The President's Report
J. Harold Clarke, President, Long Beach, Washington
"Taking stock" at this time of the year has become an American custom and so we follow that tradition in The American Rhododendron Society. Our progress during the year, or lack of it, our gains and losses and the challenges for the coming year should be considered.
The passing of Claude Sersanous, who had been our President since 1949, as reported in the October Bulletin, was our greatest loss, and a severe blow. He had led the Society through its best years and had become the friend of all members who knew him. To him should go the credit for the idea of the "Rhododendron Island" in Portland. Further than that he made arrangements with the City of Portland for a workable agreement for maintaining the ever-growing rhododendron collection, donated thousands of dollars for fencing, plants, cool house, and other items, and in addition spent many days, with other A.R.S. members grading, planting, and doing many hard jobs inevitable in a project of this kind. To Claude Sersanous the Rhododendron Island is a living memorial, as is also the warm feeling in the hearts of all rhododendron lovers who knew him. We shall long miss his counsel and his presence.
Others of our number have left us during the year; we shall miss them all. Two, at least, should receive special mention, Endre Ostbo and Clarence Prentice who were very active in the Society for many years.
The year 1958 saw continued progress in your Society. Membership has increased to over 1400. We have welcomed three new Chapters - Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and Olympic Peninsula, to make 14 in all. This is good, but we are still small as compared to some other plant societies. There may be no special merit in mere bigness, but many others could also enjoy the things from which we get so much pleasure. And from a practical standpoint more members means more money to spend on publications and other projects. So let's continue to grow. Your help will be appreciated.
Your Society's financial condition is sound, as indicated by the audit report in the July Bulletin.
The Southeastern Chapter has arranged for a Display and Test garden at the Biltmore Estate at Asheville, N. C. and other Chapters have indicated that plans for rhododendron gardens in their areas are being considered. Every display garden will make rhododendrons familiar to hundreds, and possibly thousands, of people who have never given them more than a passing thought.
Like the Display Gardens, the Chapter Shows are of great value in bringing rhododendrons to the attention of the multitudes of people who have to see to believe. Most of our Chapters had shows, and we hope eventually all will do so. For a beginning, a noncompetitive display in a bank lobby, or any other available space, will arouse interest, not only on the part of the public, but in the Chapter itself, for the show will prove to be a lot of fun - as well as a lot of work. Most of the shows have already been reported in the Bulletin. Next year I hope there will be even more to report. No better way to acquaint the public with the King of Flowers.
The Society's Plant Registry listed 15 new American varieties, named and registered in 1958. Awards granted included 9 P. A. and 3 A. E. citations. These two activities indicate American breeders are active and that the Society is doing what it can to serve and encourage them.
Two Gold Medals were awarded during the year, to the late Endre Ostbo and to Guy Nearing, two outstanding rhododendron breeders. We honor ourselves in honoring these men.
A successful year is due to the combined efforts of a host of people. We are grateful to them all. However, special thanks should go to certain ones who have given especially freely of their time. Among these are our Secretary, Mrs. Ruth Hansen, the Editor of the Bulletin, Rudolph Henny, our Advertising Manager, Mrs. Gertrude Bovee, members of the Board of Directors, the various Chapter officers, Show chairmen, and members of many committees, both national and local.
To these, and to you all, a most sincere "thank you", and best wishes for the coming year.