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The National Arboretum Is 16-Time Gold Medal Winner

By Don Comis
October 18, 2001

A flowering crabapple called Adirondack, introduced by the U.S. National Arboretum, has won a top award from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Adirondack was awarded the society’s 2002 Gold Medal Plant Award. It’s the latest of 16 Gold Medal winners introduced by the 446-acre arboretum over the years.

Pennsylvania nurseryman J. Franklin Styer began the award program in that state in 1978 to alert homeowners to superior new woody plants that they might otherwise overlook. Since then, similar programs have spread to many states, with Georgia being one of the first.

Adirondack is a near-perfect crabapple. It’s a narrow, upright tree that eventually reaches 18 to 20 feet, with excellent disease resistance and abundant white flowers in spring. The fruits are small, orange-red and persist into late autumn.

The late arboretum scientist Don Egolf developed most of the 16 winners, including Adirondack, five viburnum varieties, and six crape myrtles. Egolf began the arboretum’s crape myrtle program in 1959. He also developed Chickasaw and Pocomoke, two recent introductions and the first and second, respectively, in a new series of miniature hybrid crape myrtles. Other recent arboretum introductions include two disease-tolerant American elm trees, Valley Forge and New Harmony; the Betsy Ross lilac; and two new red maples, New World and Red Rocket.

Arboretum researchers are also developing new hemlock, alder and hackberry varieties.

In honor of Egolf’s work, the arboretum’s Margaret R. Pooler has named her newest release, a Chinese redbud, after him. The Don Egolf redbud will be available in garden centers by 2003. Adirondack is already in commercial nurseries.

And consumers can look for Star of Bethlehem varieties with new colors and growth habits, thanks to arboretum researcher Robert J. Griesbach, who has patent applications filed for the new varieties he is developing. Three Star of Bethlehem varieties developed at the arboretum went on sale this past spring: Chesapeake Blaze, Chesapeake Sunburst and Chesapeake Sunset.

The arboretum, based in Washington, D.C., is operated by the Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.