Joe Gable's Rhododendrons - A Legacy
by Donald W. Hyatt

Joe Gable: A Brief Intoduction

'Caroline' in the Author's Back Yard Joseph B. Gable was born in 1886 and grew up on the family apple orchard and far m near Stewartstown, Pennsylvania. By 1926, Joe Gable had started a small nurser y business and published his first listing of ornamental plants for sale. Origi nally offering a variety of young evergreens, trees and shrubs including some na tive azaleas and rhododendrons, Gable's primary interest eventually shifted to d eveloping rhododendrons and azaleas that could survive the rigorous climate in c entral Pennsylvania.

'Garden Room' in the Author's Back Yard For over 40 years, Gable experimented with rhododendrons and azaleas, trying to raise rare species and create new hybrids. He frequently corresponded with cont emporaries such as Guy Nearing and other experts from around the world as he exp anded his interest in rhododendrons. He obtained seed and pollen from many sour ces that he used when hybridizing rhododendrons on his farm in rural Pennsylvani a. Gable did not pamper his rhododendrons, but planted thousands of seedlings i n the woods and let the plants fend for themselves until he was ready to evaluat e them, many years later. Although the Gable Study Group identified approximate ly 100 named rhododendron hybrids, another 100 rhododendron species Gable tried, and at least 90 different group crosses, Joe Gable's rhododendrons are still re latively scarce in the trade. The Gable rhododendrons are real survivors though , and many have proven to be among the most reliable rhododendron hybrids for ou r region.

The Gable Rhododendron Hybrids

'Garden Room' in the Author's Back Yard

Some of Joe Gable's rhododendrons were named for family members, such the pale l avender pink "Caroline" for his daughter, Caroline Gable, who passed away not lo ng ago. He named an evergreen azalea "Caroline Gable", too. Among his hybridiz ing triumphs is the ruffled, peachy pink and yellow rhododendron "Mary Belle", t he plant he named for his wife, the former Mary Belle Dalton whom he married in 1919. Some Gable rhododendrons have rather unusual names since Gable often name d his hybrids by combining the first few letters of each parent. There is the p ale pink show stopper "Cadis", a hybrid of Caroline and the species, R. discolor , or the white "Disca" that was reported to be the reverse cross. "Maxhaem Salm on" is a salmon selection from a cross of hardy R. maximum and the tender R. hae matodes. There is also a "grex" or hybrid group he referred to as "Catfortcampy ", a number of beautiful apricot pink hybrids from a cross of R. catawbiense, R. fortunei, and R. campylocarpum.

No matter what they are called, the Gable rhododendrons are fantastic garden pla nts that are not only beautiful, but are as rugged as most landscape materials i n the woodland garden. Every year, I watch my Gable rhododendrons become more m ajestic with each season. If developers do not turn my garden into townhouses a fter I am gone, have little doubt that centuries from now "Caroline", "Cadis", a nd "Disca" will have grown together forming a fragrant rhododendron canopy that will rival the oaks that shade my garden now.

Some of the Better Known Gable Rhododendrons

  • Atroflo
    - Rose Red

  • Cadis
    - Pale Pink

  • Caroline
    - Lavender Pink

  • County of York
    - White

  • David Gable
    - Rose Pink

  • B>Disca
    - Blush White

  • Mary Belle
    - Salmon Pink fading to Buff Yellow

  • Maxhaem Salmon
    - Salmon

  • Robert Allison
    - Pale Pink

Copyright © 2001 Donald W. Hyatt
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