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 Galle’s footsteps


Fred Galle was  Director of Horticulture, and then curator at Calloway Gardens for 30 yr. He “retired“ to focus on writing. Fred wrote ‘Azaleas’, the seminal text on azalea species and cultivars. After that, he wrote ‘The Holly Book’, a similarly beautiful, in depth manual on the genus Ilex.


The magnitude of these accomplishments bears a little explanation. The genera Rhododendron, of which  azaleas are a subset, and the Ilex, or Hollie’s, are the two biggest genera of woody plants. Both boast ~800 species. When hybrids are included, both groups contain many thousands of plants. These two books were not your average, post retirement projects.


Lorenzo Kinney Jr. and Fred were friendly acquaintances. Sue, the garden’s manager first met Fred via mail,  sending him samples and questions. Later she had the great good fortune to sit beside him at a conference dinner. She was completely enamored with the handsome, southern gentleman who spoke fluent azalea and botany.


Upon hearing of Fred’s death in  1998, Sue wanted to pay homage to Fred’s legacy. Galle’s footsteps are the result. The larger trapezoidal area contains mostly azalea species. Each of the other 5 areas, or beds,  contain selections from one hybridizer. There is a Weston, Kinney, Linwood, Robin Hill and Polly Hill  bed. These beds are roughly footstep shaped.


The footstep idea is a riff on Sir Isaac Newton’s much quoted “If I have seen further than other men, it’s because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”

Creating a new azalea hybrid is at least a 10 yr. process. Almost all hybrids are created using the observations and cultivars of horticultural predecessors.


An added bit of serendipity strengthened the Galle/Kinney Faella connection. The roster in one of Sue’s URI plant ID classes  included Arek Galle. Sue, 1/2 jokingly, asked him if he knew of Frederick Galle. Arek shot back “you mean great Uncle Fred?”


Arek is now a very talented landscape architect in Jamestown, and he introduced his parents to the gardens. Some months after Fred’s passing, Arek’s mom , Janet, asked Sue if she would consider some type of memorial to Fred at the gardens. Sue responded, it’s all done.

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