The Rhododendron 'PJM'
One of the most pivotal events in the history of Weston Nurseries occurred in May of 1945. During the fall of 1944 Ed Mezitt anxiously decided to try planting several small crops on the newly purchased land. Several dozen of these plants were the seedlings from a 1939 rhododendron cross, his first attempt at hybridizing.
In Ed's own words: "We had all but forgotten this hybrid...until one Sunday in early May in 1945. We were just developing our nursery in Hopkinton, and we were visiting it that morning, having been tied up during the busy season in Weston most of the week. My heart still skips a beat when I recall the reaction of our entire family when we saw that ribbon of brilliant pink running across the hill. My Dad was so enthusiastic about these little dwarf plants - only six to eight inches tall - in full bloom, that he immediately made the remark that this was the most spectacular rhododendron of our time. We named it 'P.J.M.' right on the spot and those of us who knew him can see the vigor, excitement and showmanship he possessed perfectly reflected in this plant."
Peter and Anna had built a reputation for selecting and growing superior strains of plants as they developed their nursery. This, no doubt, was the catalyst for Ed to try hybridizing. The success of Rhododendron 'PJM' gave great impetus for Ed to continue hybridizing. He devoted much of his life to what he termed "pollen dabbing", and many of his crosses and selections have helped raise the standard for plants throughout the horticultural world. By 1950 the Mezitt families had moved to new homes on the nursery in Hopkinton. All propagation and shipping facilities were now located there, with a small portion of the nursery in Weston maintained as a sales outlet for several more years. Laura's husband, John, decided to start his own engineering business in Ashland but the Russett family remained in Weston. In 1952 Ed and Peter purchased several adjacent parcels of land in Hopkinton, thereby expanding the nursery to over 500 acres. Technology from the war brought great inventions to the nursery industry and the Mezitts quickly put many of the new products to use. Weston Nurseries has always been innovative and on the forefront of new ideas. They were the first nursery in the area to use covered vans to deliver plant material. They envisioned being able to dig plants throughout the summer, and installed a mist system to keep the foliage wet by means of a solenoid valve operated with a time clock. They also invested in hydraulic tailgates, forklifts, tree movers, and portable irrigation systems. During this period, labor began to be an issue as there were fewer local people skilled in agricultural work, and the Nursery contracted with the Department of Labor, originally for 12 Jamaican workers. In the mid-fifties, as more seasonal laborers were needed, arrangements were made for workers from Puerto Rico. On Peter Mezitt's birthday, May 17, 1959, the Garden Center was opened, surrounded with beautiful gardens that demonstrate how nursery plants can be used in the landscape, and the last of the Weston property was sold in 1960. Click here to go to the Rhododendron 'PJM' in our Plant Library. Watch our video on the PJM. They are everywhere in the New England landscape from late April to early May!