The Student Newspaper of Lakeside School


The Student Newspaper of Lakeside School


The Student Newspaper of Lakeside School


The dawning of the Horizon Lakeside rhododendrons

Felicity W. ’26

When I was five or six, we moved to a new place. The yard had a row of short rhododendron bushes as tall as I was. As my parents were preoccupied with unpacking, I became engrossed in examining the blossom — sunburst gold petals unfurled like rays of light with deep green leaves providing a lush backdrop.

“What is that flower called, mom?” I inquired.

“Oh, they are rhododendrons,” mom explained. “Derived from Greek words ‘rhódon’ for rose and ‘déndron’ for tree, so rose tree. If we can be patient and care for them well, they can grow pretty tall, around 10-15 feet.”

I became fascinated as I learned more about the history of the rhododendron: according to Greek mythology, they were first created by the nymph Rhododendron as a gift to the gods. The pink rhododendron represents grace and gentleness, the red exudes passion and love, the white embodies purity and innocence, the purple is associated with romance and enchantment, and the yellow symbolizes remembrance and patience. Additionally, the state flower of Washington is the Coast Rhododendron, a rhododendron with showy pink and purple blooms.

When I first caught a glimpse of the Horizon Lakeside Rhododendron to the left of the Pigott Memorial Library, it captured my attention immediately. The flower had such a distinctive look — glorious yellow petals, a maroon-red center, and dark green star-shaped foliage.


Felicity W.

Aside from its picturesque blooms, the Horizon Lakeside Rhododendron also has a distinguished history. The flower was bred by Ned Brockenbrough, whom “Tatler” had the opportunity to interview. Ned Brockenbrough, now in his 90s, has been breeding rhododendrons since 1964, when he crossed a previously made hybrid, which now sells in Washington Park under the name Ned’s Blue. Unimpressed with simply replicating an already existing cross, he turned to more demanding endeavors, working tirelessly to breed hardy blooms with vibrant and unusual color, splendid foliage, and vigorous growth. He was particularly interested in yellow rhododendrons, stating, “[yellow] is a hard color in rhododendrons, because there are not many viable yellow species.”

One such project was the Nancy Evans rhododendron. Nancy Evans was the wife of Daniel Evans, the 16th governor of Washington state, who served three consecutive terms from 1965 to 1977. After the last of his terms came to a close, he decided to celebrate by gifting his wife with a rhododendron hybrid, and the two got in touch through mutual friends.

Brockenbrough rose to the challenge, hybridizing a delicate bellshaped flower with a lovely golden hue and salmon-pink tips. Evans hosted a ceremony at his mansion, where they planted one of the cuttings in front of his house. Though Daniel and Nancy Evans eventually left the property, the hybrid lived on, becoming popular enough to win the Rhododendron of the Year award in 2016.

But Brockenbrough’s path to mastering the art of rhododendron hybridization was far from linear. In 1961, he was studying on the East Coast as a surgical resident at Murray College, Johns Hopkins University, and the National Institutes of Health, where he performed heart surgeries.

However, fate seemed determined to steer him onto a different path. After moving to the West Coast, a colleague from the hospital where he worked introduced him to a property on Hunts Point. That colleague also happened to be part of the American Rhododendron Society. It was at the Seattle chapter of the society, in one of the monthly meetings, when he met his soon-to-be wife, Jean.

Jean was a nurse, but her father was a member of the society, and, in a stroke of luck, brought her to a meeting attended by none other than Ned Brockenbrough. “I was a bachelor at the time and decided that, you know, I was going to find a wife somewhere around, and I did,” Brockenbrough recounts. “Within a year or so, I had a lovely wife, and together we raised five children and a lot of rhododendrons.”

Brockenbrough rose to the challenge, hybridizing a delicate bell-shaped flower with a lovely golden hue and salmon-pink tips.

All five of his kids ended up attending Lakeside and became deeply ingrained in the community. When he crossed the yellow Nancy Evans with pale-pink Lem’s Cameo and created a rhododendron with a “maroon-red center and goldish flair,” he knew he had to name it Horizon Lakeside after the iconic Lakeside colors.

Thus, the Horizon Lakeside Rhododendron was born. Brockenbrough and his wife, Jean, gifted the flower to Susan Ayrault, to commemorate her husband Dan Ayrault, who served as head of Lakeside for 21 years. Along with the rhododendron, a serene little garden was established in his memory, complete with a ring of rocks and flowering vegetation underfoot. You can find it tucked behind rhododendron hedges to the right of the library.

That’s one thing about hybridizing: you always have something to look forward to.

Aside from Horizon Lakeside, there are many other trees and flowers around campus planted in memory of cherished members of the Lakeside community. By the Pigott Family Arts Center, one can find a Lion’s Head Maple dedicated to Mark Sheppard, a drama teacher; in the bushes by Parsons Field is a Magnolia “Yellow Bird” planted in honor of the Athletic Director Ed Putnam. The Horizon Lakeside Rhododendron not only reflects the spirit of Lakeside but also stands as a testament to the enduring bond between the members of the school.

According to Ned Brockenbrough, the creation of a new rhododendron breed is a testament to patience. The intricate process requires years, sometimes over a decade, of dedicated cultivation to stabilize the plant’s desired characteristics. The journey begins with the propagation of seeds, a method that tests the breeder’s perseverance, as it can take upwards of two years for the first buds to appear. “But you don’t sit around waiting. You grow other rhododendrons, and pretty soon you’re surprised that you got to see flower buds on one of them, and then you can be excited when it blooms in the spring,” Brockenbrough marvels. “That’s one thing about hybridizing: You always have something to look forward to.”


Passing by the Horizon Lakeside Rhododendron in front of the Parents & Guardians Association Office and watching the vibrant blooms sway in the breeze, I am reminded that patience is not simply the act of waiting. Just like the flourishing Rhododendron, students at Lakeside thrive under guidance and care. When we invest in growth and cherish the passage of time, powerful transformation happens.

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About the Contributors
Felicity W. ’26
Be it rain or shine, face it with a smile!
Emerson K. '27
In 2023 Emerson K. ’27 moved to Washington from California. How will she survive the horrendous difficulties of pouring rain after a lifetime of suffering in Californian heat and wildfires? An aspiring writer, she turns to the coping techniques of reading, writing, and drawing. Follow Emerson's writing to learn more!

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