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Horticulture Digest

Date Last Edited:  08/24/2001

Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service

Horticulture Digest #109

Dr. Donald Pickett Watson passed away in La Jolla, California, on December 29, 1995. Dr. Watson joined the Department of Horticulture as a visiting scientist in 1963, was appointed to the faculty in December, 1964, and retired May, 1975. He chaired the department from 1966 to 1969.

Dr. Watson was born in Ontario, Canada. He received his bachelor's degree in 1934 from the Ontario Agricultural College of the University of Toronto, studied for two years at the Royal Botanical Gardens (Kew, UK), and received an M.Sc. in 1937 from the University of London and a Ph.D. in 1948 from Cornell University. He taught practical fruit growing at the Long Island Agricultural Institute in Farmingdale, NY, from 1937 to 1942, served in the U.S. Army AirForce (1942-1945), and was a member of the horticulture faculty at Michigan State University from 1948 to 1963. His appointment at the University of Hawaii in 1964 was as Urban Horticulture Specialist, a position he filled with enthusiasm.

Among his accomplishments at MSU, he developed horticultural television and horticultural therapy programs and co-authored Therapy Through Horticulture (MacMillan, 1960). In Hawaii, Don spread his message about the uses and value of plants in the lives of people in talks to audiences such as garden clubs, church and school groups, and botanical garden societies. He appeared regularly on local television and provided talks and tapes for radio programs. He was a familiar face at the information booths of many local plant sales. He enjoyed teaching and initiated a popular course for students majoring outside the plant sciences entitled "Plants are for People," which he taught until his retirement.

A member of the Garden Writers of America, he was a prolific writer, authoring many publications for the Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station and contributing illustrated columns to the Sunday papers. He wrote popular horticulture features for local and international magazines and produced a total of well over 300 articles. He authored two volumes of Plants are for People, based on his newspaper columns, and another booklet, Gardens in the Sky, for apartment dwellers.

Don's foresight helped to establish Hawaii's protea industry through the early acquisition of grants for the collection of plant materials and his encouragement of researchers to develop cultural information about these plants. His enthusiasm for the plumeria resulted in the establishment of a germplasm collection, a breeding effort, and one of the first publications about plumeria culture. His extension circulars and leaflets covered a range from protea to roses, bougainvillea, croton, ti, orchids, heliconias, anthuriums, wood rose, and bird of paradise, as well as tree planting, potting mixes, and postharvest keeping life of tropical cut flowers.

He enjoyed travel and, in 1959 as Chairman of the Commission on Education for the American Horticultural Society, he visited horticultural institutions in 24 countries to review horticultural education programs. While associated with the University of Hawaii, in 19691970 he visited 37 nations of the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, the Mediterranean, South Africa, and Europe to observe horticultural methods related to research, extension, and instruction and to gather information for publications.

Dr. Watson was a member of the American Society for Horticultural Science, the American Horticultural Society, the Royal Horticultural Society, the International Plant Propagators' Society, Garden Writers of America, California Horticultural Society, American Association of Botanic Gardens and Arboreta, International Society for Horticultural Science, and the Kew Guild (London), as well as numerous civic organizations in Hawaii. He was awarded a Gold Medal for special merit by the Federated Garden Clubs of America for accomplishments and contributions toward the popularization of research results for the general public.

Richard Criley, criley@hawaii.edu

Department of Horticulture, CTAHR
University of Hawaii at Manoa

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