Rhododendrons can be propagated in several ways. Growing plants from seeds is the typical method of nature, and is often useful for species or for creating new hybrids. Other types of cuttings produce clones genetically identical to the original plant, so are best for replicating hybrids or selected forms of species.
Rooting stem cuttings is one of the most effective ways for the amateur or smaller-scale professional. Other methods of of vegetative reproduction include layering, air layering, and tissue culture. Layering is easy and requires no special facilities, but results in a very limited number of plants. Tissue culture is appropriate for production on a massive scale, but the technology and facilities necessary are beyond the amateur.
Nearly all of the 3000 rhododendrons in the Anderson Garden were made from cuttings in Nearing Frames. For an explanation of how to make and use a Nearing Frame, go to the next page.
||These three Nearing Frames produced about 25,000 rhododendrons from cuttings between 1961 and 1985. They are inexpensive to build and operate, and the cuttings require very little care.|
While my father operated the first Anderson Garden in New Jersey during the 1940s and 50s, he became friends with Pennsylvania nurseryman Guy Nearing. Nearing developed a way to root rhododendron cuttings without the expense of a greenhouse. The three- by twelve-foot shaded box could produce about 500 rooted cuttings per year, with a 75% to 95% success rate.
During the cold eastern winters, the cuttings would freeze solid, and then root in the spring and summer, when ground temperatures warmedup. In the Pacific Northwest, with milder winters and cooler summers, it was necessary to add heating cables to keep the cuttings from rotting.
My father rooted cuttings in six Nearing frames in the New Jersey rhododendron garden, and three here in Enumclaw. I built four in our Orting garden and one here. Without the Nearing Frames, the Anderson Gardens would have been impossible.