedlings and to create hardier plants by crossing some of the very hardy ones with tender ones, work that he was involved in and also Dr. D.L. Craig at Agriculture Canada Research Station. They had 3 test areas for rhododendrons: Boulderwood (outside Halifax and more mild because of coastal influence) Bridgewater, and Kentville. The latter 2 inland sites have much below zero weather and provide a very severe test. A third Canadian rhododendron enthusiast is Walter Ostrom, who lives at Indian Harbor right on the coast a little south of Halifax; his land is exposed to wind and sun and is very rocky, but Walter is growing many rhododendrons outside and also azaleas, camellias, and malesian rhododendrons inside his cool studio which has wood heat. When Andy and Dororthy Paton visited Nova Scotia, they returned with many cuttings of the hardy plants selected by our Canadian friends and even some of their hybrids.
Various chapter members have generously shared cuttings of plants which they have acquired, such plants as certain Hardgrove and Dexter hybrids which are available commercially only at a few small nurseries, including such plants as 'Mary Belle', which is currently sold out at almost all nursery sources. .Several of us have various treasured plants, such as ones we have imported or purchased from nurseries which no longer exist or received from other collectors, and are sharing these. For example, in 1976-77, we had cuttings from Hay Reid's hybrids. Mr. Reid had a nursery on Cape Cod for many years and hybridized a group of plants not distributed elsewhere. This year, 1977-78, Austin Eldridge, who now owns the Reid Nursery, offered us cuttings of a number of old plants on the property which bear Dexter numbers. These were gifts to Mr. Reid's father from Charles Dexter. We have also propagated a number of varieties which are available by mail order from the West Coast. However because of the cost, members would not ordinarily try many of these.
In the second year of our program, we have added several new sources of cuttings. Most people, of whom we made a request, have been quite willing to furnish some cuttings. It usually doesn't conflict with their own propagating, because we want to try varieties which have already been propagated in their home region. For example, Col. and Jane Goodrich and George Ring of the Potomac Valley Chapter have sent us some Gable hybrids. This group has been under study in their chapter and several people are using them for further hybridizing. The Gable plants have hardiness and beauty to offer for the tough climate of some of our members as well as being suitable for further hybridizing as there are a number of interspecific crosses of rare species.
Some of us have visited Lincoln Foster's spectacular garden in Falls Village, Conn., or heard him speak about the rhododendrons he's grown from seed and used for further hybridizing. This year, we were able to include some of his plants in our program.
Our general goal has been to make available, at low cost, rhododendrons which are not readily available commercially to us here in New England. We want our members to experience the extraordinary diversity available in rhododendrons, to realize they can't collect all the rhododendrons that exist, but that each person can grow some interesting and unusual plants. We do not wish to compete with local nurseries and therefore do not stress propagation of those varieties introduced and available in our area unless encouraged to do so, such as varieties not particularly important commercially because they root slowly so that everyone is eager to see increase of stock when we are successful Our approach is quite different from t that of a nursery, of course, because we handle only a small number of cuttings of each variety (this year 3000 cuttings 350 varieties). We have had fine cooperation from our nursery friends such as large Weston Nurseries and Rudy Berg's small Tormberg Gardens. We all believe no one can have too many rhododendrons! I believe our members continue to order rhododendrons from the west coast but are able to use their budget for fewer plants of larger size. This is good for establishing a plant of borderline hardiness plus it gives a more immediate satisfaction of the flowers and landscape effect. We can respond to demand for new plants in a way that nurseries, which serve the general public and not solely rhododendron enthusiasts, are unable to do. For example, we will try to root a number of 'Golden Star' (Hardgrove hybrid) each year while there is demand. The same is true of some 'Dexter's Appleblossom' for which we have several sources of cuttings. None of these plants are available commercially here. 'Golden Star' is insufficiently hardy to sell to the general public in New England, and other Dexter hybrids such as 'Wissahickon' or 'Westbury' are currently available at nurseries in the general color range of the ones cited above. We can serve the special interests of our members, and we expect our goal of introducing such plants as Consolini, Dexter, Foster, Gable, Will, Kentville, and Wister hybrids, plus hardy species selections, will lead eventually to a few varieties being chosen for commercial propagation.
The project began with the strong support of our chapter president and several of the board members. Others on the board were indifferent, pointing out the risks and problems likely in such a project. I think we can conclude everyone was right--it is a valuable service to our members and there are problems which come up. We did not ask the chapter for financial support, deciding that the price of rooted plants would be set according to expenses, and the project would be paid for by those who received the benefit. (Fortunately, our Chapter Propagator was willing to pay the bills, before the money came in) Our price per plant was set too low before we realized the severity of the winter, and the cost for our second season will probably he about $1.25. (A major expense is greenhouse heating) The cost reflects propagation. Expenses plus the expenses of postage, Xerox, phone calls etc. directly involved in acquiring cuttings and maintaining the project. Most of our members are located 1-2 hours drive from the greenhouse, which leads to difficulty in getting enough people out to work on the project. The location of the project on Cape Cod is an advantage in terms of a more mild climate to operate a greenhouse. When plants are rooted and potted up, we can set them outside early in the spring without worry of frost. We have added a number of enthusiastic members who have joined the team, but it is difficult to get enough helpers at regular intervals, particularly during the November to March season. Although it seems as though there is nothing to do once the cuttings are stuck, we have much to do Cuttings (mostly in small pots or flats must be regularly shifted in the green house to share best light. We have to remove all browned cuttings regularly and transfer this information to our records. As plants root and then begin growth, they have to be transplanted to larger pots. In 1977, we rooted about 900 cuttings. In 1978, we expect 2000 or more. (The green thumb belongs to Andy Paton).
Record keeping is important to us, as we want to keep information on rooting and on sources and distribution of cuttings. We have a file with a card for each variety each year. We assemble a list of plants expected to be rooted and then must assign these according to members requests, in advance of the distribution. It would be nice to have a computer do all of this for us, but we fear that labor and expense to write a program just for matching requests with available cuttings would be too much unless something like this already exists for some other purpose.
We anticipate heightened interest from our members when the book on the work of eastern hybridizers is released, for we have been trying to make available plants developed by many of the people described in it. In fact one difficulty has been a lack of ready information concerning the plants on our list as few of them are in nursery catalogs or reference books The variety of species available has created more interest in species, tee, and people are willing to try plants they do not know much a-bout. However we wish to avoid selection on the basis of name only, and want recipients to have some idea of why they wish to try a particular plant and how they should handle very young plants. One enthusiastic member, told us that he didn't receive a single one of his first five choices, yet he was tremendously pleased by the plants he did get, which presented a variety he would never be able to acquire otherwise. We had about 40 participants the first year who purchased 5 to 40 plants each. And more plants and people were involved when we had open sales of some varieties at chapter meetings. We can hardly wait to see some of the results appear in our truss show in about 5 years.
MASS. CHAPTER HOSTS National Convention In 1980