Research Question

luvmyducks(z5 ME)July 12, 2004

I am trying to research the origin of Clethra 'Anne Bidwell', someteimes spelled 'Ann Bidwell.'

Very little on the internet via Google, but one grower said it was selected by Anne Bidwell and commercialized by the Arnold Arboretum. E-mails to the Arboretum have gone unanswered.

Any suggestions on divining the origin of named varieties like this?

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A book about this topic came out a few years ago but I cannot remember the exact name. It got a fair number of reviews and sold pretty well. Why don't you email Maureen Horn, the librarian at Mass Hort at their new location in Wellesley/Dover? Describe what you described for us. As I recall, the title was something like, "Who was [name]?" But I wouldn't go to the bank on that.

You could also email Sheila Connor, the librarian at the Arnold Arboretum, and ask her directly. You could ask her if there are any Bidwells who were benefactors or horticultural friends of the Arboretum.

Lastly, how about checking under "clethra" in Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants? Sometimes he gives such odd tidbits of info.

Let us know if you find out--am curious myself now.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2004 at 4:03PM
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Try "Who In The World Is Nellie R Stevens?" by Linda Copeland and Allan Armitage, Timber Press.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2004 at 4:51PM
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Eddie, big thanks and big credit!

    Bookmark   July 12, 2004 at 5:24PM
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luvmyducks(z5 ME)

Thanks for the recommendations! I requested Armitage's book from my library - sounds like something I'd like to own.
I will definitely send Sheila Connor an e-mail. Librarians are usually quite helpful.
I did look in Dirr's Manual. No luck there.
I'll let you know what I find out. The question came up after I wrote an article about Clethra for the local newspaper. A woman contacted me wondering if Anne Bidwell were the same Anne Bidwell who was a local learning specialist and avid gardener. I promised to research it for her, but I never thought it would be this involved!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2004 at 11:35AM
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I sympathize. When I checked Google, it looks like the world is crawling with Anne Bidwells. Who knew?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2004 at 2:32PM
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Yayy!!! I just got my copy of "Green Scene", the magazine of the PA Hort Soc, and there is a wonderfully informative article about clethras. It includes the origins of 'Anne Bidwell'. Had never heard of this before and can't believe I remembered this post. Had to search all of GW to find it.

Anne Bidwell lives on Cape Cod. She brought cuttings of this clethra to a class at the Arnold Arboretum. The flowers look more like white lilacs (gotta have it) than clethra. The AA thought it might be a different species but tests showed it was the usual Clethra alnifolia (in bloom--and heavenly fragrance--right now in New England).

It is shorter than usual--4'-6'--and blooms a week later.

Mystery solved. At last I can sleep. And you too I hope, LuvMyDuks.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2004 at 7:19PM
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PS--As this forum is a little slow-moving, I hope you see this!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2004 at 7:22PM
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luvmyducks(z5 ME)

Hi Ginny,
Thanks so much! That's the most information anyone has come up with for me. Allan Armitage didn't know the origin (but he was very kind to reply to my e-mail). The Arnold Arboretum did send me some brief information - enough for me to figure out that the 2 Ann Bidwells were not the same.
The school involved with the learning specialist Ann Bidwell is going to plant a Clethra 'Anne Bidwell' in her honor. I think it's a very nice memorial.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2004 at 12:01PM
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So glad you saw the post. I forgot to add that Anne Bidwell (the person) grows clethra from seed and this was a selection she made of the seedlings she grew. At least, that is all according to the PA Hort Soc, but I am sure they are very reliable.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2004 at 4:21PM
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